Germany's only international auto show, the IAA in Frankfurt, is only held on odd years. Usually the annual Essen Motorshow steps up to the plate on even years to provide the car-crazy Germans with some exclusive releases. Not this year though as the global economic crisis seemed to have caused the withdrawal of most major manufacturers. Compared to last year the likes of Porsche, Ford and Opel were all missing. Their absence was painfully obvious with one of the bigger halls remaining virtually empty. The organizers now used that space to give shows with jumping cars. Fortunately the motorsport roots of the Motorshow were not completely forgotten as in an adjoining hall a small track was laid where various racing cars were demonstrated.
Picking up some of the slack of the missing manufacturers were the specialist tuning companies. Long standing Mercedes tuner Brabus unveiled their version of the Tesla Roadster. The changes to the electric car were not only visible but also audible. The Brabus engineers had connected the 'loud' pedal to the stereo unit. This resulted in a roaring noise coming from the usually so quiet engine bay. While it enables Tesla owners to make their car sound different every day, it does not 'sound' overly efficient. The visual changes include a small rear wing on the rear end. Brabus also added their touch to the interior of the two-seater sports car.
The ever growing presence of German Porsche tuner 9ff could literally be felt throughout the show as their most recent creations could be found on various locations. The company's new pride and joy is the GT9-R. Packed with an astonishing 1120 horses, it features a revised body kit compared to the original GT9 shown last year. Following in the footsteps of competitor Gemballa, they now also added two turbochargers to the Carrera GT to create the GT900. As the name suggests, the blown V10 puts out a measly 900 bhp. Loyal Essen exhibitor Techart also revealed their most powerful 'Porsche' to date. With 660 bhp and a top speed of 345 km/h, the GTStreet R provides all the answers we need in these difficult times.
Making their world debut in Essen was the newly formed BMW tuner Brabham Racing. Amazingly the company claims to be the continuation of the famous racing team and yet never even consulted the Brabham family. Racing legend Sir Jack Brabham was obviously not amused but it seems that there is little he can do about the new tuner using his name. He did buy the rights to the name back after the Formula 1 team but apparently not for every country. It is this technicality that allows the German company to abuse the legendary name. The Brabham family might not be able to rectify this ridiculous situation but you can; don't buy the Brabham Racing BMWs!
Celebrating their 40th anniversary, Opel customizer Irmscher had an impressive display with some of their greatest cars. Particularly interesting were two 'GT' labeled machines that were built to mark the company's 20th and 40th anniversary. The 1988 GT is based on an Opel Omega and features a completely custom two-door coachwork. The new GT i40 uses the current Opel GT as a base but uses a mighty V8 instead of the turbocharged four-cylinder used in the standard version. The exterior of the two-seater roadster sported large decals with a lot of 8s. Even the tires were custom made and also marked Irmscher's anniversary. They did not look very road worthy. The GT i40 itself certainly is and can be ordered from Irmscher.
As mentioned earlier, there were noticeable fewer major manufacturers present in Essen. It was not all bad news as both Alfa Romeo and Abarth were at the show for the first time in recent years. Both Fiat subsidiaries did show an understanding of the current situation and displayed their small cars. The Alfa Romeo booth featured three Mi.Tos painted in the colours of the German flag. At the Abarth stand the recently launched 'esseesse' versions of the Grande Punto and 500 stood proudly. After some very dismal years, Fiat Group has found the right formula again with small cars that are very desirable.
One of the most anticipated events of the show's first day was the annual Audi press-conference where the successes of the past season were celebrated and the plans for the future were revealed. Literally taking center stage was the all new R8 LMS racing car, destined for the GT3 class. Its V10 engine will also find its way into a road car. Motorsport director Dr Wolfgang Ulrich explained that the 2009 season will see a continued Audi presence in the DTM but a scaled down sports car program. He could only confirm the Sebring 12 Hours and 24 Hours of Le Mans races and was very firm when he told that Audi would not defend their Le Mans Series title. This reduced program will however be completed with the brand new R15 TDI racer. Dr Ulrich did not reveal many details but we believe that the car will be powered by a V10 diesel engine.
We could not help but leave the Essen Messe halls disappointed. The economic situation had clearly affected the quality of the show and it seems that many upcoming shows will face the same problems. As long standing Brabham fans the massive Brabham Racing stand was also a big blow in the face. Hopefully both these situations will be worked out in the coming months. We also left the showfloor with two full cameras. The 100 best shots made into our exclusive gallery
(it gets much easier on the eyes after the first 20 shots)!