Once one of the world's premier motor sport shows, the annual Essen Motor Show has gradually drifted towards a different scene. This has very much been a response of the market as demand for racing cars and parts has diminished at the same rate as customising road cars has gained popularity. As a result mainstream manufacturers have all but walked away, yielding ever more floor space to tuners and suppliers of all sorts of aftermarket parts. In an attempt to continue to give the show a broad appeal, the organisers each year do try to retain a motor sport focus. The 2011 edition of what started life as the 'Jochen Rindt Show' was certainly no exception. This year's themes included the 100th anniversaries of the Monte Carlo Rally and the Indy 500, and the next generation DTM cars that will hit the track in 2012. For actual debuts the show did have to rely on the strong German tuning fraternity that always pulls out all the stops in Essen. As always we ventured to the Messe Essen to discover what wonders were on display and the highlights have made it into our 110-shot gallery
Out in large numbers, the specialist tuners displayed their machinery in different ways. Some, like Brabus, had dedicated displays but most of the others used space provided by their suppliers like tyre manufacturers Continental and Vredestein. One of the most interesting debuts was the 9ff GT9 CS (Club Sport). This was the latest version of the original GT9 introduced a few years ago. Built specifically for use on the track, it was fitted with an FIA-approved safety system. Company founder, Jan Fatthauer, explained that this particular version was built to the specific request of a customer and that five GT9s had already been built and delivered. Fellow Porsche 'enhancer', Techart, showed the latest incarnation of the 911 Turbo based GTStreet R. Finished in a striking yellow paint, it comes equipped with an engine tuned to produce a hefty 700 bhp. AC Schnitzer revealed their take on various new addition to the BMW line-up including the 1-Series M Coupe and the all-new 6-Series Coupe.
Motor sport, fortunately, still took a prominent place at this year's Essen Motor Show. One of the best displays was the one celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Rally Monte Carlo. Oldest among the many winning cars on display was the AC Six Sport that had been driven to victory in the 1926 edition by Victor Austin Bruce, partnered by William Brunel. More recent machinery on display included Sebastien Loeb's Citroen Xsara WRC and the Peugeot 207 S2000 that Bryan Bouffier used to secure victory in the prestigious rally back in January. The display of show organisers, SIHA, was dedicated this year to the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 and also sported several Grand Prix cars. The 500 mile race's rich history was represented by an array of machines that included a 1923 Mercedes as well as Bobby Unser's 1979 Penske PC-7. Alfa Romeo's Museo Storico had supplied two of their 'Alfettas' that had dominated the early years of Formula 1, while a Mercedes-Benz W196 and a rare V12-powered Maserati 250F were also on display. The hall surrounding the SIHA display was filled with a colourful mix of classic cars, most of which were for sale.
The 2011 Essen Motor Show did not only look back at motor sport's history but also provided a look ahead at the coming season of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM). Extensive rule-changes mean that the 2012 field will feature new cars only. Better still, long-time rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz will be joined by BMW. The Munich-based company will make their return to the DTM for the first time since the early 1990s with an M3-based machine. BMW's new racer was prominently displayed along with the A5 and C-Class Coupe that will be fielded by Audi and Mercedes-Benz respectively. The big news was the switch from Audi to BMW of current champion Martin Tomczyk.
Tucked away in a corner of one of the smaller halls was one of the show's absolute highlights. Simply known as the Beradino, this swooping sports car represents the dream turned reality of one man; JP Paulussen. As a young man, in the 1960s, he built the Porsche-powered machine basically from scratch using his own design that was clearly inspired by the Italian sports cars of the day. Following his retirement, he completely restored the car that can be transformed from a coupe to a targa, to a full convertible.
In some cases, it did take some effort to find them but the Essen Motor Show once again provided just enough interesting machines to warrant our trip. For those more inclined to the tuner hobby, the Essen Motor Show is certainly a must visit event, rivalled only by the SEMA Show held a few weeks earlier in Las Vegas.