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Car muscles in Brussels

From debuts to dream cars and new mobility, the 2020 Brussels Motor Show packs a punch

The 2020 Brussels Motor Show, which runs till January 19, promises the ultimate mobility experience.

At 100,000 square metres, the 98th car, motorcycle and mobility expo is the biggest showroom in the country, showcasing debuts and new features of just about every car make on the European market.

There are a host of premières to check out at the expo, along with prototypes and the latest models of cars and motorcycles. However, that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. Motorcycle accessories and clothing are just a few things that spring to mind.

The 2020 Brussels Motor Show also explores new mobility, an exploration platform for new kinds of mobility, including mobility sharing systems, microbility, new mobility apps and technologies.

Visitors also have the opportunity to fall in love with dream cars – gorgeous cars that take visitors away on a flight of fancy.

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Red-letter days

The performance festival for all car fans

It’s all about cars here: from November 30 to December 8, the Essen Motor Show, the performance festival for all car fans, will open at Messe Essen.

More than 500 exhibitors and over 300,000 expected visitors will create great emotions throughout the exhibition grounds. As Europe’s leading event for sporty vehicles, the Essen Motor Show will offer sports cars, tuning and lifestyle, motorsports and classic cars.

Entertainment will also be provided by the Motorsports Arena and exciting special shows. New this year is a separate exhibition with well-known cars from the history of racing.

Fans of sporty production vehicles will not be able to avoid the Essen Motor Show. Well-known manufacturers and suppliers will present themselves in Hall 3. In addition to ADAC as the ideal sponsor of the performance festival, the public can expect, among other exhibitors, the Mercedes Fan World as well as appearances by KW, the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland, Skoda, Volkswagen and ZF. The special show called Power of Motorsports encompassing different series will give its premiere with 16 racing cars and its highlights will include a Ford GT40.

Crazy cars and design cars will also move between artistically valuable and trend-setting in the immediate vicinity, including a car in a James Bond look and an electric study inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.

Photo: Klaus Stadler

Tuning enthusiasts from all over Europe will travel to Essen to experience new trends. That’s why the Essen Motor Show will dedicate no fewer than five halls to the theme of tuning & lifestyle. The exhibitors’ offerings will range, among other items, from wheels and tires via chassis and car hi-fi to care products and accessories. Anyone flirting with a refined new car or wanting to have their car modified by a professional will have a look at one of the many tuners in Halls 5, 6, 7 and 8. Many exhibitors will supply the right clothing at the same time: Shirts, hoodies and caps will transport the tuning lifestyle to the clubs and onto the road.

Motorsports will have their home in Halls 4 and 5 where the German Sports Drivers Circle (DSK), the Hockenheimring, the Mustang Owners Club, the Nürburgring and the VLN, among others, will present themselves. In the Motorsports Arena in Hall 4, exhibitors will show new vehicles and racing athletes their skills. Those who want to step on the gas themselves can make the right contacts in Essen: Many sports car manufacturers will lure their buyers with their own racing cars in which the hobby drivers can compete in one-make cups. The track days from suppliers such as DSK are cheaper: at these driving training sessions, car owners can take their vehicles onto a racetrack and improve their skills there. Sports cars have been inspiring their fans since the early 20th century. And they take their drivers and viewers back to a time believed to be long forgotten, when not everything was better but, in the eyes of many classic car enthusiasts, driving a car was still genuine and unadulterated. This fascination will become noticeable in the Classic and Prestige Salon organised by S.I.H.A. under the roof of the Essen Motor Show. More than 250 classic automobiles will be for sale in Halls 1 and 2 and will exude the scent of the past.

Photo: Otto Photography

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Re-riding history

History takes the driving seat at the Auto e Moto D’Epoca

Many surprises await visitors who this year will flock to the Auto e Moto D’Epoca event in Padua, which is now in its 36th edition: there’s the new spaces for traders, the exclusive auctions by Finarte and the new arts and crafts experience to explore craftsmanship, art, high-quality clothing and design connected to the world of cars.

Thanks to 5,000 historic models to choose from, the great Mauto and Nicolis museums and the participation of historic clubs and historical registers, Auto e Moto d’Epoca promises a unique and unrepeatable experience for everyone who loves cars and their history.

Held from October 24-27, Auto e Moto d’Epoca is the ultimate exhibition where you can really find all kinds of cars: from 1920s Rolls Royces and Bentleys to epic cars from the 1950s and 60s, such as the Mercedes 300 SL and Ferrari Daytona, and the small but elaborate utility cars which have dictated the history of driving.

