Show and Tell (Part Two)

A further nostalgic journey through motor shows past, courtesy of Bruno Vijverman and his Nikons.

All images via the author

Geneva 1991

A surprise debut that year by Bentley’s Continental R; the car was brought to Switzerland in secret and driven onto the stand. In those pre-internet days, you could still organise something like this without being caught out by a blogger’s camera phone.

Alfa Romeo provided a preview of the upcoming 916 series GTV and Spider with the Proteo concept car. It was built on a shortened 164 platform and featured four wheel drive as well as then very much en vogue four wheel steering. Meanwhile, the Chubasco was centre point of the Maserati display; the Gandini-styled V8 mid engined sportscar was set to go on sale in 1992 but never reached production owing to a lack of finances.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Frankfurt 1991

Like the earlier Mégane concept, 1991’s Scénic concept (styled by Anne Asensio) was quite a bit more innovative than the eventual production car that would bear both names. The Scénic concept featured one sliding door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side. Nevertheless, the production Mégane Scénic would prove to be instrumental in opening up a whole new market segment.

Kolbermoor-based Lotec, known for ultra-exclusive Mercedes-Benz powered supercars and Group C racers, had the gall to display this W126 based monstrosity, named Ambassador, on their stand in Frankfurt. I nearly choked on my Ferrero Rocher. Full marks for creativity in recycling old Citroën GS taillights though! The last photo requires no comment other than that it illustrates the perks of being there on a press day, when all the lovely girls are still present.

Geneva 1992

A view from the first floor into the original Palexpo main hall before it was enlarged just about where the banner “L’auto: moteur de l’économie” ends.
At first this extension made sense, but with the disappearance of several major exhibitors over the past few years it seems to have outlived its usefulness. As has – I fear – the whole concept of the traditional motor show.

It is not every day that a famous nameplate is resurrected, so Bugatti put a lot of effort into it with its marble-floored stand. They handed out lavish
hardcover brochure/magazines which was of course right up my alley.
The Hyundai HCD-1, an early concept car by the Korean firm which was at the time not yet the force it is now. The car was styled by Hyundai’s California design studio (hence the HCD name) and was an early predictor of what the Korean giant’s future intentions.

Paris 1992

Can you imagine this scene at current German-owned Lamborghini? Back then touching up a minor imperfection with a lick of paint was considered good enough.

Ford’s Ghia Focus concept, with a face that reminded me of what you might find in the darker corners of your local fishmarket, was credited to designer
Taru Lahti under the guidance of Camile Pardo and based on Escort Cosworth RS Turbo mechanicals. The steampunk avant la lettre dash was quite interesting though.

Geneva 1993

The Mercedes-Benz Coupé concept being revealed to the press; it accurately predicted the later production CLK, its glass roof however would not make it
past the concept phase. Fiat’s radical electric Downtown concept styled by Chris Bangle- did it influence the Smart ForTwo? Also, its C-pillar treatment would appear decades later in cars such as the Opel Adam.

Porsche’s Boxster concept was a hit with public and press alike; it’s regrettable the production version lost many of the delightful details (look at those propellers in the vents!) resulting in a comparatively weak facsimile.

Frankfurt 1993

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Audi’s ASF (Aluminium Space Frame) concept was little more than a production-ready A8 with a polished bare aluminium body as done earlier with the Avus concept. And to close this episode- here’s one of the quintessential DTW cars: the Jaguar XJS in an unusual light green metallic that I don’t recall often seeing on the road. As can be observed, even late in its life it still generated photographic interest from the press corps.

One last matter: Can anyone identify the pretty little roadster in the lead image? I usually write make, model and location on the back of the photo but as luck would have it, this one has remained blank… over to you.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

37 thoughts on “Show and Tell (Part Two)”

  1. The Lotec Ambassador (or Ambassadeur) is rather bland (particularly in the back) if strangely appealing, even if it cannot compare to the Mercedes-Benz W126 it is based upon.

    1. Holy Cow! I think Bruno managed to find the most flattering angles and lighting for this thing at the show. The light of day does it no favours at all – it makes the yellow horror you shared with us the other day look good…

    2. The Ambassadeur’s sweeping curves reminds me of this:

      The 1970’s Buick Regal, as driven by Kojak (remember him?)

    3. Those were the days when they called that style “colonade”. I remember Kojak and I had a toy version of that car which is where I first heard about Buicks. I must have been about six or seven at the time. It´s not especially Buicky, is it? I expect (without looking it up) that it looks quite like an Olds 88 and the equivalent Chevrolet (Nova?)

