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Essen, 3 December, 2012

On the first weekend of December the Essen Motor Show opened its doors for the 45th time to enthusiasts of sports and racing cars, tuning and classic cars. With an expected rush of more than 340.000 visitors during the 9 days this is the biggest fair of its kind in Europe and the 112.000 visitors on the first weekend show that this estimate is not to optimistic.

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More than 500 exhibitors are filling the entire 110.000 qm in the 18 halls of the Essen exhibition centre to show their products or services making the EMS another important main pillar of the organizing SIHA who are also responsible for the Techno Classica at the same place in March.

We had the opportunity to visit the show on the more quiet preview and press day to take some pictures and get an impression what to expect in the following crowded days.

One main focus of the EMS is the modern motor sport and in an own hall several race series introduced themselves including the different marque cups of the big manufacturers or smaller formula series. A main focus is without doubt the DTM (German Touring Masters) that just ended one of its most entertaining seasons and several of the latest Touring Cars were spread over the booths of tire and part suppliers as well as an own display showing the three participating models aside their road legal cousins. After several year of absence BMW rejoined Audi and Mercedes-Benz in 2012 and surprisingly won both the drivers and the constructors title in the last race in late October on the Hockenheimring. But not just the race series have to look for visitors but also the three German race tracks Nürburgring, Hockenheimring and Lausitzring have to be present to promote their events including touristic laps, ring taxi laps, driving seminars or private track days. Especially the ongoing financial trouble of the Nürburgring shows that new business partners and ideas are more than welcome and needed.

Several known drivers and representatives of the teams and series will be present the following days at autograph session, one of the first was Alexander Wurz on Friday. The former Formula 1 driver became part of the new Toyota Sports Car Team this year that entered the new World Endurance Championship to challenge Audi. Although the Hybrid TS030 had to give way to its rival in Le Mans three wins and a second in the following races made this a more than successful year for the Cologne based Toyota Motorsport GmbH and maybe next year Toyota can finally achieve the first Le Mans win that never came with the legendary GT-One.

In the neighbouring motor sport arena hall several demonstration runs throughout the week entertain the spectators and with the final of the European Drift Challenge a lot of burnt rubber will be in the air.
This also leads to the second focus of the EMS: tuning. In several halls tuning fans will find almost everything the heart desires. The range is very wide from small accessories to complete cars in the upper price level. When entering the exhibition from the Grugapark in the East the first hall is dedicated to these very expensive small series productions. Companies like TechArt or SpeedArt with their boosted turbo versions of the Porsche 911, Manhart with their BMW or known Mercedes tuner Brabus dominate the scene, especially the later always with a big display. With an output of more than 6500 car a year Brabus established itself as the best known tuner behind Mercedes own AMG brand and their exhibited fleet ranged from the personalized Smart to V12s with about 800 hp. But the fastest car was without doubt the 9ff GT9 Vmax based on the Porsche 911 Turbo with about 1400 hp and a maximum speed of 437 km/h just around the corner.

Certainly most of these cars are out of the prices range of the normal visitor and although show stopper most of the tuning fans are more in tuning parts for their own car. When walking through the tuning halls it becomes obvious that especially the market of rim manufacturers is a very tough one and in this sensory overload lightly clad girls try to draw the mainly male visitors to their booth. A little bit less glamorous are the long shelves full of head and tail lamps, tailpipes or sport seats for every type of car. It is noticeable that there are not many radical tuned private cars on show, most of them seem to be rather standard except the display of the light manufacturer Hella. Here a couple of elaborately converted Golf, Focus and Scirocco with gullwing doors, built-in monitors and sound equipment as well as unique airbrush paintwork are judged for the Hella Show & Shine Award. For all those focused on this sort of cars the Tuning World Bodensee in May might be the more interesting show as this is a more specialized show on this subject.

But as already mentioned the Essen Motor Show is far more than just a tuning show and this can be seen by the classic cars on display. A bridge between tuning and classic cars is the hot rod scene. Far more than just about cars this lifestyle community becomes more and more popular and several classic car shows have included this in recent years as well. In Essen the hot rods were prominently displayed in the Galeria connecting the premium halls with the main hall and motor sport arena.

The classic hall itself shows a few dealers that can be seen at the Techno Classica as well but the offering is limited due to the given space of just one hall and the different audience. More important are the special displays as they are superb year by year and this time saw no less than three of them. The first one was dedicated to the history of the Porsche 911 that was introduced in 1963 and is going into its golden jubilee year in 2013. The display included an early example in rally trim, a nice 3.0 RSR and a duo of Kremer 935. Although Porsche is known for their countless successes on the race track the 911 was also an interesting rally car and in 1984 the 953 (an all-wheel-driven 911-variation) won the famous Rally Paris-Dakar, a success that could be repeated just two year later with the famous 959. Also on show was the final evolution of the 911 GT1 that finally won Le Mans in its third and last attempt in 1998, the last victory at La Sarthe for Zuffenhausen.