Visitors can discover a world of accessories and historic documents, sports memorabilia and works of art”

This is the exhibition where everyone can find the vintage car that excites them and bring back the most wonderful memories; it is a place where choice is varied in terms of brands, models, eras and price ranges. This year, the traders’ section grows to 2,000 square meters in Pavilion 15. The 2019 edition will also include the participation of the prestigious Finarte auction house, specialised in collectors’ items since 1959. Finarte will exhibit its most precious items and cars for the duration of the show and put them under the hammer. Among the exclusive vehicles, there’s the 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Touring used by Juan Manuel Fangio during his stays in Italy; one of the seven surviving Fiat 1100 S Berlinetta, and a 1939 MG TB.

It’s also worth exploring the great national automobilia exhibition at the fair: visitors can discover a world of accessories and historic documents, sports memorabilia and works of art – essential collector’s items to complete one’s vintage experience. In the pavilions, visitors find a large number of designer objects and high-quality clothing and accessories: from the legendary vintage Louis Vuitton chests to a rare selection of silk headscarves made in the 1950s upon request of automobile manufacturers to prestigious stylists and fashion houses such as Giugiaro, Hermes and Ferragamo.

Auto e Moto d’Epoca isn’t just a place where you can buy cars and beautiful objects. It is also a place where you can experience passion for driving thanks to an incredible selection of exceptional collections and models exhibited for visitors who rarely have the opportunity to see so many prestigious pieces in just one place, including those from important museums such as the Nicolis from Verona and the Mauto from Turin.

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Nice vice

The Ferrari Daytona was a beast dressed in plenty of beauty, says Jules Christian

In the early 1960s the scene was set to change the design concept of supercars forever. Pioneered by Colin Chapman and Team Lotus in Formula 1, the introduction of mid-engined technology and the subsequent vast improvement in roadholding has now become the standard of today.

Some supercar companies immediately went in this direction – including Lamborghini with the devastating Miura in 1966. In those days, their great competitor Ferrari, were sceptical of change, and were only prepared to venture into the smaller mid-engined market under the guise of the non-Ferrari badged Dino 246. In the mainstream they doggedly stuck to their proven big front engine, rear wheel-drive philosophy, and lined-up against the competition in 1968 with their 365GTB/4 – the Daytona.

As a matter of principle, Ferrari had to take the fastest production car badge from Lamborghini’s Miura and, with their larger 4390cc, six Weber carburettors, V12 punching out nearly 350bhp, made the 365GTB/4 top out 5km/h faster at 281. The 0-100km/h time was a healthy 5.4 seconds. Unable to realistically compete with the roadholding of the new mid-engine layout, they cleverly compensated a good deal with wishbones and coil spring independent suspension, and by moving the gearbox to be transaxle at the rear of the car for better weight distribution.

The Ferraris of that era were not designed to be a town car, and driving one around London was, well, horrible. The interior was luxurious enough, but to drive, the steering and clutch were heavy, the gearbox gate hampering, and the engine sounded and felt uncomfortable. Not at all what I expected. But, on the open road, the Daytona was a different animal – a true Ferrari, with endless power and beautiful balance, with just enough twitch to remind you that you were driving a front engine, rear-wheel-drive car. And the sound – gone was the grumpy traffic asthma to be replaced by the wonderful Ferrari howl.

When it came to looks, if the Miura was outrageous, the Pininfarina, Leonardo Fioravanti designed Daytona was quite simply beautiful. Built by coachbuilder Scaglietti, a total of 1,400 were produced until the end of its production run in 1973. The majority of these were Coupés (only 155 were built right-hand-drive) and just 122 were Spyder convertibles.

Starting prices for genuine Daytona’s now begin at €500,000 with the rarity of the Spyder commanding a lot more. This additional value has seen a good many Coupés having been converted to Spyders. One example of this is the one seen driven in a TV legal drama episode of Suits by character Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). Undoubtedly, however, the most famous one was used by Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) in the early series of Miami Vice, (before the white Testarossa) which was, in fact, one of the may replicas that have also come on to the market.

Owning a real one – now that would be a nice vice.

Ferrari Daytona Coupe

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A seller walks into a showroom…

A Maserati Merak SS gave Jules Christian plenty to smile about

One Saturday afternoon in the very early 1980s, while looking after the car showroom I worked at in North London, I was presented with a guy who wanted to sell his car, a model I knew very little about at the time – a Maserati Merak SS.

