Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeful

DTW’s Geneva coverage in conjunction with Auto-Didakt continues with a stroll through hypercar valley.

McLaren Speedtail.
McLaren Speedtail. (c) Christopher Butt

Geneva has traditionally been a shopfront to all manner of low-volume fantasy-merchants, but given the explosion of what journalists are fond of calling high net worth individuals, a growing cohort of dream factories have emerged to cater to their increasingly specific needs, wants and hitherto unrealised desires.

A of course stands for Aston Martin and the storied purveyor of superspy conveyances arrived at Geneva with a brace of hyper-concepts and near-production cars. Perhaps most convincing, if grindingly predictable being the Vanquish concept, having undergone a radical mid-engined makeover. A production version is allegedly being readied to take on the current supercar hegemony, but our critic in attendance was at best, ambivalent.

Really?  (c) Christopher Butt

Is there really a market for a car like this that isn’t a Ferrari or McLaren,  he rhetorically asks? “I wouldn’t want to compare the highly respectable Dr. Andy Palmer to a certain Mr. Bahar, but Aston are either very bold and ambitious or in quite a gambling mood these days”.

(c) Christopher Butt

But if Aston Martin over-egged their Geneva omlette, McLaren could also be accused of a certain fecundity in relation to their production car range, where telling one from another requires CSI levels of forensic study. McLaren CEO, Mike Flewitt grasped the Geneva nettle to further confuse us, announcing the advent of a forthcoming model, said to “redefine the rules of Grand Touring” –  although just how yet another mid-engined performance car is set to achieve this feat remains unclear.

Meanwhile however, making its Geneva debut was the Speedtail – Woking’s spiritual successor to the legendary F1 hypercar – and there certainly was no confusing that. But while there appears to be some difference of opinion as to the Speedtail’s aesthetic qualities, our spokesman appeared more effusive. “Does the McLaren Speedtail look like an Oldsmobile Aerotech concept car? Absolutely. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s far prettier than the Senna and more memorable than the rest of the range”.

Black car. Whilte noise. (c) Christopher Butt

VW’s Molsheim outpost came to Palexpo with a one-off vehicle, pretentiously dubbed La Voiture Noir and freighted with a HGV-sized price tag of €11m. Fortunately it had already been reserved by a suitably pecunious HNWI, so with a bit of good fortune it will shortly be spirited away to some private collection, never to be seen again.

Conspicuous consumption of this magnitude is rarely a look worth pursuing, and while the glorious works of Jean Bugatti during the 1930s are believed to have inspired this car, the end result embodied something closer to travesty than honour. “Lacking the balance of the Pininfarina Battista, Bugatti’s (alleged) homage to the Atlantic fails to satisfy on any level. As a mid-engined hypercar pretending to be front-engined, it’s Hulk Hogan playing James Bond. What it isn’t though is beautiful.”, our correspondent observed.

(c) Christopher Butt

That most British of specialist car builders, Morgan arrived at Geneva with a piece of paper in their hand and a new car to promote. That piece of paper refers to a contract with Italian private equity firm, Investindustrial – who had until comparatively recently also been an equity partner with Aston Martin – taking a controlling interest in the Malvern-based heritage carmaker, a tie-up which is likely to have far-reaching repercussions for Malvern’s ability to raise money and finance future product.

(c) Autocar

In product terms, the all-new Plus Six might look eerily familiar, but beneath the well-established aluminium panelwork sits a heavily modified evolution of the pre-existing Morgan aluminium chassis, which uses the same bonded aluminium construction principles but includes (we’re told) a more sophisticated crash structure front and rear (already a highly respected performer in this regard), not to mention a different mounting system for the suspension pick-ups for improved rigidity.

(c) Autocar

Also new is a BMW-sourced in line 3.0 litre six, the first Morgan car so equipped. Morgans are something of an acquired taste at the best of times, but nevertheless remains one of the true automotive survivors – faithfully cleaving to a tried and tested formula which simply refuses to die.

(c) Christopher Butt

Last year saw the debut of the MAT Stratos, the Michael Stoschek inspired, Pininfarina-built & designed one-off based upon the styling of Bertone’s legendary Lancia rally champion. That 2018 concept, finished in black, perhaps left a little too much to the imagination. This year however, MAT returned to Palaexpo with two cars – built in-house, but still using the Ferrari 430 as a basis.

