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Coming in to Los Angeles      Another year at our auto show

The much-hyped battle between the LA Auto Show and the madness in the Motor
City is just that, hype. LA gets thrown a few scraps and the occasional one off to
placate those who wouldn’t go to Detroit in the winter or any season for that
matter. The majors may have design studios in California but as long as the
bankbook is based out of the Motor City, LA is nothing more than a useful prop to
gauge interest for the majors, dude. So there were few concepts cars this year.
The biggest draws for the public will be cars that have been covered in depth for
months, even years in all the major media outlets.

We don’t race but we still talk a good game
When it comes to displays, no one is better than Porsche. Located in their own
hall just off the west building in the convention center, the presentation and layout
are unique and worthy of a high-end theme park. ( insert name of your favorite
here) Upon entering the maze set up in the hall, one is greeted with a photo and
mural display that chronicles the history of Porsche AG. Mixed in with the Boxsters,
Omar Cayennes and 996’s were a trio of vehicles that perfectly represent
Porsche’s past. A 550 Spyder owned by Bill Perrone that competes at the
Monterey Historics and has been shown at Pebble Beach, a bright red 356C
coupe and a magnificent 907 short tail coupe owned and raced by Kent Morgan.
The present and future (sort of) of Porsches were represented by the new
Cayenne with a six cylinder VW at a MSRP of 43 and change, The Racers Group’s
GT 3RS and behind the curtain, the Carrera GT. Us media types were presented
with the usual spin during the press conference (no group questions please,
individual interviews upon request may be scheduled) and to me the most
obvious of what was said was more about what they were not doing. For those
faithful who are hoping for Porsche to return to real prototype racing, find
something else to wish for. The constant drumbeat of how race developed the
LMP powered Carrera GT is but is tuned specifically for the road calls in to
question the validity of why it was constructed in the first place. Simple really, profit.
They will sell all 1500 cars without bothering to spend a Euro on race prep. The
Carrera GT is in the tradition of the 917 and 959. It says so in the transcript. So the
lucky owner is getting a high quality ride, you can almost feel what it’s like on
Mulsanne. Well, that’s not enough. Porsche is making tons of money and losing
their heritage along the way. An entire generation will have grown up if and by the
time Porsche re-enters the prototype field. All they will know is the GT 3 and its
bushel of class wins and Buckler’s upset win at Daytona if that. And how important
is that to Porsche? Well, I didn’t hear any mention of the success of the GT 3 or the
fact that members of the Racers Group were present along with former Porsche
Cup winner Cort Wagner. I guess to the current brass it just wasn’t newsworthy
enough or caught somewhere in between.

Lotus in Wonderland
Cute, isn’t it? The new Lotus Elsie looks like a cross between an Opel GT and a
mini Ferrari P4. OK, maybe not…. but it is good to have a new Lotus to kick
around. In the tradition of Chapman, the car weighs next to nothing coming in at
less than 2000 lbs. The motor is from an outside supplier, in this case a 1.8 four
banger from Toyota. A gaggle of plastic, aluminum and composites, the new Elise
is an expensive bit of entertainment. But then again, that is also in the tradition of
Chapman. Damn, where are my old tapes of the Avengers with Diana Rigg and
her Elan. However, before you run down to a Lotus dealer, check first to see if the
Elise is even legal for the US. Lotus Cars USA is saying that final approval and
waivers from the DOT and NHTSA for the Elsie are days away. I called back to
Washington DC and this may not be the case. You have to wonder why any
manufacturer would risk offering a car for sale in the US without having all the
paperwork in order. Not these days.
Was that four million or just the rate of exchange?
Once again there will be a four door Maserati for sale in the US The newest
Quattroporte has been penned by Pininfarina and is reported to be the fastest
production four door sedan ever offered. It is a pleasant enough looking exercise
but what really caught the attention of many during the press gig was the
statement of up to four million color and upholstery options. Whoa, can you
imagine a printed list of that ?!? Only in Italy.

I want one but who doesn’t?
I will admit it. The new Ford GT (they can’t call it a GT 40) is the best car to come
along in years that captures what it is all about. The original GT 40 program
changed many a drag racer once it was showed that horsepower could be made
to handle in to sports car fanatics. The Ford GT is everything that is right about
having a passion.

Somebody’s car of the year
That magazine of opulent living, The Robb Report, gave its nod to the new Bentley
Continental GT as car of the year. “The fastest four seat family car in the world”.
Maybe, if two of your family members are hamsters. While the presentation was
being made, a small group of us hacks tried to figure out what the Conti GT
reminded us of. A Rambler Marlin? No, too big… ah, a Lancia B 20… That’s the
one! The customary 2003 # 7 Bentley LMP was installed in the display just in case
you had forgotten that Bentley won Le Mans… the video that was in rotation
focused exclusively however on the 2001 race and the #8 green bottle rocket. At
least Bentley understands the emotion of what Le Mans is.

Same old crap
The auto show was a bore overall, not a great way to start the year. This weekend
the Daytona tests will be going on, the most interesting thing is that Risi will most
likely run a new Maserati for the 24 hours. The rest of the sportscar GT prototype
world is still month’s away… Happy New Year.

Kerry Morse

Ready for the close up (Carrera GT)
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sportscarpros Not that it's any of my business

Features and pieces by Kerry Morse
John Clinard takes refuge under Bentley's results
Prototypical Porsche 907
Lotus in Wonderland
Showtime for the 4porte Maserati
Bentley GT or Lancia B20?
The same old crap - Happy New Year!