The British International Motor Show – A Pictorial Review
The British International Motor Show returned to the nation’s capital last month, for the first time since flares were in fashion.

After three decades at the vast, but somewhat soulless, NEC near Birmingham, the show has found a new home in what used to be Docklands, at the super-modern Excel Arena.

It’s a much smaller venue but there was a huge effort to provide something different, with the opportunity to test drive a vast array of new (albeit mostly rather humdrum) cars, plus an off-road track and a circuit time challenge, where drivers had the opportunity to set a lap time around a short course in either a new MX5 or an RX8.

Inside the hall there was the opportunity to get up close and personal with the usual vast array of new metal from most (not all) of the mainstream manufacturers. The VAG group was absent (with the exception of SEAT and Bentley) and there was a no show from Fiat too (although Alfa Romeo did exhibit).

This being dailysportscar though you wouldn’t expect us to ponder on the merits of the new Ford S-Max versus the Mazda 5, or to waste time comparing the Kia Picanto with the brand spanking new Vauxhall Snoresa. Instead we’ll take a stroll through some of the exotic metal on show.

With a very compact show there was precious little by the way of direct GT racing interest, but the 2005 Super GT winning Nissan Fairlady Z was in pride of place on the Nissan stand (where else?), fresh from setting best time of the weekend in regular driver Richard Lyons’ hands up the hillclimb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Elsewhere there was the Aston Martin V8 Vantage which raced this year to a very competitive finish at the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring, a success which has prompted the factory to offer a short run of replicas to club racers.

Aside from the smattering of race cars though there was exotica aplenty on show. TVR was showing their new Tuscan II Convertible alongside the Sagaris, but there was a great deal of interest in the sole remaining Cerbera Speed 12, which sat shining on the stand.

Jaguar had a pair of new XK8s, coupe and convertible, whilst Ford-owned cousins Aston Martin had its whole range of cars on display, together with the gorgeous Rapide 4 door saloon, a concept based on the underpinnings of the DB9 - which is so sexy the security guard on the stand needed to gently fan himself to prevent an unseemly incident.

Lotus meanwhile displayed the Exige S and the new Europa: the new Esprit is still some way off yet.

Morgan’s display included an Aero 8 chassis alongside a complete road car and Bentley was showing off the new Continental GTC and Azure droptops.

The BMW Group’s open air display included the new Z4 Coupe and M6 Coupe (displayed alongside a simply enormous BMW sponsored ocean going yacht) and Convertible....

.... whilst Corvette had a trio of C6s on display, including a gleaming Z06, alongside Cadillac’s extensive display, which included the super rare (in Europe) XLR.

For sportscar fans of the weird and the wonderful, there was a massive display of supercars.

Alongside a simply stunning McLaren F1LM there were examples of the Ariel Atom, Noble’s M12 and the brand new M15, Ascari KZ1, Stealth B6....

..... Bristol’s astonishing V10 engined Fighter, the Invicta....

.... and the new Connaught, a 2 door coupe with surprisingly straight laced styling destined for a hybrid powertrain, but featured here with a conventional engine.

And of course the best of the rest too, with a large gaggle of Ferraris: Enzo, F50 and F40, 430, 612, 575 and Superamerica. Lamborghini’s Gallardo Spyder, Pagani Zondas in coupe and droptop spec....

.... and from Germany the Mercedes CLK DTM, a pair of (British built) SLRs, including one displayed beautifully alongside a 300SL Gullwing.....

... the amazingly compact Wiesmann (below) plus inevitably a Porsche 997 and Carrera GT.

Holding up the Stars and Stripes were a pair of Ford GTs, a very green Mosler MT900, Viper Competition Coupe and a Shelby Daytona Coupe.

Finally it’s great to be able to report that Holland’s finest, the Spyker looked not at all out of place in this company.

Amongst the concept cars there was the now familiar Peugeot 907, Saab’s future vision, the Aero X....

.... the allegedly soon to be built MB ‘Exigence of Speed’ Supercar...

.....and the Caparo T1, a super lightweight hypercar designed by a team of ex-McLaren F1 engineers.

And, for those with a more traditional bent, the 21st century interpretation on a Lancia Stratos theme, the Fenomemon Stratos, a beautifully executed rendering by Royal College of Art graduate Chris Hrabalek. The car was finished for the show in the hugely evocative Alitalia colours – quite extraordinarily it seems that the design consultancy which has produced the Fenomenom actually now owns the rights to the Stratos name!

All in all a show that was just the right size, with plenty to see, and happily plenty of places to rest those weary feet. No having to sit on an industrially carpeted concrete floor clutching a can of Coke and a polystyrene tray of chips here! NEC, you’d better have a long hard look at what you offer!


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