Finished in blue and Alitalia retro livery, they left an entirely different impression upon our Geneva observer. “Obviously and inevitably derivative, but really rather charming”, he told us. “And in a different league in terms of execution to the likes of the Hispano Suizas, Eadon Greens & Moles seen elsewhere”.

Piech of the action. (c) Christopher Butt

The name of Piëch is one to strike fear and no little awe in the hearts of many within the automotive firmament, so it came as no little surprise to receive news of this portentous name appearing on the nose of a new eponymous motor car. A classically elegant, if somewhat inconsequential take on the eternal 2+2 GT formula, the Piëch EV prototype left many scratching their heads, not least our German correspondent.

The Piëch was very strange indeed: A classically proportioned, rough prototype (or more of a mock-up, really) of an EV sports car. The Piëch brand is apparently supposed to be the discerning retro hipster’s choice, hence the car’s up-to-date engineering dressed up in traditional/generic clothes. The show stand was also peculiar, in that it went for a proper Shoreditch speakeasy vibe. Or maybe they’re being ironic (they’re Austrian after all…)?

But of course any venture bearing this particular name must be taken seriously – because even if family scion Ferdinand is clearly taking a back seat, nobody could doubt his gimlet-eyed ambition, or the drive to make it all happen. After all, it’s a name which is already synonymous with both success and excellence, so it’s hardly in his nature to take the Piëch.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

7 thoughts on “Geneva 2019 Reflections – The Hopeful”

  1. Bahar came to my mind when I saw those two prospective Astons. I must be getting old as they do absolutely nothing for me whatsoever!

    Conversely, I admire the audacity and elegance of the Speedtail, it’s like something from the 30’s (not 2030, mind).

    Once again, I would like to commend the Geneva coverage by you guys; it’s thoughtful and considered after all the hype has blown away.

    1. They were there, and they did unveil something, but I just don’t find them aesthetically appealing enough to pay attention. And that’s despite the fact that they allegedly offered very good coffee at their show stand.

  2. I rather like the Piech concept… I’m sure there is talk of it being engineered to accept a range of drive trains, from dirty petrol through to electric, which is certainly ambitious. It also appears to be aimed directly at the 911, which is more ambitious still.

    Speaking of Piech, any confirmation of the rumour that the erstwhile overlord of Volkswagen is the proud commissioner and owner of that Bugatti? It is certainly a satisfying rumour – no longer the boss, Herr Piech can still tell Bugatti what to do by turning up as a demanding client and requesting a bespoke project.

    I think you are being a little harsh on McLaren. Yes, some of their cars are a bit samey, but the 720S is a distinctive and beautifully resolved thing. Aston Martin seem to agree, because their new Vanquish concept looks like pretty much the same idea but with different headlights.

    Thank you for the coverage.

    1. I’d be devastated if Fugen-Ferdl really turned out to be the Bête Noire’s owner. It’s a horrid thing, and with Dr Piëch’s health reportedly not being all that rude these days, I’d fear for him on more than one level.

  3. One more thought re: McLaren.

    The Speedtail does not deserve to be pitched as a successor to the F1. The F1 was all about creating a superlative driving experience through uncompromised engineering. The Speedtail shares its seating layout but seems to be designed foremost as a piece of automotive sculpture – it is a much more true homage to the Bugatti Atlantic than Bugatti’s own effort.

    But the idea of a GT with the same three seater layout but much closer in size to the 720S is very appealing. Can they make this happen?

    1. To clarify, I really don’t mean to be unduly harsh about McLaren. I have a great deal of respect for them as a business, and for what they have achieved. I simply find it nigh-impossible to navigate their range as it is currently constituted. But they are not aimed at the likes of me. I know for a fact that there are a great many very clever engineers at Woking, engineering chief, Barry Lett being (I believe) the cleverest of the lot. He was a member of the 5-man F1 road car dreamteam, by the way.

      Neither would I personally compare the Speedtail with the F1 – I didn’t really make the point well in the piece. What I ought to have said is that it’s being pitched (by some) as such. The F1 I’m afraid is unlikely to be repeated. Nothing that single-minded in concept or execution would (or could) be considered now.

      Thanks again (SV/Jacomo) for the warm words regarding the coverage.

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