Archive for the ‘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!

The Geneva Motor Show originally kicked off in 1905 and somehow it is hard to imagine what the event must have looked like back then considering that Ford, Mercedes, Renault and a handful of others were only just pioneering the car as a means of transport for all and sundry.

Somewhere the records might show exactly how many exhibitors were in attendance back then but we can only assume it would be a tiny number compared to the 200-odd that were showing their wares this year which marked the 84th time the event had been held.

Yes we know there are 109 years since 1905 but presumably the odd World War or two got in the way and much of the other political shenanigans that seemed to occupy most of the 20th century contributed to a few of the missing years.

Palexpo, where the event is held, is looking a bit tired and dog-eared these days but the convenience of almost falling off the plane steps into the exhibition centre is very appealing. And for those travelling the one-hour-plus flight from London Gatwick a visit to this particular motor show is a very palatable one indeed.

The smell of continental coffee and croissants is forever present as you walk through the arcade to get to the main entrance for Palexpo and the whiff of Emmental is a gentle reminder that you have arrived in pleasant Switzerland.

All of the accessory and parts suppliers are stuffed into Hall 7 which seems to go on forever until you reach the escalators for the main event on the upper levels. Not sure why the centre has three levels (not floors) because it didn’t appear to be built into the side of a mountain from the outside. Maybe they just like climbing steep things in Swiss land.

On to the cars and most of the main European players attend this event plus the big names from Korea and Japan. Surprisingly though only Qoros appeared to be representing China but gut-feel suggests that is merely the calm before the storm.

Many manufacturers pick Geneva for their first model launches but even this tradition seems to be a declining one. With the growth of new markets around the globe some manufacturers were referring to a ‘European Premiere’ rather than a ‘World Premiere’ for various models.

Wandering around the show and taking in all of the new models on display there was an underlying picture emerging. Cars, for the mass-market at least, are getting ugly. Almost all of the big guns had at least one model that had been subjected to a ‘make-over’ that quite frankly made us squirm. OK the look of a car is a very subjective one but when there are so many Frankensteins on show it prompts a few questions.

Is it the ever-pervasive EU with their daft regulations related to car-design that are having a detrimental affect? Has it become fashionable to be unattractive in the car world? Are the car designers on hallucinatory drugs? Sorry but we are not talking about the odd car here and there which suggests that a very broad-brush is being painted with for some reason or another.

It’s not even worth listing the culprits but you as the reader will decide in due course whether this might be true or not and besides there were enough stunners on show to distract us from the monsters.

Highlights of the show for The Car Spy? Well actually quite a lot but rather than bore you with the finer details we will summarise them for you as follows and follow that up with an album of over 200 images for you to digest. In fact so many shots were taken with the main camera that the battery died (that’s right – no spare with us) but the iPhone 5 made a great substitute that kept us going until the bitter end. So on with the show:-

KAHN – well-established UK make-over artists for premium brands but this year their stand focused on British prime beef from Land Rover in the form of Range Rovers and Defenders. The seriously sumptuous interiors in the Rangies are a sight to behold and the mean, wide-bodied Defenders look like they could scare off gargoyles.

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Mercedes Benz – The new S-Class looks sharp and svelte particularly in Coupe form and the C-Class also earned an extra look – much nicer with bigger wheels though. The model choice is becoming mind-bending with umpteen A’s and B’s too so good luck to anyone looking to buy into that category.

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BMW – the company has now pretty much used up the allocation of numbers from 1 to 8 with the addition of the 2-series and the expansion of the 4-series and again the model choice is dizzying to the head. Prettiest car in the range has to be the 6-series for us especially in Gran Coupe form but sadly the 4-series Gran Coupe looked a bit sterile by comparison. Maybe it was the colour choice for the stand but it just didn’t leave an impression.

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MINI – a car that is fast becoming a contradiction. It is no longer small or mini-like. It is huge. The new nose stretches the car and the Countryman looks as big as an Audi A3. It just doesn’t look cute anymore but the Clubman Concept looked pretty good. Again, not at all small but the proportions look right and if the final version looks similar it should be a winner.

