Goodwood - The alternative motor show
With the demise of the British Motor Show after a couple of lack-lustre events
in London, could the Festival of Speed be poised to fill the void? Certainly
some manufacturers seem to think that is the case.
Audi, for example, did not attend the last London Show and yet this year saw
their thirteenth appearance at Goodwood, where they were celebrating the
company’s centenary. “Yes, it is expensive” said Audi’s David Ingram, “but
it’s cheaper than doing a ten-day show and this is our core market.”
Indeed, some 152,000 visitors passed through the gates, the second highest
attendance in the seventeen-year history of the event, suggesting that the
public have not lost their appetite for all things motoring. And this on a
weekend when Renault also drew 135,000 attendees to their free event at
Silverstone, the HSCC Superprix was in full swing at Brands Hatch and the
Formula 3 and GT Championships were performing at Snetterton.
Audi took centre stage – literally – with s spectacular display in front of
Goodwood House featuring an R10 together with a pre-war streamliner, but
occupying a prime position on the other side of the track Audi had built an
edifice that would have done credit to many a permanent dealership. In
addition to a ‘showroom’ there was a terrace overlooking the track, from which
their guests could watch the action. And of course there were many Audi
products in action, from pre-war Silver Arrows to the latest diesel Le Mans
cars. For those who took a walk into the country they would have seen a
variety of quattro rally cars on the rally stage. Together with the opportunity to
display the current – and future – models, you can understand why
Goodwood provides the perfect setting for manufacturers like Audi.
As you would expect, German rivals Mercedes-Benz took-up an equally large
plot at the opposite end of the ground, where SLR models both old and new
were grabbing a lot of attention in amongst the rest of the range – yes, this
resembled a dealership showroom too. Like Audi, Mercedes also brought
along a staggering array of historic race cars to demonstrate on the hill, and
between them they brought along what was said to have been the largest
number of ‘Silver Arrows’ ever seen in one place. Things were brought upto
date with a recent DTM car, whilst last years’ World Champion Lewis
Hamilton wheeled out an ’08 Mercedes-powered McLaren F1.
Separating the two Germans was Alfa Romeo, the Italians celebrating their
99th birthday (there’s a clue to next year’s featured marque!) with a fine
display of current models in the stunning metallic red introduced with the 8C
Competizione. The drop-top 8C was however in pearlescent white. Alfa also
brought along a couple of gems from their Museum to enter into the Cartier
Style et Luxe concours. One of them was a particular treat for me; I have
waited forty years since seeing the stunning T33-based Carabo at the first-
ever motor show I went to in London in 1968 to get a decent picture of it.
That other member of the teutonic triumvirate, BMW, chose to concentrate on
motor-cycles. However, available for viewing in a box was the new BMW 5
Series Gran Turismo, due on sale in the UK in October. This was a sneak
preview of a new model – ‘No Photography’ shouted the signs on entry to the
‘box’, but the car has already been snapped by all and sundry at the Geneva
Motor Show last March, so why the secrecy? BMW claim it to be a new
approach for those who want the practicality of an estate and the versatility of
a modern SAV. In other words, it’s a hatchback!
Porsche didn’t have a display stand although their presence elsewhere was
hard to miss, what with tributes to the 917, celebrating it’s 40th birthday. The
brand new four-door Panamera did take part in the Supercar runs but was
otherwise hidden away in the rather cramped paddock allocated to the
exotica. Some would say that ‘out of sight’ was probably the best thing for
the lumpy porker – Porsche just don’t do style, aside from the everlastingly
delighful 911, do they? Allegedly, some wag on the press launch was likening
it to the very unlovely AMC Pacer!
Whilst mentioning the Supercar brigade, it did give the opportunity to some of
the smaller manufacturers to strut their stuff, and indeed for many visitors it
was probably a unique opportunity to both get up close and personal and see
and hear some stunning machinery in action. The carbonfibre-bodied Pagani
Zonda and the Koenigsegg CCX-R alone were worth the entry fee! Your
average Ferrari or Jaguar looked almost pedestrian alongside them, whilst the
rather gorgeous new Lotus Evora was a little overshadowed in this company,
which was a shame.
