Auto shows 2005: Searching for stars                                                                    Vol. 6 - Apr 3, 05  


The New York International Auto Show marks the beginning of spring for native New York motor enthusiasts like myself. New York is not known for its pleasant springs and the show is one of the only bright spots in the generally wet months of March and April. The show is also the last international auto show of the season, marking the end of the press conferences and introductions designed to tantalize the automotive public. And like this year's New York spring, this year's auto shows were generally a dull and bleak affair. The grand international auto show was once one of the great spectacles of our time. Part worlds fair, part toy store, part holiday, the shows were some of the most anticipated dates in the automotive calendar for any petrol head. From daedal designs that inspire the automotive soul, to whimsical motors far beyond anything practical, auto shows could bring out the Matchbox collecting child in all of us. Increasingly, however, auto shows have lost their magic, lost the spectacle, and lost the element of surprise that made them so special. In a world with thousands of automotive websites, where spy pictures and autoblogs detail the daily works of the automotive industry, auto shows are no longer a place for introductions. Rather, they are a place for press conferences. Pictures are released to the public long before the show's opening night. Manufacturers even generate their own spy pictures. The press are invited to sneak peaks, often months in advance, in an effort to create a buzz. With all the leaks and pre-press events, the shows are left buzzless. When opening day finally comes, there are no surprises and nothing is new. This years shows were more disappointing than any in recent memory. There were only a handful of moments that brought back the excitement of Christmas morning, of unknown gifts wrapped in shiny wrapping paper. Here are my favorite motors from this year's crop of international auto shows:
  • Most automotive journalists have not been too kind to the Ford SYNus. But I have to say that I absolutely love this little armored ugly duckling. A full sized, fully functional toy, with some of the best detailing you will ever see in a concept car. From the bank vault rear door, to the combination locks and padded playroom interior, the Ford SYNus was filled with the impracticable, but that's what makes it pure fanciful genius. After all, isn't this why we go to the auto show? People seem to be forgetting that...
  • Technically amazing, visually stunning, and oodles and oodles of fun, the Jeep Hurricane was one of the only true surprises of the season. In essence, the Hurricane was an engineering masterpiece. It packs two 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engines on either end, that combined produce a whopping 670hp. That's more horses than a Ferrari Enzo. Plus, the Hurricane can chase its own tail with its innovative drive train.  A pure grownup toy in an automotive world that is increasingly sober and soulless.  In other words, perfect.
  • Alfa Romeo Brera is the real deal. A show stopping crowd pleaser that's ready for production and can be called one of the finest cars in Geneva. The Brera will be sorely missed in America. There isn't a car on American roads that is as beautiful as the Brera.  Add Alfa's legendary engines and road devouring handling and you have one sorely missed motor.  This is the car that would make the most blue blooded American wish he had a hatch back.  Enter the market already. Please!
  • After years and years of calls for Lancia to revive the Stratos, its legendary wedge shaped rally-winning coupe of the 1970s, someone finally did. Problem is - it wasn't Lancia. In one of the most inspiring stories of the season, Fenomemon Ltd., a small independent start-up design house in London, staffed by a group of rogue automotive designers, presented its very own Stratos concept. This version looks the part, and any Stratos or Wheeljack fan would recognize the lineage. The new design is as dynamic and inspired as the original. Built and designed on the cheap and quick, the Stratos concept was one of the most visually compelling cars in Geneva. Now how do we get it to transform into a production car?
  • Aston Martin has always had a way of showing up other automotive manufacturers. Its designs set new standards due to an astonishing combination of agility, power, smoothness, beautiful design, and hand craftsmanship. True to form, the Aston Martin DB-9 is once again doing just that.  Too good for words.

       - M.H

1. Jeep Hurricane
2. Ford SYNus
3. Alfa Romeo Brera
4. Stratos
5. Aston Martin DB-9


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