Whenever I am asked “What did you do in the weekend?” I can’t help but to feel rather awkward, because 99.99% of the time, my answer is something along the lines of “I did a bit of baking, nothing interesting really.” Before I remember that the questioner has just heard a repeat of the exact same thing I told them the week before, and every other time they have asked me this for as long as we have known each other.
This time however, things are different as I, for the first time in ages spent my Saturday doing something reasonably interesting. I’d ask you to take a guess as to what it was but you’ve already seen the title so lets get to what we are all wondering; Why does one of the world’s least car friendly cities have a motor show?
London is a city in which it is common to hear radio requests for citizens to take public transport, cycle or walk to work instead of driving. London is a city that despises any vehicle that isn’t a hybrid or electric, or that isn’t a two wheeled contraption powered by your own feet. London is a city containing a congestion charge zone that can cost over £20 (USD $26.94) to drive in per day; a motor show in London is about as absurd as an alcohol convention in Riyadh, or a vegetarian food festival in Dallas, or a fun fair in Brussels.
However; if even today we can practise petrol head-ism in a place such as London, it can be done just about anywhere, so armed with a camera about as reliable as an Alfa Romeo, I set out the this year’s show venue; the ExCeL.
H.R. Owen’s luxury cars.
In case you haven’t heard of H.R Owen, they are a car dealership company that actually work directly with luxury car manufactures in order for them to get their models to customers and allow them to take test drives and so on. This year, they took some of their finest models to the show, including the new Ferrari Portofino and Aston Martin Vantage; Both V8 powered GT cars, capable of 0-60MPH in around 3.5 seconds, the two are also able to go past 190MPH. Which one would you have?
Mercedes-AMG GT R.
The standard GT boasts 476 horsepower and a 0-62MPH time of just 4 seconds, but Mercedes decided that over 100 more horses should be allowed to run free in the engine bay. Though when you look at the bonnet, you realise that they could have fitted an entire barn house in there.
Thanks to those extra horses along with a new high-performance braking system, and an array of additional aerodynamic aids and a traction control system with 9 different settings, the GT R will do 0-62MPH in 3.6 seconds, turn it’s tyres into rubber shreds upon demand and only fall short of the 200MPH mark by 2MPH.
Although Mercedes don’t claim this, I am certain that some of this sensational performance comes from the bright green paint job, in fact I estimate that this aesthetic addition is how Mercedes gave their car over 100 more horsepower.
“Oliver” the Opel Kaddett.
Finally we come to what in my opinion was the most significant vehicle at the show. You’re most likely wondering why on earth I would think this, what could have gotten into my head to make me think this 1960s family car is in anyway superior to the finest vehicles London’s Motor Show had to offer?
Cars like these are what separates the petrolheads from the cyclists, the Prius drivers and the John Prescotts; bought by former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond for no more than £1500 (around $2000 USD), “Oliver” was driven across the Makgadikgadi desert with little to no modification making it one of the first cars to do so.
Richard fell in love with his Kaddett and had it shipped to the UK where “Oliver” underwent a full restoration and where Richard was mocked by his co-presenters on Top Gear for bringing his “Holiday romance” back to Britain.
“Oliver” is a representation of what it means to be a car devotee; owning a car that is far from perfect but persevering and developing an intimacy with the vehicle and it’s mechanical workings, forming a unique bond between your heart and your heap of scrap metal, arguing with other members of the car community about such things as “Why my car is better”, and yes, just having a laugh.
Richard still owns this Opel to this very day and often posts pictures and videos of him and his cherished “Oliver” on DriveTribe.
In all honesty I was somewhat disappointed with this year’s show, yes there were rare hypercars and so on, but last year’s show that was held in Battersea was truly extraordinary; with prestige cars of all kinds, along with exhibits to win a petrolhead’s heart and make children squeal with delight and excitement.
Holding this year’s show at the ExCel was undoubtedly a mistake; it’s clear the place had never been designed with vehicle exhibitions as a top priority, everything felt rather crammed in, a large proportion of cars featured would leave a motor enthusiast feeling numb, cold and emotionless. How many visitors woke that morning after having dreamed of seeing the new Nissan Leaf at the show?
That said, the TV show Car S.O.S were featuring various rare classics at ExCel and one of the presenters, Tim Shaw, gave a live chat about his passion for Golf GTIs, working with National Geographic and what it’s like to surprise an owner by restoring their once aged and tired performance car.
Even though I was let down by this year’s show, it still proves that in London; the city whose official taxi is now a hybrid, petrolheads can still survive … for now at least.
Sources: Transport for London, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes- Benz, BBC Top Gear, Wikipedia.
Photo credit: The most temperamental camera in human history.