Back in the real world Japanese makers Toyota and Nissan, with pitches side
by side, took very different approaches. Toyota had erected their traditional
large stand in corporate colours, but concentrated on showing race cars past
and present, including the magnificent Toyota 7 Can-Am beast. They also
gave members of the public the opportunity to be Grand Prix mechanics for a
few minutes as they ran a wheel-changing contest throughout the weekend.
Nissan took a different approach....
“We didn’t have a big budget for the event, so we thought we’d be different”
explained a young lady from the marketing department. No big flashy stand,
but three shipping containers painted matt black, with the public allowed to
adorn the inside of one with graffiti, a shanty bar and shop. But then, who
needs flashy when you’ve got the GT-R and 370Z to do the talking for you?
Remarkably, I was informed that Nissan have taken 1,200 orders for the GT-R
in the UK and delivered 700 cars so far.
Despite their long-running history of sportscars with the Skyline and Z ranges,
Nissan see themselves as having stepped into new territory with the GT-R
and have built a marketing programme around that theme. The ‘war’ with
Porsche at the Nurburgring has been well documented as both claim bragging
rights as to who has set the fastest lap time around the fabled Nordschleife,
but open up the GT-R brochure and the first thing that hits you is a black
page simply adorned in large print with the words:
“7’29”03, 17th April 2008, Nurburgring Germany”. Classy or what?
Mazda too put on a substantial display, but I didn’t work out the significance
of the full-size model cows! Their relatives at Ford rather missed a trick; they
gave their name to the Media Centre and consequently displayed a few cars
outside, including a new Focus RS, but it was rather tucked away from the
public gaze, who were in any case far too preoccupied trying to nab
autographs from stars as they came in and out of the adjacent Driver’s Club.
And talking of missing tricks, how about Jaguar? They put on an excellent
display, pretty well in the centre of the ground, featuring the latest version of
the XKR etc, which grabbed a lot of attention, but... Just a few days later
Jaguar launched the exiting new XJ model on the internet. Yes, this medium
attracts a lot attention but probably mainly from people who will only get as
far as sticking a poster of the car on their bedroom wall. Think of the column
inches and potential buyers they could have generated at Goodwood – a
Jaguar’s partners at Land Rover also put on a good display and of course
their products were very much in evidence over the weekend seeing service in
all the sorts of roles that Land Rover is so good at. What better advert?
Further reflecting the significance of Goodwood as an industry event is the
recent introduction of the FoS-TECH Pavilion. If you believed everything
mainstream media told you about the motor industry you’d think all was
doom and gloom, that manufacturers were crashing left right and centre and
that the car was doomed as a means of transport. Yes, there are hard times
at present, and yes, there is a political agenda to stop you from enjoying your
car – or even driving at all – but the government responsible for both those
situations won’t be around for ever (that’s down to you, the voter). However,
much is being done to combat the real challenges, such as the need to find
alternative sources of power, for instance.
There’s a real thirst for information too. Last year, the FoS-TECH pavilion was
rather spoilt by the fact that most exhibits were unmanned leaving an
inquisitive public unrequited. Criticisms seem to have hit home, for this year
was much better. I’ll return to this facet of the Festival in more detail with
another feature, so will concentrate on the manufacturers here.
Ford’s presence elsewhere may have been low-key, but in FoS-TECH they
displayed the Iosis Max, at first glance a concept car with some interesting
thinking. However, Iosis is very much the pointer to the next generation Focus
and C-Max. The body shape is pretty much as it will make it into production,
although the B-pillarless door arrangement may not make it, more for parking
practicality reasons than technical feasability. A pity, as in conjunction with
the seating arrangement in the Iosis it makes a lot of sense.
Citroen have taken a flick through their back catalogue for inspiration as to
how to save weight, reduce fuel consumption and so on. Yes, they’ve re-
invented the 2CV in the form of the C-Cactus concept. Weight has been
saved by stripping out all the non essential components – like door trim
panels and the dahboard, just leaving the basic instruments, reducing overall
weight to 1,109 kg.. Mind you, thirty years ago the 2CV weighed in at just
over half that, 560 kg... The 3-cylinder diesel hybrid engine is said to be
capable of returning 80 mpg, whereas the 2CV ‘only’ managed 47 mpg.
