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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 missed opportunity.

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 synthesiser.

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 change...

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 next year.

John Elwin, August 2009

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