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Morgan – a real antidote to all ‘modern cars’. The stand had a cutaway of one of the models showing the solid ash frame which has been used on Morgans since the beginning of time. Surely the EU will declare it as a fire hazard before long to finally remove from the world one of the few companies to still build a car by human hand using proper craftsmen skills.

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Mansory – Not always a bastion of good taste when it comes to gilding a lily but the metallic turquoise and satin silver Wraith on the stand would have made Rolls Royce proud. It sounds a bit blingy but somehow the colour combination worked very well with the ivory interior and the car deserved a few re-visits from us.

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Rolls Royce – seeing the ‘new’ Ghost up-close gave a chance to see that RR don’t believe in making radical changes to their cars which is a mighty relief amongst a sea of unnecessary nose-jobs. Previous Ghost owners can rest easy – you need (very) sharp eyes to spot the differences.

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Maserati – always a joy to see their cars and not a bad apple amongst them. Star of their stand was the Alfieri concept which proved that cars can still be beautiful. Please make that car Maserati and save us from mediocrity.

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Alfa Romeo – The 4c was much in evidence especially since the Spider is on its way and a white example took centre stage on their stand. Even prettier than the Coupe (without that slightly awkward kink around the B-pillar) it would be unfair to call it a mini-Ferrari but we will anyhow.

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RUF – how do you make a 911 go faster? Take it to the guys in Pfaffenhausen and they will work their magic to produce a Porsche that will embarrass most other Porsches. No real surprises on their stand this year apart from a canary yellow RCT which is basically a two-wheel-drive Turbo and in terms of power neatly parks itself between Porsche’s ‘basic’ Turbo and the Turbo S model. Alois Ruf also had his own personal Connaught Green 964-based RCT which sadly is not (and maybe never will be) for sale.

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Lexus – The RCF GT3. Seriously mental. Enough said. The LF-NX concept. Looks great. They won’t make it.

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Honda – Type R Concept. Just do it Honda and where is the NSX? We are getting very impatient.

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Renault  – A Twizy in Formula 1 guise. So mad-looking they would sell them by the bucket-load if the company accountants were put into solitary confinement.

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Skoda – Vision C concept. There was little bit of Audi A7 going on from certain angles but the Skoda version would be a hell of a lot cheaper to buy and probably one of the best-looking cars to come out of the Czech factory ever.

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Gumpert – a brave company that made a comeback from collapse a while back and while their outlandishness should be applauded it is hard to see how the cars will fit in with a new landscape of P1’s, 918’s and LaFerraris. Outdated is probably the word now. The ‘Explosion’ concept is pointless too quite frankly and totally at-odds with the image of Gumpert.

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Koenigsegg – same comments as Gumpert. In order to survive they need to attract customers away from the new-technology kids on the block but seemingly some people must be buying them.

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Audi – The new TT is definitely better-looking than the out-going model. There are shades of the original model in the design which is hard to pin-down in any particular aspect but the new car looks good from every angle. The more powerful versions will also increase desirability. An original RS2 Avant was also featured on the stand which looked a tad old-fashioned next to the current generation RS4 but has nonetheless confirmed its classic status in the history books.

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Porsche – where was the 918? Not invited to Geneva apparently but the 919 on the stand attracted a big enough crowd anyway. The 911 Targa looks great in the flesh and should be far more popular than Targa models of old.

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Lamborghini – The Huracan was the car hogging the spotlight on the stand and rightly so too. Not as dramatic-looking as the Aventador but a car that will be purchased surely by looks alone. This car will make buying a 458 a much harder decision from now on. Nice choice of colours on the stand too.

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Zonda – the maddest, baddest car-maker of them all. Carry on as usual guys.

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Touring – the Disco Volante (or Flying Saucer) just makes you want to stare at it all of the time. A strange but intriguing shape that draws the eye around the car and although on this outing the car was painted in a metallic green with gold detailing it was as stunning as ever. It is certainly a design that will be talked about for years to come.

