IAA 2003 The Frankfurt Motor Show
The underlying trend may well be one of doom gloom and despondency but the
motor industry put on a brave face at the Frankfurt Motor Show where there was
much to be found in the way of new models – many of them of a sporting nature
too. Inevitably, since we were in Germany, Mercedes-Benz claimed much of the
limelight with the introduction of the SLR McLaren. There was much to be found
elsewhere though, most of it more affordable.
Mercedes’ enormous multi-level stand was dominated by the long-awaited SLR,
shown alongside Stirling Moss’s ’55 Mille Miglia-winning 300 SLR. The great man
himself was in Brescia to see Kimmi Raikkonen and Alexander Wurz depart on a
drive to Frankfurt in a SLR. One assumes they completed the journey without
mishap! As well as showing both black and silver examples of the 5.4-litre
supercar, Mercedes were also showing a bare carbon frame and many of the
components. Interestingly, whilst they are keen to portray this car as a Mercedes-
Benz there are plans to build a range of McLaren road cars to mirror Ferrari’s
range in the future.
BMW not straight 6
Otherwise, BMW led the way with their new 6-Series Coupe, the styling slightly
less controversial than that of their recent saloons. It still manages a little bit of
retro though, for if you look at it from a certain angle you can detect the lines of the
old CSL’s from the early seventies around the rear end. Otherwise it is all-new
with even the trademark kidney grille becoming lower and wider. A 2+2 cabriolet
will follow in due course. Power is provided by a 333bhp, 4.4-litre V8 previously
seen in the 745i.
Volkswagen could not be accused of being controversial with their new Golf
though – it looks pretty much like the old Golf! They did however show a pretty little
mid-engined roadster called concept R that they claim is VW’s face of the future.
Sister company Audi also unveiled a concept car, in the shape Le Mans Quattro.
Looking a little like a big brother to the TT the car packs a 5-litre V10 biturbo
engine giving a claimed 610bhp. Lamborghini of course are Audi-owned and they
were effectively sharing the same stand. Whilst the Gallardo was making its
German debut, the big news was the announcement of the Murcielago R-GT
racecar. Bentley meanwhile were giving the Continental premiere whilst Bugatti
once again displayed the troubled Veyron 16.4.
Porsche were displaying a bewildering array of 911 variants. The Stuttgart icon is
now 40 years old and there must be at least that many models in the range! There
is of course an anniversary model, whilst other newcomers are the GT3 RS and
Cabriolet versions of the 911 Carrera S and 911 Turbo. It was the Carrera GT that
again took centre stage, however.
The car you always promised yourself
The long-running saga as to whether Ford would ever come up with a true
replacement for the Capri may well have been answered by the unveiling of the
Visos. Again a concept car but it could well become reality. The four-seater coupe
manages to look modern whilst at the same time retaining styling cues dating
back to the original ’69 model, such as air vents ahead of the rear wheels and the
curvature of the rear windows. Gone is Ford’s current scowling face look, replaced
by a grille reminiscent of Capri 11. In this writer’s eyes it is the best-looking thing
to come out of Ford in years.
For some reason Jaguar is struggling with its image a little these days, but will R-
D6 be the car to change that? Still in concept form, it is a mixture of old and new
ideas from Jaguar and could well be the basis for the ‘new E-Type’ so many
people crave. It’s a four-seat coupe – the smallest Jaguar have ever built
apparently – the aluminium body featuring rear-opening back doors akin to the
Mazda MX8 (Jaguar and Mazda are both owned by Ford. Draw your own
conclusions!). Whilst the front end is similar in style to the current S-Type there are
definite overtones of E-Type Coupe around the rear tailgate. The show car was
powered by a brand new V6, 2.7-litre diesel that is due to go into production in the
From Italy, Alfa Romeo showed the GT Coupe first seen in Geneva but now in
production form. They did spring a surprise with the 8C Competizione though, a
stunningly beautiful limited production sportscar (a run of 1,000 is mooted)
bearing a passing resemblance to the most beautiful Alfa of all time, the 33
Stradale. Stablemates Lancia came up with a concept car that must surely go into
production. The Fulvia Coupe is right up to date yet there is no mistaking its
origins in the delightful little coupe from the sixties. Maserati meanwhile took the
wraps off their new Pininfarina-designed Quattroporte. The big, (over 5 metres
long) hides a 4.2-litre V8 engine under its unmistakably classical Maserati lines.
Ferrari, whilst not having anything truly new to show, was making much of its
sporting activities. Inevitably Michael Schumacher’s F1 machine was there, but a
prominent position was also given to the new 575 GTC race car that the Ferrari
Client Racing Division have produced for sale, whilst 360 Challenge Stradale was
much in evidence.
No Far East promise
There was really little new from the Far East, although Hyundai were showing a
pretty cabriolet loosely based on their successful coupe model. Like the recently
launched Renault Megane and Peugeot 307 Coupe Cabriolet models, this
features a solid roof that folds away in a way only previously seen on more
expensive upmarket cars. Toyota was showing the CS&S (Compact Sports &
Speciality) concept car, a 2+2 mid-engined sportscar with a Hybrid Synergy Drive
powertrain. In simple terms, that means the rear wheels are driven by a 1.5-litre
petrol engine whilst the front end is propelled by an electric motor. The theory is
that is that the car relies less on the petrol engine, thus helping fuel economy.
Sadly though, the CS&S is unlikely to metamorphise into a new MR2.
Inevitably there was a plethora of small manufacturers showing niche sportscars,
although the car that seems to have been the inspiration for most of them – the
Lotus Elise – was not present in Frankfurt. From Slovakia came the Attack,
complete with steel tube chassis and powered by a rear-mounted Honda Accord
engine (although the Ford V6 is a more likely production offering), proudly
displaying its front dampers poking through the front bodywork! The YES! Cup/R
and YES! Cup Roadster is a pair of tiny sportscars from Funke & Will that bring
back memories of the Suzuki Cappuccino. Whether we will ever see them again,
Oh, and there were a few genuine racecars to be found, aside from a large display
of F1 machinery. Bentley inevitably had their Le Mans winner on hand, with a
second example to be found on the Mahle stand. Spyker too had wheeled out their
Le Mans entry whilst the Taurus Lola was to be found at GKN. Mustn’t forget Lada;
they were displaying a two-seat prototype called the Revolution!