When 25 year old Wolfgang Schöller first organized what is now known as the Essen Motor Show, the main focus was contemporary racing, its cars and its drivers. Held in November, the show served as the final ‘Grand Prix’ of the season where the successful drivers and cars could be experienced up close by the fans. A big hit from the get-go, the event was renamed the Jochen Rindt Show in 1970, but sadly the posthumous World Champion could not be celebrated that year. Today the show is bigger than ever, although there is little that reminds us of the original format as the tuning industry has all but taken over. Nevertheless there were still sufficient reasons to venture out to the German city for the 40th Essen Motor Show. Our photographers attended the press and trade day to capture the latest releases, the sharply dressed dames and some fantastic historic racing cars in a 140-shot slideshow
Pioneering automobile design
As already mentioned motor racing is no longer the main theme for the show, which has opened the doors for other, very interesting aspects of the automotive industry. One of these is concept cars and this year there was a special focus on some of the finest concepts launched in the last two or three years. Our attention was particularly grabbed by the Sbarro S20, which was originally launched back in March in Geneva. There it did not quite stand out, but in Essen the elegant shape and neat touches made quite an impression. The recent news that coach builder Bertone has entered receivership, gave looking at two of their latest creations quite a new sense of occasion; they could be the last in a very long line.
Referred to as ‘art cars’, there were also some machines (cars and bikes) on display designed and built by individuals. One of the most unusual was the ‘Phantom’ based on a 1969 VW Beetle. Inspired by the shape of a Bugatti Atlantic the rolling sculpture sports a variety of heads on the fenders. It was one of the stars of the “Houston Art-Car Parade”.
Historic racing cars
Although the tuning industry’s flashy presence is a little overwhelming, there is also a strong presence of classic (racing) cars. One of the halls is filled with classics currently offered for sale, which this year ranged from a Maserati MC12 to a Hispano Suiza with a carriage style coachwork. At the centre of the hall 80-years of the Mille Miglia were celebrated with a display of historic sports cars assembled by SIHA; the organizers of the annual Techno Classica show.
Even more impressive was the assembly of historic Grand Prix and Touring cars in honour of the fortieth edition of the show. Selected by Bob Gathercole, these included Mika Hakkinen’s F1 championship winning McLaren, Hans Stuck’s European touring car championship winning BMW 3.0 CSL and the Ferrari 312 T3, which Gilles Villeneuve used to score his very first Grand Prix win. Also of particular interest was the sole Parmalat Brabham, which escaped the stronghold of former team-owner Bernie Ecclestone. Originally handed to the sponsor, the BT49 is now in the hands of a historic racer, who very successfully races it in the FIA Historic F1 championship. Most impressive were the nose to tail displayed Lotus 49 and 72. Both machines were ground-breaking and despite being separated by only three years they look a world apart; a great testament to Colin Chapman’s ability to think outside of the box.
Audi made sure that there was some motorsport news to report about as well, as they announced their plans for 2008. After a lengthy press conference, celebrating the achievements of 2007, Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich grabbed the microphone to confirm rumours that Audi will also race in the Le Mans Series, as well as DTM, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the ALMS. There were some issues with both the Le Mans Series and the ALMS, so he could not commit to both series 100%, but he expressed that the niggles were well on their way to be ironed out. This is particularly good news for the fans as they can now look forward to a season-long battle between Audi and Peugeot.
Swiss preparation expert Matech quite successfully raced a Ford GT in GT3 and a Mustang in GT4 this season and for the future plans to continue with both. In anticipation of the upcoming revision of the FIA GT regulations, they have further developed the GT to what they believe will be the new GT1 regulations in 2009. Equipped with an absolutely massive rear wing, the new car will be raced in the German long distance (VLN) championship next year. Porsche also revealed a new car for the highly popular Cup races. Slightly lighter and more powerful than its predecessors, the new 997 GT3 Cup will see a production run of 265 cars. It will also form the basis for a new GT3 car to take on the faster competition.
New car releases
With the Frankfurt show held just two months earlier, there were particularly few mainstream manufacturers present this year. Only the Volkswagen/Porsche Group, Ford and Opel were officially represented. While Audi and Porsche focused on their motorsports activity, VW showed the Golf Variant RaVe 270. Equipped with massive speakers and an iPod docking station in the floor of the boot, this show car was most definitely targeted at the tuner crowd. Across the isle, the revived Bitter company showed the all new Vero to the public for the very first time. This Holden Statesman based machine is targeted directly at the high-end market, but it remains to be seen if customers will prefer it over the Maserati Quattroporte or the upcoming Porsche Panamera. Ford highlighted the introduction of the latest version of the Focus with a prominently placed ST.
There was more news to be found in the main tuner hall, where the likes of Brabus and Techart had their stands. At Brabus the new world record for their modified Maybach 57 S was celebrated. They also showed an up-rated version of the SLR McLaren Roadster. The RML built SLR McLaren ‘722’ GT was by the way displayed on the Michelin stand. Techart took the wraps off their very powerful take on the Porsche 997 Turbo Cabriolet, which fortunately featured subtle exterior changes. This can not be said for the 9ff 9GT, which is only very loosely based on the latest generation of the Porsche 911. From the outside it is a somewhat odd mix of the 997, Cayman and the GT1 racing cars of a few years ago. Under the carbon fibre body, it is all business with a 4.2 litre twin turbocharged six cylinder engine mounted mid-ships. It is built to crush the much coveted speed record and we will soon find out if it can break the 410 km/h barrier.
Far departed from its original principles, the 40th edition of the Essen Motor Show has a little bit for everybody and a large chunk for the tuner fans. Close to 400,000 people will visit the show, which both in size and numbers is one of Europe’s biggest events. The unusual, but effective mix will ensure that none of the visitors will leave the Messe Essen disappointed.