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McLaren – the 650S was having its first public showing and in spite of the presence of an ice-blue P1 on the stand it was pulling its fair share of attention. A curious mix of (almost) P1 front-end and (slightly updated) 12c rear-end the car is tipped to be a big seller for the company. Can’t help feeling that the Spider version pulls it off better than the Coupe – the 12c stays in production by the way.

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Subaru – the VIZIV2 concept showed that the designers in the back-office haven’t completely lost their way with some pretty dull shapes that have come out of the factory over the past couple of years. Hopefully this concept will point them back in the right direction.

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Aston Martin – just like Maserati the company still manages to pull a crowd with some of the prettiest sports cars and GT’s available. No big announcements from the company apart from a range of bespoke options for all of the models using the moniker ‘Q’. Might as well milk the Bond connection for all it is worth.

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Jaguar – probably the loudest stand at the show with a huge screen presenting a short film full of expensive actors, Union Jacks and loud, growly V8’s. One thing Jaguar no longer is and that is understated. The F-Type Coupe of course featured star-billing and deservedly so – it is a very handsome car indeed and could easily hold a candle to the Astons only a spitting distance away. The new XFR-S Sportwagon made an appearance in very un-Jaguar bright blue but if that is where the company thinks its market is then who are we to argue? After all they are still the profitable car-maker in the world.

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There were dozens of other smaller exhibits worth a mention too but it’s time for a glass of wine and some Swiss cheese now. Ah yes, they also make very nice chocolate too so we’ll have some of that for desserts. In the meantime enjoy our album of images from the show.

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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:-

As motor shows go Top Marques Monaco doesn’t quite fit the norm. For starters it is a cosy affair set up in a modern building called the Grimaldi Forum which is perched right on the edge Monaco’s short stretch of coastline and looks like it is about to be washed away with the Mediterranean tide. Of course it is beautiful and therefore a fitting place for very expensive cars to strut their stuff.

The organisers modestly refer to it as ‘The Most Exclusive Supercar Show in The World’.

It is also a place where you will find be-jewelled watches on display on one level of the complex and then some pretty fancy looking motor cruisers rubbing shoulders on the concourse of the Forum.

However, what makes this show particularly different from others is that you can actually drive (or be driven in) some of the most exotic cars to be found anywhere.

A covered parking area bordering the sreet that runs adjacent to the Grimaldi Forum serves as a kind of makeshift pit-stop where you could see a selection of cars from lamborghini, Noble, GTA, Mercedes and several others all parked patiently for the amateur paparazzi.

Every so often a loud bark could be heard from a Lambo exhaust as the car was driven on to the ‘catwalk’ otherwise known as the Avenue Princesse Grace. A poser’s paradise indeed.

And the show itself? Well very few manufacturers respresent themselves since it is left up to either the local franchise dealership from Monaco or further afield to get on with the business of exhibiting at the event. Some brands, however, are instantly recognisable and several others maybe not so. The role call for 2012 was as follows:-

Bentley, Aston Martin, Delavilla, Gemballa, Fisker, GTA Motor, Hamann, JE Design, PACE, InsiderCars, Jaguar, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, Lexus, Lotus, McLaren, Mercedes Benz, MTM, MS Design, Mansory, Merdad, Noble, Roding, Pagani, Rolls Royce, Tushek and Dartz.

Some of the cars were just as you would find them in any car showroom but many others had been given some kind of ‘tuning’ treatment to offer somebody who wanted a Panamera, for instance, to end up with a Panamera that wouldn’t look out of place on the front cover of Max Power magazine. It is all a question of personal taste of course but the prices being quoted for these conversions were bordering on insanity. Think of the price of a nicely specified Cayenne and then triple it – and that’s for the ‘cheap’ bespoke options. More than half of the exhibitors at the show were offering their own take on ‘individualism’ for anything from an Evoque to a 450 Spider. Recession? What recession?