Citroen had the GT concept car out in the Supercar runs, it having done a tour
of London en route to Goodwood.
One side of FoS-TECH should have been called ‘Electric Avenue’ as this form
of power is emerging as very much the frontrunner in the search for an
alternative choice to petrol. Bio-fuel has rather been pushed to the sidelines
and Lotus’s bio-fuel Exige seemed rather old hat. It’s a great little car though,
as a few hot laps around the Hethel tast track proved to me earlier this year.
The fuel does give a small increase in power over petrol too.
By contrast Tesla, the Lotus-based and built electric sportscar has almost
become mainstream. UK sales are about to begin from the newly-opened
Knightsbridge, London showrooms and the company has recently joined the
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – how establishment is that?
With the only official example of the marque at Goodwood running with the
Supercars, it was left to German tuning house Brabus to display a Tesla in
FoS-TECH. Yes folks, the mighty German tuning industry, those bastions of
bulging horsepower, have embraced eco motoring! Brabus have introduced a
range of styling bits for the Tesla as well as developing a engine noise
Brabus are not alone either for RUF, purveyors of rather extreme Porsche-
based machines have also gone the electric route. Working in conjunction
with Siemens Corporate Technology they have created the RUF Greenster,
an electric-powered Carrera Targa. Initially the car has a single 270 kw, 950
Nm torque, electric motor. However, when it goes into limited production next
year it should have a double-motor concept with bi-directional recharging
ability. Performance is impressive with a maximum speed of 250 km/h, 0-100
km/h time of about 5-seconds and a range of 250 km. Whilst the styling of
the show car is retro, complete with pea-green paint, aluminium roll hoop and
perspex zip-out rear screen, the price of 180,000 Euros (ex tax) most
certainly is not. However, such is the progress of technology, this could well
go down rather than up by production time. Oh, and sorry, there’s no noise
synthesiser. That’s not what electric cars are about, say RUF. How times
Viewers of BBC Top Gear last week might have seen the boys ridiculing
Renault’s ‘van with yellow windows’. This was actually the Renault Kangoo be
bop Z.E. and is an all-electric car very close to production and due on sale in
2011, which is probably more than could be said for the Ondelios limousine
concept. However, Renault also proved that electric is nothing new by
bringing along a 1959 electric Dauphine, one of 47 cars convereted by
National Union Electric Co.in the US. It was capable of a heady 40 mph and
40-mile range, although this was uprated to 60 mph/60 miles in 1960.
Something nice and symmetric about that.
Special mention should be made of Morgan, for the outwardly traditional
makers of sports cars celebrates its 100th birthday this year, yet was
equally at home in FoS-TECH, where they displayed the fact that they are
building an ultra modern-looking coupe around an ash frame!
If all that modern techie stuff was too much for you, the Cartier Style et Luxe
concours took you neatly back to a largely gentler era, where entrants ranged
from the earliest known surviving Morgan, various Bugatti’s, a selection of
Mini variants (yes, the Mini is 50!), through various concept cars to a fabulous
1934 Hispano-Suiza H6C Xenia. A motley collection of Z-list ‘celebs’ ranging
from TV cook James Martin – he who made a prat of himself on the Mille
Miglia earlier this year – to Yasmin Le Bon, none of whom were known for
their apparent expertise on the subject, carried out the judging but they at
least arrived at the ‘right’ decision by choosing the Hispano as winner.
There’s an amusing story attched to one of the cars shown, the Vauxhall XVR
concept. When Goodwood called Vauxhall to ask about availability of the
XVR. ‘It no longer exists’ was the reply. Oh yes it does, replied Goodwood’s
man in the know, and what’s more he was able to tell them whereabouts in
their storage facility they could find the car! Potential buyers of GM Europe
should be aware – since they don’t know what they’ve got you might get more
than you bargained for!
And that final sentence sums-up the Goodwood Festival of Speed admirably –
you might just think you are going to see a few old cars trundle up Lord
March’s front drive, but actually you are visiting a motor show! I wouldn’t bet
against there being even more manufacturers present at the Festival of Speed
John Elwin, August 2009