Whilst mainstream manufacturer attention has been focussed on the LA Auto Show, over in Germany the 2012 Essen Motor Show was highlighting the more extreme side of automotive culture: everything low, loud and fast in the European tuning scene. An even wider collection of cars, components and clubs was being displayed, showing off the evolution not just of the various tuning scenes but also of specific custom projects and concepts.
The show is held in the Messe Essen complex: even its 12 huge multi-level halls now seem to be struggling to contain the event, which gets bigger every year. The term ‘Motor Show’ doesn’t adequately sum up Essen: it’s a motor show, tuning event, drift show, museum, collector’s fair and racing fan’s paradise all in one.
From the car parks in, your eyes don’t get a rest for the entire day.
Essen started off as more of an after-market tuning show, but over the years it has grown to embrace pretty much any style and era. Even some mainstream automotive manufacturers have added their weight to Essen, rubbing shoulders with the tuners and showing off their own premium brands and heritage.
Often they link through to their racing programmes, with heavy representation from the brands racing in the DTM both on their own stands and through the after-market companies and racing series. It looked like half of the cars from this year’s DTM were at Essen!
It’s an unusual thing to see, and shows how attitudes are changing. Even Toyota were represented in the Motorsport hall, with their Le Mans-spec TS030 Hybrid LMP racer on show – looking rather like a toy from this high angle.
Talking of which, amongst the myriad of trade stands was plenty of temptation for the model car fan in everyone: though the prices could be rather eye-watering for the big, high quality makes.
What you could check out in small scale was complemented by the displays in the main halls, which was packed with concept cars, modern racers and a massive area dedicated to classic sportscar. ’50s roadsters joined the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 unguided missiles of the late ’60s, screaming lightweight prototypes of the ’70s and Group C monsters of the ’80s: a stunning trip through racing history.
Even more strongly represented were the big parts manufacturers: the wheel, tyres and suspension makers.
Their stands allowed the use of even more eclectic line-ups to demonstrate their product lines, from racers to tuned supercars and saloons.
Hankook supply the tyres to the DTM, part of a big push for the brand in Europe, and Germany in particular.
Special guest on the KW Suspension stand was Fredric Aasbø’s Toyota 86-X, in good company with several big GT racers and street cars that had been given the KW treatment.
When not busy with media interviews on the KW stand, Fredric himself joined the crowds and browsed the halls, taking in the huge selection of cars on show.
Essen is a stunningly inclusive event, like being at a dozen specialist shows at once: Europe’s answer to SEMA.
The halls follow general themes, allowing you to walk through a stunning mix of styles. The hot rods got a special display area to themselves, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 1932 Ford Model B series.
The sales hall was where you could dream about what classic you’d like to own some day. The Merc or the Porsche?…
And of course street tuning style was the underlying current for the whole show.
We’ll be taking a detailed look at all these different aspects over the next couple of days, but we’ll start off with a look at cream of the modern tuned cars and concepts.
It doesn’t get much more heavy hitting than Brabus. Even the name sounds like a rumbling earthquake. This is a company all about numbers: big numbers. Big numbers that represent unfeasible levels of power.
The Brabus Bullit 800 is one of the – if not the – most powerful luxury cars on the market. As if the horsepower figure wasn’t impressive enough the way it delivers that power certainly is, with 811lb/ft of torque on tap. It’s a brutally effective shape.
It’s the same story with the Rocket 800. At the front it looks like it’s challenging the air to a fight with its massive air intakes and enormous B-for-Brabus badge; from the rear, the swooping lines lead back to a more tapered, softer tail, balanced by the rear wing and quad exhausts.
Their take on the SLS and A-Class had similar battle-mutant looks, though the softer side could be seen through the rather more tasteful swatch packs for interior trim choices.
Perhaps this is the only thing that could catch a Brabus road-car, should one ever accidentally stray outside the boundaries of the law?…
Over on Toyota’s stand, their rival heavy artillery in the high-end saloon market was the newly unveiled Lexus TS-650.
The TS-650 has a five-litre bi-turbo engine producing almost 650hp; a top speed of around 200mph and a sub-four second 0-60mph time are expected.
The wind-tunnel-tuned aerodynamics give this big car a deceptively low-line look, though it does weigh in at a hefty 2,000kg. Underneath all the carbon bodywork is a Torsen rear differential, uprated multi-link suspension and Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes. The brakes nestle behind 10J rims at the front which mount 275/35R20 rubber; 12J wheels and 345/30R20 are at the rear. Although this very much looks like it would be more at home on the Autobahn, if you were crazy enough to take it onto a track Toyota have developed even wider 295/35R20 rubber for the front to help with front-end grip.
Naturally, there were huge numbers of Porsches all around the show. Relatively unmolested classics and modern era cars are one thing…
…but of course Essen wouldn’t be Essen with a proliferation of utterly crazed Porsche-based reinventions. The GT9 VMax is the latest out-there development from 9FF.
