Archive for the ‘Motor Shows’ Category

You know those ’scam’ emails you get, the ones where a man from (insert dodgy unspecified country) offers you either a large amount of money from a recently deceased, previously unknown family member, or they offer you a LaFerrari for 50 grand? Well of course they are always too good to be true. This was almost one of those situations. The email had come via Dawn at Rain PR, it came through to Richard and he forwarded to me along with the words ‘Wow…that is some invite!’

It was a private invitation to Le Mans for one of us, plus 39 other guests. Aston Martin pit access, your own private Le Mans ‘Fixer’ private ‘glamping-style facilities’ on site, there would also be booze and food also offered as part of the hospitality…

After speaking to the lady in question on the phone and confirming that everything was kosher, the short straws were drawn and fortunately I (Mark) drew the longest one, so would be the representative for TheCarSpy.Net over the duration of the weekend.

Dawn at Rain PR (Pistonheads PR partner) e-mailed me to say everything was confirmed and I would be receiving a special package via UPS the day before I would be due to leave (Friday the 12th). Katie Blake from Rain called me to check that I had received my parcel and that I had everything I needed for the trip, she would be our guide and personal assistant with us for the duration of our stay. It contained tickets, instructions and a PHLMS 2015 T-Shirt and Hoodie.

Thanks Pistonheads! #PHLM2015

Thanks Pistonheads! #PHLM2015

Friday 12th – Le Mans arrival day

It was confirmed that I would be travelling to Le Mans by train, there was an option to travel by Bentley – (more on that to follow) but I decided that with the likely high intake of alcohol about to be consumed the train would be the better option for me. My Rain PR Le Mans prep pack informed me that I would be travelling with Stuart Masson from The Car Expert, I hadn’t met Stuart before but had heard about and read his blog. We exchanged a few messages before leaving and agreed it was easier to meet at the Eurostar Terminal at St Pancras.

After doing some last minute emails I left our offices just after 9 am and headed up to St Pancras to meet Stuart, he had told me to keep an eye out for his ‘Olympic Sized’ Australian flag (I thought he was joking!) that he had bought with him in support of fellow Aussie and Porsche LMP1 driver – Mark Webber…so as you can imagine it wasn’t particularly hard to spot Stuart when I did arrive at the terminal!

Meet and greet, Euros withdrawn and check-in sorted, we grabbed a quick snack and boarded the Eurostar to head to Paris.

We decided not to drink until we arrived at LeMans, the journey was spent mainly discussing current cars, general car chat and just about anything car-related. One thing that became obvious to me pretty quickly was the fact Stuart is hugely into motorsport – with a particular passion for the 24 hour race. I’d like to think I know quite a substantial amount about cars but to be fair, other than F1 I really don’t know a great deal about motorsport. The Car Expert then set about educating me on the different classes within Le Mans, what they meant, the drivers, which manufacturer was likely to win etc, etc.

The journey passed relatively quickly, we were booked on a train from Paris Montparnasse to Le Mans so would have to use our limited knowledge of GCSE French to navigate the Metro system (which is massive, slow and very hot) but we survived and resurfaced from the catacombs of Paris to board our train to LeMans. I must admit I was impressed with the TGV, its arguably quicker, cleaner and more efficient than the Eurostar. 

We were receiving constant updates on WhatsApp from the PH crew travelling by Bentley convoy of their arrival times and status. Bentley Cambridge had kindly provided Pistonheads with four brand-new Bentleys – a Continental Flying Spur (CFS – as it’s known in the trade), GT Continental (GTC), GT Speed and a stunning flagship Mulsanne.

CFS, GTC and Mulliner

CFS, GTC and Mulliner

GT Speed W12

GT Speed W12

@Bentley_Cambs ...you know you want to...

@Bentley_Cambs …you know you want to…

Upon our arrival, Catherine had texted us to say that Katie’s phone had died so we had some time to kill. Stuart suggested we head to the town square to watch the drivers parade. It was absolutely jam-packed so we headed to a bar with some outdoor seating to take in the sights, sounds and have our first pint (or two) together. If we could see the actual parade then apparently it looked something like this: (WOW. – thanks McLaren!)

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The text from Katie came, so we headed to the tram stop that would take us all the way to LeMans. It was a short and relatively easy journey and the stop was a 5 minute walk from our private PH camp. After some faffing around and general confusion about which direction we were supposed to be heading, we managed to find Katie and she led us to the camp.