    1. That’s a very impressive demonstration of your powers of recall, Freerk!

    1. Yes, but you must have known where to start looking (unless your Google is a lot smarter than mine!)

  2. Thank you Bruno for sharing your memories with us.
    That little roadster is puzzling me, as I could only identify the various Lada’s in the background!
    Would you happen to have kept the floor plan of Palexpo in 1991 ?

  3. Many thanks brunnnnnno!
    In the Geneva ’92 Palexpo view, the first car at the bottom of the photo, a grey SUBARU Justy, is my current city transporter, a 1992 1.0 GL!
    It’s very fortunate to be able to watch it in all its glory!
    A full house for SUBARU then in Geneva!

    1. Hello Constantinos,
      Subaru was and still is a much bigger force in Switzerland among the Japanese manufacturers than in (I believe) any other country- probably owing to the mountainous Swiss terrain.
      Good to hear you still have your Justy- a testament to its durability!

    2. Yes, Subaru was heavily advertised in the early 80s as THE 4×4 car in Switzerland. Not much else was around in this class at the time. You could get an AMC Eagle and a bit later the first Audi quattros, but else if you wanted 4 driven wheels, it was a Suzuki Jimny or a Land Rover.
      This generation of Justy was still one of the more common vehicles on the streets when I moved into this alpine region in 2005, but alas, its pale successors couldn’t keep up the struggle against VAG’s omnipresence.
      The SVX is a car I fancy very much, but most probably won’t buy in any case. There is an example parked some 100 metres from my home, but unfortunately it’s in a very ugly red that has become quite flat over time.

  4. Damn you Bruno, I went once to the Geneva show in the 90’s but I couldn’t remember the year. I thought we might’ve been at the same show so I digged out the suitcases with folders (actual folders) of old pictures. That was a lot of work rummaging through old stuff.
    Turns out I was there in 1994, the Renault Argos was a big attraction. I found 3 pics and a postcard of the motor show. I might publish them if there is a demand for it.

    1. By the way, this is a strange coincidence as amongst my 3 pictures there is a grey roadster that I can’t recognise as well.

    2. Ta Da !

      Ok, Iam sorry about the quality of the pictures (that will add to the mistery for the unidentified roadster).

      So first off is the unknown car, then the Renault Argos and then the Opel Tigra. That’s all I have left, I know I had more pictures. And there’s this postcard too. Iam glad these pictures proved “useful” after 25 years 🙂

    3. Hi NRJ,
      Thanks for the photos of the 1994 Geneva show- that same show will be covered in the next edition!

    4. Thanks, NRJ. I see you use the same sophisticated technology as me to digitise old hard-copy photos!

    5. Hi Bruno,

      Thank you for the article. That means you were also at ’94 Geneva show ? We might have bumped into each other’s goodies bags in the overcrowded alley ways !

    6. NRJ, seeing your pictures makes me want to go down to my cluttered cellar and dig out my own old Geneva photos. There must be some blurry examples around, but it will take some time do dig them out. They must be from the 1989 to 1994 era, so quite in line with what we have here…

    7. Hi Simon,

      It’s difficult to get good pictures at motor show, the light and the people make it hard !. These were taken with a disposable camera (remember those ?). Please post your pictures if you find them.

    8. Hi Daniel,

      That made me laugh. I know it’s not very sophisticated, I wanted to scan the pictures but I had to find the scanner’s cables and it was too much work.

  5. The grey roadster in the first picture is a Daihatsu X-21. A F/R Concept conceived as a Miata competitor that never went into production, leaving a gap between the classic Daihatsu Compagno Spider and the more modern and nimble Daihatsu Copen.

    1. Thank you Freerk (you were the first) and SoundDifferent for identifying the roadster- I knew the DTW readership was sure to help out!

    1. Hi Fred G. Eger,

      Thanks and well done, this looks like it is that Mitsubishi !
      I had no idea what I’ve photographed back then, especially as there’s the Peugeot signs above it to confuse you a bit more. Douze point for you.

  6. That Bentley Continental was an important car, was it not. It made a big impression on me. It seemed so right for the brand and despite its flaws was an emininently likeable, good-humoured car in the way all later Bentleys have not been. It made a lot of the basic material and added a lot. Hefernan and Greenley should be very proud of that one. I may have seen about three of them in the metal: one was in Los Angleles, one in a car park in Cologne (with a box of Havanas on the seat) and one in London (inevitably). Does anyone recall the chopped-down, stripped out racing version that made it to the front cover of Autocar? It had roll-bars inside and quilted leather instead of the standard trim. I think it was a one-off made for an Italian chap.

    1. Hi Richard, you’re right, the Continental R was a great achievement given the limited resources available. Do you remember the 1996 Continental T SWB version, with 4″ taken out of the wheelbase and flared wheelarches? Here it is:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.