Is anywhere safe these days? Can you have a car culture event without someone slapping a SpeedHunters sticker on a car? Well not from the evidence accrued at the Autosport Show International. Someone, probably Ross, got to the Gobstopper earlier in the year. Seems kind of appropriate. Arguably the most outrageous Subaru in existance with up to 850 bhp on tap is a suitable recipient of the legendary SpeedHunters stickers.
Some things at the NEC are constant, like the Dunlop stand greeting you as you file through security. The display included the new JMW Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
Another constant was the interest shown in the Le Mans cars on display, restricted this year to the winning Peugeot that took pride of place on the French manufacturer's stand.
The centre of the Haymarket Universe, the stage where all the stars are interviewed.
Aside from the car displays the show is very much a place for the hard sell, at the rates charged to the exhibitors that is hardly a surprise. And just about everything imaginable is available.
Cold steel, Teng Tools impressive array of spanners.
And there are a few fake businesses present, such as the DVLA, a tax collecting agency masquerading as a real trading enterprise. Of course the ornate and expensive stand can be put together without reference to the commercial realities that stalk the land these days. Spending other peoples' money is easy. Strangely enough for a motorsport event you could even change your gas or electricity suppliers or so the insistant bunch of salesmen from NPower or whoever kept telling us.
AP's stand doing a brisk business.
Not sure about these cocktails, I'm sure I've tasted worse……………………
Of course there is always the siren call of the collectable stands………….books on every topic under the sun.
Of course there will always be something that has not been seen before, a Japanese profile book on Chaparral, a snip at £55………………
The there is the really dangerous stuff, at least if you are the editor of this site, the models……..an arcade of Sennas.
Turn of the Century sportscars…………………..
There is always some bizarre stuff for sale……………….
Who buys this crap? And at £99…I am in the wrong business…………….
Well it will make something of a conversation stopper…………..actually I have seen and heard of stranger automotive art…………….at an Aston Martin Owners' Club Concours last autumn we were treated to the spectacle of the $1.7 million Aston Martin One-77. I was reliably informed that one customer had ordered two, one to drive on appropriate occasions and one to hang on the wall……………..
As might be expected the commerce extended to the sport with various series trying to sign up those with bulging wallets and if the prospect of glory on the track did not attract the punters, the old stand by of having a few dolly birds in boots did the business.
These days they are karting almost before walking, a quick look up and down the grid of a contemporary Formula One grid will attest to the success of those with an aptitude for this junior branch of the sport.
And for those who prefer the virtual world to reality there were simulators everywhere. Market forces are changing that environment too. The top level as used by Nick Wirth to design the Virgin F1 car for 2010 without using a wind tunnel can also be hired at around £6,000 per day, cheaper than testing is the premise. I came across several other projects that would offer a similar level at very competitive rates. I hope to write a feature on one of these simulators soon.
It would appear that almost every gathering of cars and enthusiast is a target for the auction houses, at ASI Coys were in residence and we were allowed to drool at arm's length. I was taken with this Maserati Ghibli Spyder, just the the ticket for popping down to Waitrose.
And I know one editor who would have happily driven away in this Beemer…………Rod????
Lurking at the front of the stand was a Ferrari 312P from 1971 I think, wheels should be gold though.
One of the great success stories in motorsport over the past 15 years has been the growth of Radical Sportscars. A road going and street legal SR8 similar to that above holds the production car lap record on the Nordschleife. In August last year, Michael Vergers not only drove the SR8 from the UK to the Nurburgring (and back) but then proceeded to record a lap at 6:48 , a full 8 seconds inside the existing record, which also stood to the Vergers/Radical combo.
To put this into perspective, Nordschleife specialist, Marc Basseng, was asked by EVO magazine to run a Maserati MC12, a Pagani Zonda F Clubsport and a Ferrari Enzo over the same course. The results were 7:24.3, 7:24.7 and 7:25.3 respectively………………….over 30 seconds off the pace of the Radical. For those of you who would like to see this amazing drive, the film is on the Radical Sportscar website…..
We will be looking at the whole Radical concept later in the year.
Oddly enough the closest rival to the Radical SR8 at the Ring was on an adjoining stand, the Gumpert Apollo…………..and it was 7:11.5 if you were interested.
For those who felt the need to sit for a while a trip to the Live Action Arena meant non-stop action while putting your feet up.
It was a packed house all the time, though a bit Barnum & Bailey for my tastes……………..
Then a familiar sight, Mark Luney drifting………………old "SidewaysBuff" pleasing the crowds as ever.
So back into the Halls for one last lap and what do I see but Phil Morrison's chariot?
These days the ASI is combined with the PistonHeads Show, Haymarket having purchased the website some time back. So in this area there was a road car feel even though the lighting was dingy and dark. There were many interesting cars around but since seeing it race at the Nurburgring 24 Hours I am a fan of the Lexus LF-A. However Lexus must be the optimists of the century if they think that they will shift many of their admittedly gorgeous sportscars at $375,000. And it is said that they are still losing money on each sale.
Maybe it was trhe end of a long day but I was a little disappointed with the PistonHeads side of things. The location did them no favours and I expect the terrible weather conditions dissuaded several owners from bringing their treasures out. It is always a treat to see an Alfa Romeo Montreal, even though the strange lighting at the NEC makes this colour scheme resemble something George Hamilton might wear on a film set.
To finish with a couple of oddities……………………the fastest kettle in the world………………as their press release stated……
On August 25th, 2009 at Edward's Air Force Base in California, USA, the British Steam Car, driven by Charles Burnett III broke the existing land speed record by a steam powered vehicle with an average speed of 139.843 mph over two consecutive runs over a measured mile. This was recorded and has since been ratified by the FIA.
On August 26th, 2009 the British Steam Car, driven this time by Don Wales, broke a second record by achieving an average speed of 148.308 mph over two consecutive runs over a measured kilometer. This was also recorded and again, has since been ratified by the FIA.
On the Dunlop stand there was an artist, Ian Cook, painting an acrylic montage or two, difficult enough to do in a quiet studio but nigh on impossible with all manner of folks gawping.
I had not been to the ASI for a number of years, certainly it was appreciably smaller than I remember but the economy has shrunk and motorsport is no exception.But I felt that there were other factors in play.
What should concern Haymarket and their temporary landlords is the growing popularity of events such as the Festival of Speed, especially with the news that there are plans to extend that event to give the manufacturers a chance to stage a mini motor show. Who would go to a expensive Seventies dump like the NEC when Lord March's estate is available……………and they don't charge extra to park the car.