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Upon arrival at the camp, we were shown the facilities and our tents for the trips, and introduced to the rest of the guests. The PH team made themselves known to us and the rest of the guests and within 20 minutes we were sat having a drink and a superbly cooked meal with Lee Williams (Executive Director of Pistonheads). After talking about cars, business and general PH-type chat for a long time, we decided it would be best to head to the ‘Pie and Piston’ – a Pistonheads-themed English Pub to mix it with other PH’ers and members. It was a quaint little set up that enough space for a beer garden and general pub-rowdiness. We met some interesting people including a great chap called Mike that had just taken delivery of his brand new Bentley GT3 R. He had been invited down by Bentley Cambridge to drive the car on the Mulsanne circuit as part of the celebrations. After chatting and drinking for quite some time (I even bumped into some old school friends – Si, Sean, Rob etc!) we decided it was probably best to head back (at 3am!) to be fresh for the big day.

Mike's GT3 R - Supplied by Bentley Cambridge

Mike’s GT3 R – Supplied by Bentley Cambridge

Does exactly what it says on the tin...

Does exactly what it says on the tin…

Saturday 13th – Le Mans Race Day 

The day I lost my Le Mans virginity.

Full-English was the best start to the day in such circumstances. Waking up at Le Mans is a bit like waking up in some kind of war zone, all you can hear is helicopters, screaming tyres and people shouting. Feeling slightly groggy, and the temperature at 26 degrees C (at 9am) some of us decided it may be an idea to go for a wander and see what we could find.

Stuart and I walked down to the car park not far from our camp site to be greeted by the PH VIP cars and also the McLaren VIP’s next door. It was a compound full of P1’s, F1’s, 575’s and just about every McLaren imaginable…BUT it was cordoned off and I couldn’t see anybody from McLaren that I recognised. We really wanted to get in so we started to charm the lady at the gate in our best/worst English ‘with a French sounding accent’ whist pulling sad faces and somehow it worked…we were in! We managed to have a quick chat with a few people that we knew (between the photos) one being Tim Burton, AKA Shmee150 who’s fresh back from his Gumball 3000 trip across Northern Europe and the USA.

Can you guess what it is yet?

Can you guess what it is yet?

McLaren were making quite a large song and dance about their involvement over the weekend – This was because it was the 20th anniversary of the F1 GTR winning the Le Mans 24 Hour. As you can see from the photos below, they really wheeled out the big guns….

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We decided it best to walk up the race village, this is a purpose-built area full of bars, display cars, show cars, sponsor items, and interesting things (there was a 911 GT3 RS Cup built from LEGO!)…It was also a good time to catch up with some more of the VIP crew and chat about cars and life in general. Katie introduced me to Nihal, a lovely Land Rover enthusiast from op’ north who’s big into cars and shooting (that’s clay/game shooting not drive-by shooting). After grabbing some supplies (and a lot of water) we decided to find a good vantage point to see the start of the race. Sadly there was no way of getting near the start finish line so we found a space on a banked corner instead….by this time it was absolutely boiling! Anticipation was rapidly building amongst the crowd with the clock ticking closer to 3PM. Fortunately a bunch of really, REALLY shouty French guys positioned themselves right next to us to keep us entertained (We had no idea what they were shouting). Anyway, with ‘La Marsellaise’ blasting out of the PA system and the huge partisan crowd belting out ‘Marchons..Marchons…Qu’un sang impur…’ etc, it was LIGHTS OUT and the race was on!

Wouldn't fancy your chances in a crash...

Wouldn’t fancy your chances in a crash…

Decent vantage point for the first few laps

Decent vantage point for the first few laps

Katie had kindly arranged with David Adams at Aston Martin Racing for us to go backstage during the race, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, or what we were going to see even, but all I can say is that it was far beyond expectation. David led us through security, reminded us to be super careful – this was very much a live area and literally anything could happen at any given point. On a couple of occasions we had to watch our backs as mechanics raced past us with tyres etc for the pit stop teams at the side of the track. David showed us various parts and tyre sets for the cars, he explained that one of the Astons (#97) was an ‘Art car’ designed by German Abstract artist Tobias Rehberger. As we navigated through to the front of the garage we were placed in a pen of sorts and told to wait there as two cars would be coming in for pit stops, it was fascinating to experience this just a few feet from the drivers and mechanics, you gain incredible awareness of the gravity of the situation, almost like you can feel the tension in the air, but the most awe-inspiring part was the noise! THAT NOISE! It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard…like a really angry loud dog mixed with thunder? Fortunately I grabbed a recording of car #99 pitting to show you all.

Yes...that's how close we were!

Yes…that’s how close we were!

Aston Martin Art Car detail, pic courtesy of Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin Art Car detail – ©Aston Martin Racing

After our Aston visit, we headed back to the camp for our evening meal, most of the talk was about our experience so far, particularly the noise and tension in the pits! As soon as the sun had set we decided to head back out and do pretty much the same as the night before. This time we had the fascinating prospect of seeing the cars race at night, somehow it all looks much faster and seems more visually dramatic. With the clock heading into the early hours of the morning we were starting to feel really drained, I ended up rambling to Luke from PH about our skiing experiences and favourite jaunts in Austria (mainly about how rubbish I am) the Pro Plus tablets just weren’t working and there definitely wasn’t a can of Red Bull in sight…I had boldly predicted that I would ‘easily’ stay up the whole night, I was in bed by 3.30.