This car does not aim low: the Veyron was the target, and the stats say that the VMax could have Bugatti owners crying into their W16. The flat six 4.2-litre twin-turbo in the VMax has a boost pressure of two bar and produces 1,400hp at 7,950rpm. Tie that up with 1,160Nm of torque at 5,600 rpm, and driving this will make sky diving through the atmosphere seem like slow-motion.
Streamliner aero and fared wheel covers whose style enter into Land Speed Record territory should help the VMax reach a projected top speed of 437kph. The rubber is a special development by Continental, needed to handle the vicious acceleration: 300kph arrives in just 13 seconds… Testing is still underway, with the first major running due early next year. This is a car to keep a close eye on!￼
Gemballa’s Mirage GT is based on the Carrera GT-980; the uprated V10, revised aero and hard-top will mean that it could perhaps keep up with the VMax for the first four seconds at least…
Back to more grounded Porsche territory. Speedart had new roadster and coupé models out, based on the 981 Boxster and 991 Carrera S respectively. As with the GT86, it’s incredible how quickly the specialist tuners will create their own versions of brand new models.
However, for the Porsche purist in me there is a question mark over the value of these kind of cars. The extreme takes on Porsches at least take the spirit of the 911 and push it to (and past) the boundaries. But are colour-coded wheels and small trim tweaks really improving on something which is already a beacon of quality?
Back in the largest hall, the central displays contained a range of concept cars that have been released over the last couple of years – cars that often only get a single showing to the public. Some are so downright ugly that it was easy to ignore them…
Others were more fun in their design – like this VW that took yacht-club cues from the Fiat Jollys of the ’50s.
The jelly-mould Mercedes wasn’t doing it for us…
…unlike the GT By Citroën concept. Following its unveiling in 2008 there were plans for half a dozen cars to be produced, but the run was seemingly cancelled in 2010, making the sight of this unique car even more special.
Just a metre high – squashed flat as if by the pressure of air – the GT looked even more extreme than their Onyx concept that was unveiled in Paris this year. In the background, you can see that Citroën also supplied the Tubik MPV.
From the rear the V8-powered GT has a dual personality: a softened Aventador look around the outside vents and huge carbon diffuser, framing the protruding, shark-like stern.
Another car I was thrilled to see in the flesh was the racing version of the Giugaro Brivido concept, which debuted at the Geneva Motor Show at the beginning of the year. I’m naturally biased towards anything in a Martini livery, but I still think that the combination of classic racing car lines and hyper-modern styling looks great. Blacked-out windows give away the likely fact that this is just a rolling chassis, but still…
If only we could see this on a GT grid!
Once again putting our feet back on the ground: Ford tuning is big business in Germany, with the Focus and Fiesta models ripe for modification.
Surprisingly, GT-Rs were less well represented than we’ve seen at most shows this year…
…perhaps usurped by the more achievable GT86 variants.
My GPS recorded eight miles of walking round the show in a single day: so, there’s still an awful lot of turbos and rims, hot rods and racers, classics and legends to come.
Haha, good to see that 9FF is doing well... 5 years ago I was driving past their garage twice a week. No Wiessmann's? I served my basic military service in the hometown of the worlds fastest Gecko.
Does anyone else think that the Lexus ts650's front grille makes it look like a ford falcon at a glance? Sick car nonetheless!
The GT by Citroën is just vicious. I love it. That and their Metropolis concept, best looking cars I've seen. The Tubik MPV is pretty cool to :P A big guinea pig :P
I was also there and I can tell you...
It's awfully hard to find a parking place there.
But for every German Car enthusiast, it's a must see every year.
I wasn't impressed buy the gulf livery on the Porsche, but the last pictures makes up for it. Also more roadster photos
Why don't manufacturers ever just take a risk and build something like the GT by Citroen Concept without watering it down before production. Look at it! It's amazing!
PaddyMcGrathSH Probably due to silly things like pedestrian safety legislation and emissions regs in addition to ROI.
There's this thing called market demand. If no one's going to buy what you produce, you don't make it. Pretty simple.
if i had the money i would deffinately buy it...im sure im not the only one! If i remember correctly they didnt make it because of the cost involved. And seen as though this was in 2008, which was when everyone was suffering thanks to the bankers...
But on a different topic, what a selection of cars!! The Essen motor shows deffinately improving each year!
Jmayhem There will always be someone out there who can afford it, and if you don't make it you'll never know.
Quote: 'Europe’s answer to SEMA.'
Essen is nice, but come on..... this is FAR FAR FAR away from Sema in pretty much any term.
Hmmm. I go to both events, and I think that Essen can hold it's own. It's not as large and doesn't have as many hand built show cars, but there are a lot more race cars, concept cars and REAL autobahn cruisers.
The classic car hall and the Le Mans display this year was breath-taking.
image 34: the red and black car on the left is the Roding Roadster from Bavaria. They factory is just 30km from my hometown. Cool to see is in Essen. Nice lightweight sportscar with audi engine :)
iller Ah yes – we featured that in the Geneva motor show coverage earlier this year. Interesting!