Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beep beep, n'beep beep, yeah!

So yesterday I went with my dad and brother to the British International Motorshow (why the 'international'? Is it because otherwise people might think it's just for British cars? Are there any British cars any more? Didn't they all get bought by Ford, or sold to Russian oligarchs, or something?). Just as it was two years ago, the weather was blistering, but at least Excel seem to have got their air conditioning sorted out, and there was a breeze coming straight off the river for the outside bits.

Although, what the hell was up with the catering? A dozen or so fast food concessions, including three with the word 'posh' in the title, and the only veggie options were a cheese baguette or a cheese and onion pasty. Add a tuna baguette and fish'n'chips for those who eat fish...but it's still not a gigantic choice, is it? Maybe Clarkson's opinion of vegetarians has spread to the show's organisers?

Well, food ranting aside, I had a great time. It's always kind of funny to go to the Motorshow and see the ratio of men: women. It's probably about 4:1, and of those women present, at least half, maybe three quarters, fell into the wife/daughter/mother category, and not women who are there because they're actually interested in cars. Which is insane: I bet most of them drove cars. But then, men wear clothes and don't care about fashion.

I actually received what I'm taking as a high compliment from my dad: that I know as much, if not more, about cars than him. This might be his way of admitting he knows sod all, but that's not the way I choose to take it.

Anyway. Show highlights. I wanted to look at the new Fiesta, but it was kind of swamped, so I wandered over to the Land Rover stand. Here's my old favourite, and a car I still want, the Defender. Brilliantly functional, does what it says on the tin, and still looks damn good. This is what Sophie drives--although of course, Ted is bile green, about a million years old, and looks it.

The Land Rover concept, on obligatory revolving stand. Looks fantastic. Hope it makes it into production. Although whoever designed it does appear to have been moonlighting at Saab, too.

From the concept-for-concept's-sake department at Renault, the Megane concept. Those doors...very nice, but perhaps trying a little too hard to be different? You don't need to reinvent the wheel. A door that opens in one piece is enough, thank you.

The second-worst car company slogan I can think of belongs to Kia. "The power to surprise" is not a power I want from my car. They might be cheap, but that's part of the problem: buying a Kia tells everyone not just that you're cheap, but that you really don't care about cars (if you're that broke, buy a Fiat Panda). Kias just aren't cool (see Andre Agassi advertising them. Instead of his cool rubbing off on the cars, their naffness started to rub off on him). Putting gold wheels and bumpers on a car doesn't make it look just makes it look silly. And don't call it Diva. That's like you wanted to call it the Beyonce but couldn't get the licensing.

Incidentally, the absolute worst car slogan I saw yesterday was Ssangyong: "It works for me." But for everyone else, it just doesn't work at all.

The truly ugly Citroen C-Cactus. A terrifying melange of what-the-fuck-ness. It looks like a rhino snorting coke. Its name sounds like something spiky you find on ocean floors. It has lime-green felt on the inside. And yet, there is one thing I like about it: no dash on the passenger side means acres and acres of legroom. I mean, in a crash that diesel-hybrid engine is going to kneecap you, but up until then you'll be comfy.
Chevrolet's new Camaro. I don't know what it is about this thing that's just so...American. I mean, take the badges off every car in the place and ask someone to find the American one, and they'd point to this. That's not so say it's not good looking--it is, in a Tony the Tiger kind of way. It's grrreat. Makes a change from the ubiquitous silver and this year's concept colour, white.

Of the three Humvees on display, two were locked, and had blacked-out windows, so I'm not sure what their point was.The other one was full of young men in baggy jeans and very large t-shirts, and I've never been quite sure what their point is, either. But I absolutely loved the little soft yellow cuddly Hummer toy in the floor display case. Cute as all hell. Buy one for your kids: by the time they grow up, cars will probably have been outlawed.

Vauxhall's replacement for the Vectra (about time!), which of course is the invisible repmobile Luke drives in the Sophie Green books. Receiving its world premier at the Motorshow, although as this understated display shows, Vauxhall are being subtle about it.

Sarcasm aside, I think it looks like a decent vehicle, a whole lot better than the Vectra, and my God, it has a boot you could live in.

My brother remarked that the crappiest marques had the prettiest promo girls--he was right. After all, if their cars are rubbish they need another way of grabbing your interest, right? And see above re: ratio of men to women. No one is trying to sell anything to women at this place. In contrast, when you get to the prestige marques, the stands are being manned by middle-aged blokes in suits. The exception was Alfa Romeo, whose promo girls wore very stylish little black dresses, but then they're Italian, and they won't countenance ugliness.

This girl was on the Cadillac stand. I think this was the only stand, apart from Alfa, where I wouldn't be ashamed to be seen in public in the promo girls' outfits.

From the eco corner, the Nice (No Internal Combustion Engine). What's that you say? No, it's actually a real car.

In the same corner, the Nissan Cube. Clearly designed by someone who was only allowed a ruler and set square (and how exactly is this thing going to be fuel efficient when it has the aerodynamics of a, well, a cube?). Paint it red, add a bloke in a Royal Mail uniform, and you've got Postman Pat, am I right?

And back to the Now That's What I'm Talking About section. The Mazda Furai. How it can possibly have the same label of 'car' applied to it as the Nissan Cube I have no idea. Just look at it. Aerodynamics of an eel. Looks like Batman is going to dive into it. Sounds like a martial arts manoeuvre. This is why I love cars.