Sunday 14th – Le Mans Final Day

Awoken at 8.30 by some serious noise! It’s at that point you actually realise the race genuinely lasts 24 hours. We were positioned probably less than 100 meters from the race track so you really could hear every gear change and every dab of the throttle. Its strange because you almost ’tune out’ the noise during the day and night, it becomes normal – like a constant. (It also definitely proves that I have selective hearing!)

Whilst filling up on breakfast, Stuart was informing me about latest state of play, Porsche had a 1-2 in the LMP1 Class and in the GT Class Aston Martin were winning, he was happy with Webber’s performance and so was happy with Aston’s, but he did advise me that anything could happen. The drivers become extremely tired and the focus drops off allowing for elementary mistakes that would usually never happen in other disciplines of motorsport. Later that day at 2.15 pm, almost twenty-three and a half hours into the race, the leader of the GT class in Aston Martin number 98 momentarily lost his concentration and wrecked his car, sadly his and his teams race over with nothing to show for it but it proved exactly what Stuart had told me earlier.

Le Mans fact: Did you know that each team is supposed to have at least three drivers to share the endurance? Years ago however some drivers would actually do the whole event solo – can you imagine 24 hours behind the wheel without sleep while racing a 1000hp behemoth?

I had decided my personal itinerary for the day was: firstly, visit and scale the ferris wheel, the view from up there is incredible. My only regret is that I didn’t go up at night – I highly recommend you to do this if you have the chance!

Dove from above!

The dove from above!

Secondly to check out the new Aston Martin GT12 and Corvette C7 ‘R Edition’ for a customer – Objective achieved. (I’ve even managed to place an order for one)

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Then to check out the new Renault Alpine concept, a sub £50k lightweight affordable sports car for 2016 – Sadly I only managed to get a shot of the rear…

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To visit the Ford v Ferrari showcase. Some seriously valuable cars here…a few that you may even have diffic!ultly placing a value on. For example – the first car we stumbled across was a 250 GTO!

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To witness the winner of Le Mans and the end of the 24 hours. This time it was Ex F1 star – Nico Hulkenberg’s turn in Porsche (LMP 919) number 19 completing a massive 395 laps in total with his team.

Porsche #19 Hulkenburg and Co...Winners 2015!

Porsche #19 Hulkenburg and Co…Winners 2015! ©Autocar

Finally, it was time to say our goodbyes to the rest of the camp and dash back to Paris in time to catch our Eurostar home…it was almost emotional! Stuart and I had Ben Travis from the Evening Standard and his long serving friend Jack in tow to keep us company, a really top couple of guys.

That’s all from me…I must say it was fantastic meeting everybody and I would love to head back next year.

I had a couple of Le Mans ‘Car Spy’ T-shirts printed for the weekend but I guess they aren’t of any use now other than to wear whilst I’m running or gym-ing…still, no publicity is bad publicity they say, right?

M (The Car Spy)

Thanks to:

Pistonheads (and the PH crew) http://www.Pistonheads.com

Rain PR – http://www.RainCommunications.co.uk

Bentley Cambridge – http://www.vindis.bentleymotors.com

Aston Martin RacingIn particular David Adams – http://www.astonmartin.com/racing

Haymarket Media Group – http://www.haymarket.com

All of the welcoming accommodating people I had the pleasure of meeting.

Special thanks to:

Lee Williams and Ruben Burton (Pistonheads) – Fantastic pair of guys – the future of Pistonheads is in safe hands.

Stuart Masson (The Car Expert) – Race informant/Le Mans Knowledge Specialist – 5 times Le Mans Veteran.

Katie Blake (Rain PR) – Thanks for organising everything – and looking after me – the Queen of PR!

Full Album here (Photos taken on iPhone 6)

12 months is not a long time. Only yesterday, it seems, we were waltzing through the airport terminal in Geneva and turning left into the Palexpo to ogle the latest automotive eye-candy. And now it is 2015.

Last year was okay and kind of worth the trip but this year we were gagging to get there. Over 70  new models on display plus the inevitable bunch of interesting concept cars that never see the light of day. So on with the show.

With so much to see we’ll just focus on the cars that were of particular interest to us which means you can exclude most of the mass market offerings.

Cutting to the chase our show hero was the Koenigsegg Regera – ‘robotic’ body panels, 1500 hp, 0-60 mph in minus 2 seconds, brain-mashing top speed, everything about the car is mental. The car is from Sweden and is the antithesis of ABBA. It is Black Sabbath on acid. Everybody now go back to the drawing board.

