Birmingham, 26 October, 2002
Birmingham may not have the allure of Paris or Geneva, but the bi-annual international
motor show still attracts most of the major manufacturers, plus many foreign visitors to
the halls of the National Exhibition Centre close to Birmingham Airport on the southern
outskirts of the city. Its value, particularly to British manufacturers, is proven by Aston
Martin, Lotus, MG Rover and TVR all presenting new models for the first time. Another
world premiere was the resurrection of the Invicta name, famous for sports cars in the
thirties, with a new sports coupe, the S1.
Ferrari - No but Yes!
Although there was no traditional Ferrari stand, the factory sent the black Enzo model,
chassis # 128783, straight from the Paris salon. This was exhibited on a special stand
with an angled revolving turntable so that people could view it from all directions. The
United Kingdom is destined to receive only 25 cars from the 399 car production run, so
the show was the only place for many to see one ”in the flesh”. The only other Ferraris
present were a pair of F399 F1 static show cars being used in a pit stop competition on
the Shell stand, and a metallic blue 360 Modena, chassis # 120553, on the Snooper
radar detector equipment stand.
The Audi stand was almost awash with celebrities on the press day to celebrate the UK
launch of the new top of the range A8 luxury saloon. Apart from its Le Mans winning R8
sister there were works drivers Perry McCarthy and Johnny Herbert in attendance,
together with many show business figures. These included Ross Kemp, well known to
British TV viewers for his role in the popular ”soap” – Eastenders, there was model Lisa
Butcher wearing a leather dress specially commissioned by Audi bearing the famous
interlinked company symbol, designed by Scott Henshall, Jason Kay from Jamiroquai,
with Nick and Annette Mason (Pink Floyd)also putting in an appearance.
Best Of British
As mentioned the British sports and GT car manufacturers had a raft of new models
making their debuts. Bentley also gave the Continental GT its British debut, and it
attracted swarms around the stand just as it had done in Paris a few weeks earlier. Aston
Martin presented a variant of the DB7 called the DB7 GT, in a very attractive shade of
metallic blue. This has a revised final drive ratio and an active sports exhaust system,
which are said to improve acceleration and mid-range power. Close to the Aston Martin
stand was a James Bond theme stand heralding the new film due for release during the
running period of the show, and this included the ”James Bond” Aston Martin Vanquish
and Jaguar XKR bristling with fearsome weaponry.
Lotus introduced the Lotus Elise Type 49 in its Heritage series, featuring a red white and
gold paint scheme worn by the Lotus 49 F1 car some thirty plus years ago. On the TVR
stand the T350C made its world debut, based on the Tamora model with the same 3.6
litre TVR Speed Six engine producing 350bhp, it should provide ”stimulating”
performance at a reasonable price. The resurrected Invicta marque presented a 2 seat
sports coupe with a one piece carbon-fibre body shell bonded and bolted to a tubular
steel chassis. The motive power is a 4.6 litre Ford SVT Mustang Cobra engine, and it has
an estimated top speed of 170mph (272kph). the model has been developed in secret
over a two year period, and is not a concept but ready to go into production. Another high
performance British coupe making it debut was the MG XPower SV, its deep air dam,
massive flared wheel arches, rear wing and multiple louvers making a real power
statement! It is powered by a four camshaft 4.6 litre V8 engine, producing a claimed
326bhp, and like the Invicta has an estimated top speed of around 170mph (272kph). The
model has already undergone a rigorous test programme including high speed stability
tests at the Nardo circuit in Italy where speeds in excess of 200mph (320kph) were seen.
With a number of concept cars from various manufacturers including the Seat Salsa
”Red”, the Lexus concept car driven by Tom Cruise in the film ”Minority Report”, and the
Vaxhall ECO Speedster, plus racing cars like the BAR and Renault F1 cars, Bentley
Speed 6 and AMG Mercedes CLK-DTM, the show has something for everybody.