Usually, if the company was interested, one of the two buyers would step in and decide if it was worthwhile, but both were away and, pre-universal mobile phone days, were not easy to get hold of.

Although seemingly regarded as unimportant in Malta, a service history of a car was regarded by the company as essential. The mileage was really too low for the year and all that the guy had was a private purchase invoice from six months previously, the log book and current MOT (VRT), and that was it. So not one for the company – and it was down to me if I wanted it.

Ferrari 308GT4. Photos: PA Media

When I say I knew nothing about a Merak, I knew the specs; a 2+2, two-door coupe in the lower supercar league, on a par with a Ferrari 308GT4 or Lamborghini Urraco. It had a 220bhp, Webber carburetted, mid-engined three-litre V6 that was longitudinally mounted (unusual), driving the rear wheels, giving it a healthy 0 to 100km/h time of around six seconds and a top speed of just under 240km/h. The SS version was a considerable improvement on the original underpowered Merak.

At the time Maserati had been bought by Citroen, who had tried hard to improve on the Italian company’s notorious previous track record of unreliability. They did this by introducing into the model many of their established features, such as their hydropneumatic brake and clutch systems, five-speed gearbox and some of their interior trim features.

In terms of looks, the design by Giorgetto Giugiaro was a kind of scaled-down version of the fabulous left-hand drive Maserati Bora. With its flying buttresses from roof to rear and light alloy Campagnolo wheels, it was easily comparable with the exotic lines of any of the competition.

Concerning the car in question, I established the owner was leaving the UK the following day and had to sell it quickly. Also, the engine was smoking a bit… more alarm bells. And yet it was cheap – very cheap. Apart from the smoke, it drove well enough – a bit sloppy at the back end, but otherwise good. But a smoking Maserati engine – that could be outrageously expensive to fix.

Then I remembered a couple of brothers in South London known as the Mazzer Boys, and even on a Saturday afternoon found them on the phone. I gave them a full description, and they said they 75 per cent certain the smoking was because it needed a proper tune and service, but could give me no guarantees. Still, I bought it and spent the weekend convinced I’d made a bad mistake. I dropped off the Merak to the mechanics on Monday and spent another three fretful days awaiting the findings.

On Wednesday afternoon the phone rang. “Come and collect your new car!” It was unbelievable – the car had been completely transformed. Shock absorbers and brakes adjusted, full tune and service, no smoke – it just wasn’t the same car. After a full valet, one of the company buyers even said “That’s come together well” and added “Why not contact the London Maserati dealers and see if you can get any history on her”. Taking the advice, I duly enquired and was told that any paperwork they found, I would have to pay for. Fair enough… in for a penny.

Lamborghini Urraco

Christmas arrived early in August that year. Not only did they know the car, but it was their demonstrator model and had a full service history up until eight months previously and the low mileage was correct. For a very modest fee, not only did I get copies of all the bills but a fully stamped up service book and owner’s manual in a genuine Gucci leather folder.

However, now that the Merak had a full service history, I felt obliged to offer it to the company I worked for, but they were fair very about it and said to carry on.

I had eight months of pure enjoyment in the Merak SS and then sold it, with enough profit to enjoy a three-week holiday in the US for my troubles. It’s nice when you get it right, for a change.

Maserati Bora

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Plastic fantastic

The lightweight Lotus Elan had a heavy influence on sports cars, says Jules Christian

Having been involved in motoring journalism for more years than I’d care to remember, you get to drive all sorts of vehicles, from the completely exotic to the absolutely mundane.

Inevitably some stand out more than others and one of those for me was not in the supercar group of an AC Cobra, Lamborghini Miura, Porsche 959 or Ferrari 512BB, but a little 1960s sports car called the Lotus Elan.

The original Elan was designed by Colin Chapman, the owner of Lotus Cars and a successful racing car builder, whose revolutionary thinking in automotive design included introducing aerodynamics and the mid-engine layout, which won him seven Formula 1 constructor titles between 1962 and 1978.

With an aeronautical engineering background, he is accredited with applying to both motor-racing and production car design, his famous basic philosophy: “Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.”

It was this approach that was applied to the first Lotus Elan roadster, which in 1962, with its steel chassis and plastic fibreglass body was an incredible 250kg lighter than, for example, an MGB or Sunbeam Alpine in the day. It was also far more technically advanced, initially with a 1,558cc engine and then almost immediately with a 1,600, upgraded with the famous Lotus twin cam head. It had disc brakes all round, rack and pinion steering and four-wheel independent suspension with additional supporting rear struts, which he invented and are used on most cars today.