Koenigsegg Regera

Next up is the Ford GT. Only 250 cars will be made and the launch date is some time in 2016. For a car that looks this good and performance will be up there with the best it is hard to believe that it will cost around £200k. Speculators and investors form an orderly queue now.

Ford GT

Aston Martin. They really are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The brand is bullet-proof, up there with Apple in terms of global recognition and Bond’s perennial favourite weapon of choice. The cars are drop-dead gorgeous and yet they struggle to persuade die-hard Porsche buyers to consider AM as a viable alternative. The GT3 (Aston Martin) is all sold-out – yep 100 cars gone in the blink of an eye without a single car being built so there are some real fans out there. The Vulcan, to be honest, does not look like an Aston Martin. It looks like it came from the planet Vulcan and driven by Mr Spock (RIP). Designed for those who have enough money to have a spare car for track days (at Paul Ricard not Donington) the detail of the car is truly impressive. The rear light assemblies are a work of art and deserve a place in the Louvre. Bravo Aston Martin for surprising all of us!

Aston Martin Vulcan

Yes the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 is a concept but the car is real and very likely to be gunning for 911 customers in the very near future. The car on display was rotating gracefully while the crowds gawped and wiped the dribble from their mouths. The EXP is a truly lovely design and there is a little bit of Aston Martin in the profile. The interior is lovely too and you know they will sell zillions of them if they actually start making the car which we think they (VW) will. It is a no-brainer so all they have to do is come up with a sensible name for the car.

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6

If we all accept that the internal combustion engine will one day no longer exist but at the same time pray that we will not be driven around by a car made by Google there is a ray of hope in the form of fuel cell technology from nanoFlowcell AG. The Quantino F is a concept right now and maybe a little too avant-garde for mass market tastes but it bodes well for the future of green motoring. With a range of 1000 kms and a top speed of 200 kph we can all put away the razor blades – cars can survive without petrol.

Quantino F

Other highlights for us were the Alfa Romeo 4c Spider (prettier than the Coupe), Ferrari 488 (even more desirable than a 458), McLaren 675LT (they seem to going from strength to strength), Lamborghini Aventador SV (how can you make an Aventador even more terrifying?), Sergio by Pininfarina (not a game-changer but such a perfect design and future classic), Audi R8 (looks the same but then again doesn’t – if that makes any sense), Lotus (shouldn’t they be dead by now? The Evora and Exige still look damn good), Porsche 911 GT3 RS in orange (they couldn’t have picked a better colour), Porsche Cayman GT4 in yellow (they couldn’t have picked a better colour) and Renault Sport RS 01 (the bastard child of the Caterham/Renault love affair? At the right price this car will sell well).

There are even more exhibits that are probably worth a mention and we did manage to take a few shots of nice cars during our visit to the show so please take a look at our slideshow when you have time.

For now then we have stocked up on Toblerone, Swiss cheese and cuckoo clocks albeit with less Swiss Francs left than last year but roll on 2016 – not sure if it will be as interesting as this year though!

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It’s a good idea to run a classic car show in the New Year. Christmas is over, the weather is rubbish, everybody is looking forward to their credit card bill at the end of the month – not. So what we need is a car show to lift the spirits and for those of us who love their classics we have been looking forward to the first ever classic car event at Excel in London ever since it was proposed over a year ago.

First impressions? Well a tad underwhelming to be frank at least as far as the marketing of the event is concerned. Great location, potentially a great format but the promotional effort just seemed a little half-hearted.

Get off the train at Customs House and you see a multitude of signage suggesting that you were actually visiting the London Boat Show which has been held coincidentally at Excel this time of the year for most of the last decade.

Nothing wrong with a boat show being on at the same time and in fact there is probably a lot in common between boat buyers and classic car buyers. Both are obsessed with their toys and think nothing of pouring money into bottomless pits of expenditure. Wives are noted by their absence.

However having found the entrance to the classic car extravaganza it was obvious this was not a half-baked event as far as the exhibitors were concerned. Many of the well-established names in the classic car world were very much in attendance – Joe Macari, Hexagon, JD Classics, Frank Dale and Nicholas Mee – along with a healthy contingent of restorers and other assorted specialist service providers.

A ‘Hall of Fame’ section of the show featured a number of historic Formula One racing cars including Mansell’s ‘Red Five’ plus a huge nod to Adrian Newey’s contribution to motor sport. Some truly great cars were on show in this section.

Certainly the industry seemed to be taking the new event very seriously indeed.

Since the people behind the event have a history of putting together well-organised events such as the Top Gear road-shows it was no surprise to find a ‘live’ feature to entertain the crowds.