Highlights of the show? Well Pagani had their awesome Huayra on display and that is a car which needs no adornment or embellishment to either improve or destroy its looks. It is like a work of art. The design details make you keep looking over and over at the car and every time you look you find something else to make you go ‘wow’. Is there any other car which could draw so much attention right now – probably not.

It was pleasing to see a strong representation of British cars at Top Marques and Noble’s M600 had one of the nicest paint finishes at the show. It’s carbon fibre body was finished in a sort of cobalt blue and the yellow/cream interior contrasted perfectly.

Another odd-ball on show, but one which raised a few smiles, was the Dartz ‘gold-plated’ armoured car that is featured in the forthcoming Sasha Baron Cohen film ‘The Dictator’. This is a proper B7 category armour-plated vehicle and was the most intimidating car on display at the show by a million miles. Tapping on one of the side panels of the car was like tapping the side of building we were standing in. If you were worried about being blown-up on the way to the office then you would buy this car – it looks and feels like it could survive a nuclear blast!

Two days is plenty of time to take in everything the show has to offer and the question is whether to go back again next year. For the show content the jury is still out but if you are bored with the traditional show formats then you should try Top Marques – if you don’t like the show you could do far worse than end up in a place like Monaco!

In the meantime enjoy the slideshow of pics that were taken at the show…………

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Land Rover issued the following Press Release today announcing two new Special Editions of the Range Rover Sport:-

“Land Rover today reveals the new Range Rover Sport HSE ‘Red’ at the New York Motor Show – Range Rover Sport’s biggest metropolitan market. In addition the Range Rover Sport HSE ‘Luxury’ is also announced.

Powerful, elegant and with a striking presence, the Range Rover Sport already delivers outstanding levels of excitement and unabashed style. The new Red and Luxury models go one step further with a combination of exterior treatments and interior detailing which take the Range Rover Sport’s winning mix of style and presence to the next level.

Based on the HSE, the Range Rover Sport HSE Red comes in Firenze Red, Orkney Grey, Fuji White and Santorini Black. The Santorini Black mesh grille is highlighted by a Noble bezel and black surround. Bonnet badges and tailgate finisher are in Atlas Silver and the rear ‘SPORT’ badge is finished in Salsa Red. Striking fender vents provide a focus for the Red edition scheme with a bright red logo bar set against a Santorini Black grille and finished by an Atlas Silver surround. Unique, 20-inch alloy wheels add the finishing touch to a unique look.

The interior is finished in the HSE Ebony colourway and there’s a choice of four dedicated seat trim styles. Seat inserts can be chosen in Pimento Red, Cirrus, Lunar Grey or Ebony with contrasting stitching. Seats have the Sport logo embossed on the headrest and this is picked up on the floor mats where the logo is embroidered in red to match the striking exterior badge colours.

The Range Rover Sport HSE Red is driven by the powerful and efficient 255hp 3.0 SDV6 diesel engine combined with the ultra-refined and responsive 8-speed automatic gearbox. Chassis, suspension and brakes remain amongst the most advanced in the world endowing the Range Rover Sport with uncompromised ability both on and off-road. A wide range of e_Terrain features ensure peerless performance is delivered in the most efficient way possible.

The Range Rover Sport HSE Luxury benefits from a host of optional equipment to create a sumptuous interior providing supreme levels of comfort and convenience. The Luxury edition  features unique 20 inch five spoke alloy wheels, extended leather pack, heated steering wheel, contrasting stitching and the outstanding Harmon/Kardon® LOGIC 7® Surround Sound system with 17 speakers delivering 825 watts.

Laura Schwab, Marketing Director, Land Rover UK said: “The Range Rover Sport HSE Red and Luxury editions add more choice and personalisation to one of the most dynamic SUV offerings in the market.

“Striking yet contemporary, for those who wish to set themselves apart from the norm, these two new models add an extra dimension of comfort, style and luxury.”

Both the Range Rover Sport HSE Red and Luxury will go on sale in the UK from June 2012 with prices starting from £58,020.”

For further information regarding the new RR Sport models or any other Land Rover vehicle please give us a call on 01732 760699 or email sales@thecarspy.net

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