A pioneer of monocoque construction – a bodyshell with sub-frames added on – Chapman designed the bodyshell of the Elan to be an integral part of the stress structure of the car, so that although it had a chassis, the strength of the car was spread throughout the vehicle. The result was a true driver’s sports car that had exceptional handling, roadholding, steering, acceleration, braking and comfort.

1973 Lotus Elan Sprint Coupe

In such a small light car, the performance by 1967 and the SE Sprint model was outrageous. With over 125bhp and 0-60mph (0-96km/h) in around 6.5 seconds, it could easily outflank, up to about 90mph (144km/h), most supercars of the day. On open country roads it was a dream with incredibly positive steering, balance and excellent gear ratios. You just could not believe the speed at which you could take corners on a road you knew well. The Elan basically seemed to defy logic and gave you an adrenalin buzz every time you drove it.

During its 11-year production run, the Lotus Elan was subtly upgraded with a better interior and increased performance, with little done to its rust free body shell. As well as the roadster with optional removable hardtop, there were Coupe versions and SE (Special Equipment) editions. There was also the stylish and more luxurious, but not so popular, +2 model.

The legacy of the original Lotus Elan lives on, with many of its highly respected engineering innovations reflected in the cars of today. The rebirth of the small sports roadster in the 1990s, for example, with the introduction of the Honda MX5, owed much of its inspiration to this little Lotus British Classic. Respect indeed, when the designer of the McLaren F1 supercar, Gordon Murray, said that his only disappointment with the F1 was that he could not give it the perfect steering of the Lotus Elan.

1971 Lotus Elan

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The big bite

The Dodge Viper’s massive engine and Spartan approach fuelled plenty of fun, says Jules Christian

Most sports cars of recent years have been very civilised. By the time that emission control, ABS brakes, automatic gearboxes and traction control have been put into the equation, you have a sophisticated, efficient and reliable piece of practical machinery to drive around in. There is just one thing missing – fun.

An open top car, the adrenalin buzz of raw power when you hit the throttle, the guttural roar of the exhaust note, the sensation of being shoved back in your seat, seemed a thing of the past.

Admittedly, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s been a long time since legendary muscle cars in the likes of the AC Cobra have been available, let alone affordable. Well, not quite. In 1989, American giant Chrysler unveiled a concept car that was designed to be just that. Three years later, enter the Dodge Viper RT/10.

Now we’re talking US here, so let’s think big. One of the criteria was to use as many Chrysler parts as possible – so what about an eight-litre iron truck engine? No, let’s ask those nice guys in that subsidiary we own (at the time), Lamborghini, to help out. So an aluminium eight-litre V10 – 400bhp at 4,600rpm – will do nicely, and, it’ll fit under that ridiculously long bonnet at the front.

Sophisticated suspension? No, lets shove big fat tyres on it – that’ll do. And keep the cost down. Fibreglass body, no exterior door handles, no air conditioning, a canvas roof, vinyl side window flaps – there you go. Not that it was entirely benign – it had alloy wheels, excellent seats, a sports steering wheel, proper carpeting and a good sound system.

The car was cumbersome, with really heavy controls, the gearbox change was clunky, the brakes heavy and the engine not as smooth as you would expect from a V10. Despite its massive power, however, it was not uncontrollable, with the enormous tyres giving you an unexpected amount of front-end cornering traction before the inevitable rear tail-out with too much exuberance on the throttle.

Dodge Viper GTS

In a straight line it was outrageous, going from zero to 97km/h in just 4.2 seconds, and up to 171km/h in just 9.2 seconds, claiming a top speed of 266km/h. That speed in that car was not for the inexperienced or faint-hearted.

The Viper, despite its bite, clearly needed development and, over its production run, became a very different beast from the original. With the second of five generation changes, the GTS Coupe was introduced which then had 90 per cent of the car’s parts replaced or upgraded. By the end of production the GTS equivalent, the SRT had all the interior comforts and mechanical features you would expect of a sports car today with an 8.4-litre engine pushing out an outrageous 645bhp! As to the price, well, a 1960s AC Cobra could cost you around €500,000 while a 1990s Viper SR/10, in the region of €40,000. That aside, for me, it was always the look of the thing, and the torque, that made it extraordinary – an exercise to create a stubborn yet exuberant piece of driving fun.

Viper SRT Venomous

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