A ‘runway’ or ‘catwalk’ ran the length of the hall and at certain times of the day a gaggle of selected classics would make their way individually up and down the track while a commentary about each car was belted out over the PA system.

For those attracted by the aural sensations of a Lamborghini Diablo being fired up this was a lovely place to be. Add to that the explosive arrival of an historic F1 car such as Ayrton Senna’s Lotus 97T which provided a piece of gratuitous wheelspin at each turn at the end of the track and it was schoolboy nirvana. Nice.

It would be impractical to discuss every exhibitor and car in detail but if you are a classic car lover you would not be disappointed and there is plenty to ogle at. Most stands were welcoming and inviting for visitors and in fact most of the cars were left unlocked so peering inside a concours classic was not an issue for the exhibitors it seems.

Amongst the highlights for us were the Eagle E-types which although accepted are ‘re-creations’ rather than original classics the standard of finish and detail of their cars was deeply impressive. A lime-green Stratos also captured our hearts along with a short wheel-base Quattro and every single Ferrari 275 on display.  Hang on what about the Jensen Interceptor Convertible, Lotus Elan, McLaren F1 GTR, Miura, DB6 Vantage and Porsche 912? The list could go on and on but take a look at our show images and decide which are your own favourites.

Will we be going in 2016? Try and stop us, might even try and see a few boats next time too!

The Shanghai Auto Show first appeared on the merry-go-round of motor car exhibitions way back in 1985 but since it is held every two years the current one is only the 15th so far.

However, if by chance you managed to visit the inaugural event in 1985 you might have noticed a few changes between now and then.

Not least of which there seem to be more home-grown car manufacturers in China these days than there are stars in the sky and if you live anywhere outside of China the chances are you have never heard of any of them.

Acura, Besturn, Brilliance, BYD, Changan, Dongfen, Everus – there is at least one for every letter of the alphabet right down to ZAP and Zoyte.

Make no mistake, China is very serious about its place in the world of car manufacturing and it has a home market that easily dwarfs the rest of the world put together. That is why you have never come across the likes of Youngman, Red Flag, Lifen, Luxgen et al in your local car dealership. They just never needed to sell you one of their cars – until now that is.

Actually they still don’t need to sell you one but now they want to.

We all know that MG is owned by SAIC because it is a typically British brand steeped in the country’s automotive history and there was many a spilt cup of tea when the brand was finally sold off to an unknown Chinese consortium. The media ran stories hinting that the sale of MG was the beginning of the end for the British car industry. We now know of course that their doom-mongering was unfounded on so many levels.

The curious thing is that today MG is likely to represent the thin edge of a very fat wedge of other Chinese car-makers that have plans to bite off a big chunk of market share in Europe.

OK one look at the designs of a lot of the domestic fodder looks a tad dated through European eyes but the cars are built for Chinese tastes and they sell by the bucket loads there. Over-sized headlamps seem to be ‘a la mode’ right now.

However, look at some of the concepts on display and there is a glimpse of what is likely to come. Acura, Beijing Auto, Chery and good old MG are leaning towards a lot of the design trends seen in European concepts seen recently at Geneva. It wont be long before many an original design creation will be coming from China.

Take a look at the Icona Vulcano. Probably the most exciting-looking car at the show and Ferrari must have wished the Vulcano wasn’t there because it was drawing too much attention away from the LaFerrari. They must also be hoping that the Vulcano never goes into production either.

The high-profile mass-producers of Europe must also be nervous. Most of them have seen big falls in sales recently whilst accruing big losses and that can’t last for much longer. The arrival of competing models from China will only compound the problem for all of them and the Chinese have very deep pockets too.

There may still be a way to go for the cars from China to compete head-on with the designs from Europe and elsewhere but the gap is closing fast. The Beijing Show next year should be an interesting one.

Highlights of the Shanghai Show for us this year?

The Icona Vulcano – definitely the star of the show

BMW M6 Gran Coupe – if only all BMW’s looked this good

Buick Riviera – GM will never make this elegant car but maybe there will be design cues used in its new models in future

Chery Leaf Concept – looks like a futuristic Renault Twizy

Geely KC Concept – shows that the Chinese are catching up fast to the Koreans

Hyundai Rohens Concept – shows that the Koreans are starting to overtake everybody else

KIA Cub Concept – we’ve said it before but KIA really should make this car

Peugeot Onyx – if Peugeot ends up going down the pan there are a few of its designers that will find another job after producing this stunner

MG CS SUV – it would be nice if MG could come into the market with something a little more exciting – maybe this is the car to create a stir for the company

All of the Toyota Concepts – can’t find a dud amongst them and they have gone the extra mile with their adventurous designs this year

ZAP! Aptera – looks like a flying car but can’t – fly that is. Will attract more attention than a LaFerrari – got a better name too!