The Furai again. Because I love looking at it.

After lunch, we took a stroll down the side of Excel, past the river where, for those who find the whole car thing a bit boring, a bit cheap, a bit lacking in vision, there were some very expensive boats. This one came in at £2.8 million. You could buy three Bugatti Veyrons for that.

But if you have a lot of money and don't fancy a yacht, there's the Heritage Enclosure. This is where they put all the money-can't-buy-it classics. It's also where you find a lot of men with long-lens cameras and misted-up spectacles, quoting specifications at each other in hushed, adoring voices.

The sublimely pretty Alfa TZ1.

The wonderfully un-PC number plate on the Ford GT.

The completely bonkers Koeniggsegg CCX. This is the one that tried to kill the Stig.

The big, brutish Aston Martin Vanquish. This was the jumping-the-shark disappearing car in the last Pierce Brosnan Bond movie. Which is a shame, because I think it matches up with Daniel Craig's barely civilised Bond much better. This is the one Sophie blew up in Ugley Business. This is the one Docherty really wants some payback for.

It's so beautiful we'll have another picture.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: the AA had a small exhibition of heritage vehicles that had been used during the last 60 years. You know, the AA? Automobile Association? Comes to get you out of trouble when your car's broken down? Well, what I just loved was this. Most of the cars had drip trays underneath to catch the oil leaking out of them. Yeah, that's what I want to see--a rescue vehicle I'm going to have to tow.

Back inside to the Sunday Times You Couldn't Possibly Afford It area of the show. I was mildly disappointed that Aston Martin didn't have their own stand, and neither did Ferrari, but at least you could see them here. Shame there was no Veyron, however.

Yes, I do have a thing about Astons.

The Pagani Zonda. Looks like the white knight version of Batman, doesn't it?

And now to my favourite stand (well, since Aston didn't bother). Alfa Romeo, the last car manufacturers to prize style firmly over substance. God bless the Italians. The only manufacturer with nice cars who actually bothered to find their promo girls nice outfits to go with them. Also, one of a very small handful (the others are all Italian too) who should be allowed to paint cars red. Italian racing red. Any other red just doesn't work.

Here is the Brera, which my brother loves so much he'd marry it if he could.

Personally, I prefer the 8C Competizione. Mrrrow!

The only time you'll ever get my dad in an Alfa. ("But BMWs are much more reliable!" Yes, which is why yours has been back to the garage a bazillion times. At least when your Alfa breaks down, you still look good).

Toyota's new Pious concept. I mean Prius. Sorry.

From the Top Gear stand, Hammond's not-at-all-gay Vitara. Nice. The other two 'police' cars were there too, with several promo girls wearing t-shirts saying I Am The Stig. Sure you are, love, sure you are.

And that's it. Apart from the incident at the Suzuki stand, where I was checking out the Swift (still a very nice little car, even if it has absolutely no badge prestige) one of the promo girls came over and before I could say I didn't need any help, she said, "Excuse me. I just wanted to ask how you get your hair like that?"

This was basically my 'it's hot and I just want it out of my way' style. Because of the side fringe and the layers, etc, it doesn't pony up as well as it used to, especially if there's a breeze which there was, Excel being by the Thames and all. What the Suzuki girl wanted to know was how I got the plaits sitting on top of the hair, not tucked under. And I had to honestly say I have no idea: I'm just cack-handed about these things.


  1. I ADORE the new Camaro. =) I have a 1990 IROC (the last year of the IROC) that we're working on getting into primo condition, but I love the new ones. At the Chicago Auto Show, the one they had was yellow and black, which still wasn't my fave color scheme but it looked a hell of a lot better than the orange. They had the new Dodge Challenger in orange. Awesome cars, bad colors. Give me black, red or silver and I'm good to go. Preferably black, even though it's an absolute bitch to keep clean. And for future reference, don't get me started on cars. LOL I'm a gearhead and I can go on for HOURS.

  2. I am jealous of all the hot cars you got to see. Too bad they couldn't drape them with hot guys to go with, but, you're right, those shows are more geared to men then women.

    Although, one of those promoters should try something new and gear it to the women, they'd get a hell of a lot more attendees that way ;)

    I love the more futuristic ones. And the ones that look like boxes??? They can just go back, especially the little Diva one. The bling on it is just....eeeek!

    Not a gear-head, but I do love fast, sleek cars!

  3. Also not a gearhead, but loved the pics! That Cube looks like Wallace and Grommit should've driven it out. Was it made of clay? And the Furai! Insane car, just crazy. Very pretty, but you'd bottom out going over a grape, much less a pothole. And any man who actually drove one of those should be required to get a license plate reading "SML PNIS".

    I keep looking at the door on that Megane and I can't figure it out. How does it crumple up like that? Do I need a car with self-crumpling doors? I think I don't. Nice try, though.

    And it's the Toyota Prius (LMAO @ Pious!)--Hondas don't suck that bad. God's balls, I hate my Toyota.

  4. It's funny--over here it's a 'petrolhead'--and I'm so happy to find out my editor is one!

    As for cars aimed at women, I'm sure Citroen or someone had a new car called the 'Mammy' or something equally horrific. Apparently they'd decided to patronise mothers. Volvo tried it too a while back, to little effect.

    Oh yes, it is the Toyota, isn't it? I can never remember. I try to ignore Piouses as much as possible.