Le Mans is also a key word for the main special display this year. After features for Ferrari in 2009, Alfa Romeo in its Centenary in 2010 and the Rally Monte Carlo in 2011 this year was dedicated to the World Sports Car Championship. This Championship was originally run between 1953 and 1992 and was beside the Formula 1 the most popular race series back then. What is today the already mentioned WEC was founded in 1953 as a series of some of the most iconic races like the Mille Miglia, the 12 hours of Sebring, the 24 hours of Le Mans, Spa-Francorchamps, the 1000 km at the Nürburgring, the RAC Tourist trophy, the Carrera Panamericana and later the Targa Florio and Daytona. Especially in the 1950s and 1960s some of today´s most valuable sports cars became famous by winning the series or major races. These early years were mainly dominated by Ferrari who had many different cars suitable for the different needs of the individual races. The Ferrari 250 MM on display (0352MM) ran at the Carrera Panamericana in 1953 where it finished 7th overall in the same livery it is presented today. Until 1964 all championships were won by Ferrari with the exception of two.

After the success of the Mercedes-Benz W196 in the Formula 1 1954 the W196S (Sport) was introduced in 1955, the famous 300 SLR. Within just one year this became one of the most successful race cars as it virtually won every race it was entered including the Mille Miglia, the Tourist Trophy and the Targa Florio and it would have presumably won Le Mans as well without the withdrawal after the horrible crash of Levegh. The car on display was the last built lightweight version intended to race in 1956 together with the Uhlenhaut-Coupé but never did as Mercedes left both the Formula 1 and the Sports Car Championship in 1956.

The second “non-Ferrari” winning constructor was Aston Martin in 1959. After several attempts in previous years David Brown finally managed to fulfil his dream of winning Le Mans in a car carrying his name with the DBR1 displayed in Essen. Just as in 1955 with Mercedes it was again Stirling Moss to secure the Sports Car Championship with a final win (this time in Goodwood). With this success Brown lost interest in the sports car racing and entered the Formula 1.

Another important car of this era is the Jaguar D-Type. Although dominant at Le Mans with three victories between 1955 and 1957 Jaguar had to wait 30 year before they won the Sports Car trophy in 1987 and 1988 with the also displayed XJR-9 LM (this particular car won Le Mans 1988).

In the mid 1960s Ferrari had a new competitor with the Ford GT40 that was purely built to win against Enzo Ferrari after he had refused to sell his company to Ford. Ford won Le Mans four times in a row and the WSCC in 1966 and 1968. The GT40 on Display is sharing the famous Gulf Livery with the next car, the Porsche 917. After many class wins in previous year with smaller capacity racers and a first WSCC in 1969 with the Porsche 908 the small manufacturer from Zuffenhausen finally went for the desired Le Mans win with a car that finally took full advantage of the regulations. Together with the small lightweight 908/3 (for twisty course like the Nürburgring and the Targa Florio) the 917 scored the maximum possible points in 1970 with 9 wins out of 10 races (when just the best 7 results counted). The Gulf livered 917 was seen at the Villa d´Este earlier this year in complete unrestored condition in the hands of its third owner (after the John Wyer racing team and Solar Productions for the Le Mans movie) but seems to have changed hands since then as it was already displayed at the Salon Privé as part of the ROFGO-Collection.

The Ferrari 512 S on display was the rival of the Porsche 917 but his only win in 1970 was the 12h of Sebring.

After changing champions including Ferrari, Matra, Alfa Romeo and Porsche the late 1970s and beginning of the 1980s were held with GT cars including the Porsche 935 and RSR as seen at the 911 display.

Things changed in the 1982 season (the 30th anniversary of the championship) when the Group C was introduced. This brought some of the most beautiful racers and the final peak of the championship with the Porsche 956 and 962, the already mentioned Jaguar XJR-9 and the Sauber-Mercedes C9 and C11. After 5 successive wins of the Porsche Group C racers both Jaguar and Sauber won two times. After the Sauber-Mercedes Team running in AEG livery in 1988 Mercedes finally took the next step in repainting the cars in Silver for the 1989 season. 34 years after the success of the W196 and 300 SLR finally the Silver Arrows were back in motorsports, both in 1989 and 1990 the all silver racers won the series. Unfortunately the success of the Group C cars was also the end of the WSCC as the popularity of the series and many major manufacturers led to a fast development of the cars. In the late 1980s the cars were running over 400 km/h down the Mulsanne straight and a restriction was needed. Unfortunately this affected the many privateers running the Porsche 962 f.e., a new regulation required new engines in 1992 and these were too expensive. Porsche was in financial trouble and left the series, the only serious competitor was the Peugeot 905 in its final Evolution winning the last season of Group C and the World Sports Car Championship. In 1993 the series was cancelled due to a lack of entries not to reappear until 20 years later.

Although most of the cars on display were built long before most of the spectators became interested in motorsports the display showed the fascination of this era and the reason why this championship was almost as popular as the Formula 1 back then.

When recapitulating the impressions of this year Essen Motor Show one can see that there was something for everyone. Maybe there are more specific exhibitions both for tuning and classic cars but it is the mixture that makes the show special. One rarely see a booth all in pink with the slogan “tussi on tour” next to a genuine Le Mans winning Aston Martin DBR1 worth more than 20 Million Euros. So this give both sides (tuning and classic car fans) an insight in the “other world” as all share the same interest: sport cars.

The show is running until next Sunday so if our galleries made you curious you still have a few more days to swing by.

For more information including opening hours visit Essen Motor Show

Text & images ... Peter Singhof www.ClassicCarPhotography.de