Red Flag L9 – so retro it looks cool. Hard to believe the top bods in the Chinese government still waft around in 50’s Americana lookalikes.

In the meantime enjoy our gallery of images from the show in Shanghai this year…….

There have been 112 shows featuring cars in New York before the one that is taking place this year. That is a lot of car shows. In fact, the NY show has been around longer than most famous car manufacturers selling their wares today. It is the biggest in the USA and the best well-attended.

So it is very important, at least for Americans, while Europe still considers Geneva and Frankfurt to be the two main catwalks for launching new models.

Does that really matter? Probably not in today’s hyper-connected world of communication because now you don’t have to leave your armchair to stay well-informed of the latest product launches. However, the NY show is important for any car maker that wants to score well in the US of A. Just ask Jaguar Land Rover. They even wheeled in Daniel Craig aka James Bond to drive the new Sport through the streets of the Big Apple.

JLR chose New York to launch the Sport version of the latest Range Rover even though they could have done the job a couple of weeks ago in Switzerland. Wise move? Well consider that from an economics point of view Europe is currently pedalling backwards while the US has found first gear and has its foot firmly on the gas.

In other words, there are more people in the States who can afford to buy and drive a Range Rover Sport than there are in Europe. It’s a no-brainer.

And it’s not just JLR who recognised this obvious fact. The (South) Koreans are rapidly making their mark on the automotive world and they were busy showing design concepts that hint at what is to come from the land of Samsung and LG. Badge snobs might sneer at anything that KIA and Hyundai produce but times are a-changing so be prepared to be impressed. It is only a matter of time.

So what else was there to see?

The home-grown newbies featured the Cadillac CTS looking lean and wearing a very sharp-suit. Will it come to Europe? It should do, us Europeans need a bit more choice over our diet of Audis, Mercs and BMW’s.

A make-over for the Chrysler 300C is much-welcomed and a bit less 1990’s old-school thinking will also help it win friends in the UK at least.

The US-led assault also included the Camaro Z28, Challenger SRT8 392, Charger SRT8 392, the new Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Durango, the mental SRT Viper TA and the even more mental Shelby 1000. Enough horsepower from that lot to make the world spin in the opposite direction.

Back to the Brits and Jaguar heralded their new XJR on steroids and the limited edition (US-only) XKR-S GT, Bentley paraded their new Flying Spur and the Wraith from Rolls Royce was flaunting itself to Yanks with deep pockets. They all felt right at home, like British rock bands from the 60’s looking to make it big in America.

The Koreans, as usual, were looking to impress with their new-found confidence in car design. OK, some concepts are a little too quirky for our sensitive Western tastes but they showed an inventiveness and bravery that seems to be missing from mainstream manufacturers in Europe at present.

Amongst the usual copious amounts of metal from Japan was the Infiniti Q50S, Scion tC, stunning Subaru WRX concept (to hopefully replace the current ugly-duckling model), Subaru SV Crosstrek Hybrid, Mitsubishi Mirage and Outlander plus the odd-ball NV200 New York Taxi by Nissan.

Finally the Europeans stepped in with the Volvo S60 R Design (they can do no wrong in the US),  the impressive-looking CLA45 AMG from Mercedes and the latest incarnation of the VW Golf which snatched the ‘World Car of The Year’ trophy from under everybody’s noses.

Check out the images from the show as follows:-

The 83rd Geneva Motor Show opened on the 7th March to the general public and as is usual for this particular auto show in the calendar many manufacturers chose to use this event as the launch pad for their new models and design concepts.

This year was no exception and these for us were the cars (in alphabetical order) that stole the limelight or made a damn good attempt to impress The Car Spy:-

Alfa Romeo 4C – A prettyish looking two-seater that almost looks like a Lotus Evora from certain angles (which is not a bad thing). Unlike the beautiful 8C, Alfa are making noises about producing a lot more 4C’s after the first 400 ‘launch models’ sell through. Pricing is around £52000 in the UK which seems a little steep for a four-cylinder 1750cc powered sports car but it is an Alfa after all and we can’t wait to drive one.

Aston Martin Rapide S – AM seem determined to keep a four-door saloon in their product line-up and so some minor tweaks to the current model have resulted in the ‘S’ moniker being added. Whether you are a fan of the ‘family’ Aston or not it is still arguably one of the best-looking super-saloons you can buy today.

Bentley Flying Spur – The outgoing Flying Spur was often criticised for looking too bland and nondescript for a Bentley and so a re-design has been on the cards for some time. The more pronounced ‘coke-bottle’ design and Conti GT front-end lends the model some serious road presence now so that should help convert some new customers for the company especially as there will be a V8 option in the near future too. Just not too keen on those ellipsoid-shaped LED brake lights – they look at odds with the squarish treatment of the rear-end.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Roadster – There will probably never be another Stingray to compare with the original model from the 50’s and 60’s but at least today’s models are raw, loud and best of all handle well enough to compete with the best from Europe. When the latest ‘Vette coupe was announced the jury was out on the overall design of the car but only after a few weeks it is starting to look a bit tasty. The convertible version has actually managed to tone-down the looks of the coupe but can you imagine the glorious soundtrack as you go looking for tunnels?

