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2004 Mondial de l'Automobile Paris
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Click here to open the slideshow September is annually dedicated to Europe’s largest auto show, which alternates between Paris and Frankfurt. This year Paris was the automotive capital of the world for two weeks through September and October. The eight halls of the Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles were filled with the latest offerings, accessories and a select number of historic cars.
Over 10,000 journalists from all over the world gathered to witness the unveilings of the many world premieres on the first of the two press days. The most anticipated new models had already been released prior to the show’s opening, leaving the media searching hard for surprises.
Our photographic team was on the show floor for both press days and have compiled the following report and a 225 shot slideshow capturing all highlights on display.

French connection
Understandably the three big French manufacturers don’t hold back on home turf with the largest stands of the show. Renault’s recent and past successes in Formula 1 were celebrated with a large area dedicated to the sport, filled with two complete cars and another dismantled to display all of its detail components. New for the ‘Mondial’ were the Fluence concept car and the small Modus city car.
On the Citroen stand a number of world premieres were displayed, including a revised C5 Sedan and Estate. All eyes were on the brand new C4, which looks set to take on the new Golf, Astra and Focus. The replacement of the all-conquering Xsara WRC was also debuted, with star drivers Loeb and Sainz present.
The expected highlight at Peugeot was the 907 Coupe Concept. Powered by a six litre V12 engine, it is the grandest tourer built in France since the 1930s. Although the V12 concept caught many a camera, more eyes were on the 1007 city car. With ingenious sliding doors, this small car makes parking and exiting in tight spots easier than ever. A perfect replacement for the many original Minis still being driven around in Paris!

Global affairs
One of the most important new cars of the show was the revised Focus, which set new standards when originally released in 1999. Of its main competitors, the Golf and the Astra sporty versions were launched. At the VW stand the fifth generation Golf GTi was the biggest crowd puller and at Opel the 240 bhp Astra HPC and the Astra GTC with panoramic windscreen were the stars.
More high performance releases were found on the BMW and Mercedes Benz Stands. The new M5 was the biggest news from the Munich manufacturer, who also unveiled a record breaking hydrogen racer, the H2R. At the lavish MB display, AMG displayed its usual muscle with the world premier of the CLS 55 AMG. Two ‘space wagon’ concepts underlined the Stuttgart based manufacturers large interest in the popular ‘SUV’ market.
Audi showcased various versions of the A4, including the revised Sedan and Avant versions. Also present was the A4 DTM, which clinched this seasons major touring car championship.

Sports cars
Understandably being our main focus, we were most interested in the high end sports car releases. At Porsche the new 911 and Boxster models were on display. Only the new Boxster was a true world premier, but the show offered most visitors their first look at the next generation 911. More Aston Martin power and a revised rear-end give the new Vanquish S better performance and aerodynamics; fortunately the changes are barely noticeable. France is ready to re-enter the market on two fronts, but both the revised Venturi Fetish and Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron still don’t seem ready for production yet. After the disappointing results of the Pagani Zonda C12 R racer this season, the manufacturer showed a more serious competitor, the 600 bhp Zonda Monza.
Maserati’s 90th anniversary and return to racing were the main themes on the Italian manufacturer’s stand. To celebrate the 90th ‘birthday’ a special version of the Spyder GT was on display, fitted with a special body kit. More news was found next door, where Ferrari launched the 360 Modena replacement; the F430. Although many pictures of the new Ferrari were previously released, these Italian creations are always best judged in person. It shares most lines with the Modena, but Pininfarina have worked hard on the details, giving the overall car a sharper, more aggressive look. An especially nice detail is the ‘F430’ scripted in the left hand side mirror, reminiscent of the ‘F40’ scripted on one side of the supercar’s rear wing.

Comics and cars
One hall was reserved for a number of historic cars, which made an appearance in classic French comic books, like Tintin. Highlights of the displayed cars were a Toyota 2000 GT, Facel Vega and a stunning Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France.
In the area surrounding the halls, various tracks were set up to provide the visitors with first hand experience of some of the cars on display. Most impressive was the obstacle course set up especially to test the off-roaders’ abilities in rough conditions.

With media outlets like Ultimatecarpage.com it’s become nearly impossible for the major motorshows to still offer true world premieres. It does not seem to affect the large interest from the media and crowd in these automotive happenings. Pictures can show the cars in every detail, but the “in-the-metal experience” is still what truly counts for the automotive enthusiast.
It’s hard to name the star of the show; an obvious choice could be the Ferrari F430, which definitely is a worthy replacement for the most successful Ferrari model ever. Our vote however goes to the Peugeot 1007, which combines good looks with novelties that are actually practical.

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Report and images by Wouter Melissen.