Ferrari LaFerrari – The so-called Enzo replacement was always going to be epic in every sense but these days Ferrari has a lot more able competition that can do the business around a track. At this level manufacturers can only trade blows with numbers so until this car can be pitched against the P1, Huayra, Veyron, Gumpert, Koenigsegg etc etc it is anyone’s guess as to actually how good the car is from an engineering point of view. However, in the looks department it may have one first prize. Ferrari could have got this car horribly wrong but they did the opposite and got it dead right. What they may have got wrong though is the name – LaFerrari – really? Literally translated it means The Ferrari as in ‘the definitive Ferrari’. Just wished they had stuck with F150 or F70. Anyway they have sold the whole production run now so the name hasn’t put anybody off.

Honda NSX – This NSX replacement concept has been shown so many times over the last few years it is in danger of becoming an old model even before it has been launched. Come on Honda what are you waiting for? The looks great and you have finally got an interior for it. Stick it on sale for around £50k and you have a winner on your hands!

Gloria by Alfa Romeo – Apart from the truly daft name (at least to a Brit’s ears) the car looks a beauty. The leather fake bonnet straps are the only blot on an otherwise very attractive proposition for a new Alfa saloon. Here’s a prediction – they won’t make it – sadly.

KIA Provo – The South Korean manufacturers are making serious headway in the European market with their bread-and-butter cars but this design concept shows that they also have the potential to cut the mustard with a radical attitude to car design. Make this car KIA and you might just start tempting a few of the badge snobs out there.

Lamborghini Veneno – First of all you can’t have one because they have sold all three especially made for people with truly deep pockets. Secondly, why would you want one anyway? Lambo has gone so totally over the top with this car they have ruined it. The car is a hotchpotch of curves, angles, wings, air dams, air scoops and spoilers that it is impossible to see the car underneath! Please don’t make another guys – the Aventador and Sesto Elemento are your best efforts to date and they look seriously cool – sorry, the Veneno is not.

McLaren P1 – All of the pre-launch hype surrounding the P1 unfortunately turned the official public launch of the car into a bit of an anti-climax. That does not mean the P1 is a bad car of course but you can blame McLaren’s over-enthusiastic PR and marketing bods for turning the launch into a bit of a damp squib at the end. Again the P1 is about to rub shoulders with a bunch of cars for which it all about the numbers. McLaren claim it is not about straight-line speed but how you deal with the curvy bits of road and track. We shall certainly find out over the coming weeks and months – looking forward to that very much.

Nissan Resonance – Nissan are determined to make their mark on the automotive world with models like the lairy GTR, Juke and Nismo variants and now the Resonance (which is tipped to be the new Murano) shows that the in-house designers are ready to let their hair down and push some boundaries to make us all sit up and take notice. Just don’t change the concept too much guys!

Pininfarina Sergio – Pininfarina, the company, wanted to celebrate the life of their most-famous designer with a car that would provide a fitting tribute and called it – The Sergio. The car they came up with is bold, daring, svelte and mental all at the same time. Sergio must be smiling in heaven right now.

Rolls Royce Wraith – With the Wraith Rolls Royce has created its most powerful car to date. It might look like a Ghost Coupé but the company has sprinkled a little bit of technology star dust to make their new car a tad special. Any car that can obey a command like ‘get me home’ or ‘take me to the casino in Monaco’ and then automatically set itself up for the journey has to be cool.

Spyker B6 Venator – Spyker is a survivor. The company has risen from the grave more times than a vampire. Bullish leadership and extra cash in the bank means that we can expect even more zany designs from a company that dares to be different. We wish them the best of luck – they deserve it!

Toyota i-Road – This is not a car it is a Personal Mobility Vehicle – they definitely got that bit right. Whether you would be seen driving one is another matter but you cannot help but admire the way Toyota has gone about creating what looks like a bike with four wheels. It looks like it would fall over when it is parked up but it won’t. All credit to a company that is looking for imaginative ways to get us mobile.

Volkswagen XL1 – This is possibly another car that you might not want to be seen piloting but it is very brave of VW to try to tempt us to rethink the way we look at getting around on four wheels. It might turn out to be a lemon for the company not because the XL1 has little appeal but it looks like it will cost over £100k – ouch!

Other credit-worthy mentions are the Giugiaro Parcour, Toyota FT-86 and the Touring Disco Volante. In the meantime, take a look at our gallery of show images below.

So many motor shows turn out to be an anti-climax. So much anticipation from the pre-show hype and then all you get is a headache from the bright lights, noise and bruises from other people’s elbows while trying to take a shot of the latest ‘new improved’ version of a car that should never have been launched in the first place.

Not so Paris this year. Being a lot more glamorous than Frankfurt (which swaps every other year with Paris) it is a very pleasant town to visit anyway so you could forgive it for running a rubbish motor show if that were the case. In 2012 however there were some real gems amongst the usual dross (that is if you like cars that are interesting and not just a means for popping down to Tesco).

If you lived on Mars you might have missed the fact that McLaren were to be unveiling their new P1 ‘hypercar’ at the show and if ever there was an opportunity to be underwhelmed it was going to be this one. However McLaren pulled it off by presenting a car that truly did make the audience gasp. Firstly it looked a little ungainly from certain angles then suddenly it looked beautiful. Either way it made you want to keep staring at it to find another quirky piece of the car’s design detail. This car will be talked about for some time yet.

If the P1 hadn’t stole the show this time around then the Onyx design concept from Peugeot would have made the headlines. Like most concepts there were too many impractical design elements including large swathes of copper (yes, copper) running down each flank of the car and a rear lighting arrangement that just couldn’t possibly work. But it was stunning. What a shame that there are some very talented designers working at Peugeot who won’t ever have a chance to see there creations signed off by the bean-counters at a corporate monolith that insists on producing some dreadful cars. Sorry Peugeot but you lost the plot years ago.

The F-Type Jaguar and 2013 Range Rover were part of a joint presentation by JLR and if initial reactions are anything to go by it seems that both cars will be bringing home the bacon big time for the company. The F-Type inspired a lot of ‘but it looks like a…’ comments but a walk around the car a few times tells you that it will stand out from the crowd. The back end of the car is particularly attractive which sounds like a back-handed compliment but it’s true.

Porsche showed off their Sport Turismo concept which is basically a Panamera shooting brake and a lot of sense it makes too. Best of all is that Porsche has somehow managed to create a handsome car out of its ugly-duckling saloon which is no mean feat. The car looks great from every angle now and the company should waste no time at all in getting this concept into production. He here is a better idea – delete the existing saloon and call this car the new Panamera!

So what else was new at the show? Bentley presented the GT3 version of the Continental GT and if there was a prize for the biggest rear wing spolier at the show this car won it no question. It was impossible to look at the car without the eyes being drawn to this huge appendage at the back in spite of the floor-scraping body-kit, big wheels and fancy paintwork. One thing is for sure if Bentley are serious about entering this car into major competitions then we can’t wait to see this thing tearing up the track and dwarfing the other contestants!

Biggest diappointment? That has to be Maserati’s insistence on launching a car they really don’t need in their range – the Levante. Thankfully the name ‘Kubang’ has been dropped but it’s a bit like sprinkling glitter on poo. It’s still poo. Maserati, please stick with cars like the beautiful GranCabrio MC which is what you are really good at.

Audi showed of their new S3, RS5 Cabriolet and a strange thing called a Crosslane Coupe concept which we assume was trying to prove their is a market for vehicles that people just don’t need – sorry guys, we don’t get it.

Rolls Royce went all ‘Art Deco’ and used the theme to show off a bespoke option for the Phantom Saloon, Coupe and Drophead. Why buy the standard car when for so much more money you can buy the same car but with arty bits of trim. Having said that the Drophead Phantom on the stand looked stuuning with an ice blue paint job with contrating ice white interior – just don’t let the kids get in the back with their chocolate ice-creams!

Mercedes seems to have found its mojo again if the proposed design for the new S-Class goes ahead. Really nice swoopy design that is far from conservative and will hopefully set the scene for their new models in the future. There was an electric version of the SLS which produces almost identical performance figures as the V8 petrol version but for nearly twice the price of that car. Erm, we’ll pass on that one.

Other cars worth stopping to have a peek at included the new MINI GP, Paceman and Countryman JCW. Note to BMW: please stop releasing new versions of the MINI it is starting to get a tad confusing. The 2013 Gallardo made an appearance and while the car is still gorgeous it is starting to look like it needs a major makeover and not just a tidy-up. We gather a totally new model is under way so can’t wait for that – hopefully it will be a mini-Aventador!

Of course we could tell you about the myriad of other ‘new’ cars from the likes of Kia, Toyota, Ford, Peugeot, Renault, Citroen etc etc but the chances are you will soon be deluged with TV adverts from the respective companies telling you how their cars have changed the world and how your life will be so much better with one of their products. No thanks.

In the meantime will Frankfurt 2013 be as good as Paris 2012? Can’t wait to find out!

Enjoy the slide show of Paris 2012……….

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