Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cars, Cars, everywhere, but not one you can drive...

In an effort to keep my blog relevant and up to date (hahaha... that's a good one isn't it) I wanted to share my coverage of the New York International Auto Show. Being a genuine petrol fuelled, oil lubricated, gear head, ECU for brains, I surely couldn't miss a car show where there still remains a car industry on this large a scale. A little context is suitable, I grew up in Sydney, and you all know it's location on an island far away from the rest of the world. Having been a car nut all my life, my dad always took me on the pilgrimage every year to the Sydney Motor Show, when I was young.

It started off like the story we all know. Shiny, dreamy, fantastical concept cars, centre stage at every stall, proudly nestled among the more mainstream version of the cars that you could actually own. Back in the 90's, cars were far more vibrant, outgoing, design philosophies were religiously adhered to, like natural aspiration, rear-wheel drive, the threat of manual cars dissappearing would have been heresy at the time. There were always models to appeal to every facet of the market, and they all seemed to have a place, not existing for existence sake like the current industry fetish of filling every niche and then creating more in the gaps.

Unfortunately since then, the world moved on, the population of the world keeps growing, and the proportion of enthusiasts also grows, but in pure numbers terms, the enthusiast can't hope to create the same demands of the mass consumer. Thus manufacturers found less and less profitability in producing cars just to sate one loyal band of followers, opting instead to cater to the mass market. You can't blame them, pride in antiquated notions will often kill a man, and manufacturers were just adapting to survive.

Of course with Australia's population being so small, there was nowhere for the automobile manufacturers to turn but the mainstream. The enthusiast market has been ignored completely in their desperation to survive. Thus the Sydney Motor Show is a poor excuse for a motor show indeed, instead being a glorified New Car Dealership that less and less manufacturers seem interested in being present at, because of the expense of running stalls there, meaning very little return for them.

Little fish in a big big sea

America of course, does not suffer this problem. With nearly half the population of Australia merely residing in New York, there is a huge market on tap, and as you can see above, the automotive heart is still well and truly beating, my visit took place late on a Monday morning. I'm sure you realise there's plenty of coverage of the NYIAS elsewhere, so I will highlight here what I, myself, found interesting.

I knew I was in for a treat attending an American auto show, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale. In terms of real estate it was at least two and a half times larger, with two show floors, and an annexe dedicated to GM products alone.

Where to start... seriously...

Having never been to the Jacob Javits Centre, I had no bearings, so you start with what you know, at the bottom. Work your way up. I would later find that I had started in the "Trucks and Commercial vehicles" floor, but I had no idea, because heading down the escalator you are greeted by the Subaru stand, with what would be the typical arrangment of all their models. Of course the most interest was in the new WRX which made a surprise appearance, after enthusiasts the world over were just finished mourning its demise.


The colour scheme of the concept comes as no surprise, WRC mica blue, Subaru's signature paint scheme. Something new is perhaps their hint that the new STi signature colour will be high-lighter yellow, instead of high-lighter pink. They even accented the exhaust pipes with it. It's perhaps a source of conflict, that the WRX now going in its own direction in a bid to seperate itself from the mainstream Impreza, similar to other manufacturers seperating the sporting models from the models that they were based upon. It's argued those car's appeal always lay in the fact that they had such humble origins. But perhaps Subaru, and indeed the other manufacturers are trying to create a sense that these models are being further honed towards their purpose.

As equally at home in a Post Apocalyptic Death Race Movie© as a... kid's movie?

This is the Bad A$$ poster car for the new kids movie, Turbo. Everyone loves a good show car, and it was evident that this Camaro had a large helping of $$$ and effort poured into it. Deb loves snails, I love a good underdog movie, they've got us on board.

Why... just why...

Here's a detail that I don't really like. I will echo the sentiments of Camaro fans the americas over but these pointless vents are dumb and very reminiscent of the "ricer cars" that this car would make fun of.

One day I will, one day...

At the Mazda stand was a Skip Barber Racing School MX5, I mean, Meeyada... an MX5 living for it's true purpose.

"Petrol... keep that petrol away from me...!"

I call it, i-Franken-MiEV, but just why Mitsubishi chose to make it's electric Pikes Peak racer look like it consumed an i-Miev I cannot fathom. They could have at least tried something like what Nissan did with it's Leaf Racecar.

If the Green Lantern were Korean, and... you know, a car...

In case the Kia Soul was being accidentally being bought by pensioners and the middle aged or otherwise boring people, this is a clear sign that they're targetting a younger demographic. See the Bat-Kia in the background?

Sorry Batman, it was just getting dark, I didn't mean to call you out here

Maybe it's just my taste for subtlety and a little more elegance, but I found these cars a little tacky. That being said, there were some details I did find amusing.

Mmmobile phone... yum yum

Rays Wheels had a neat little stand where a racing style GT86 sat next to a VIP look G35 Infiniti sedan. They looked slightly incongruous as a lone aftermarket stand among the larger manufacturers. One wonders how many of their potential customers they find here.

For those pesky quad bikes that keep running away!

It's a little unfair to put that into satirical terms. It just goes to show the breadth of customisation available for trucks in America. I couldn't imagine anything like this in Australia.

A step in... just what direction...

So that was the bottom level done, I moved upstairs to the floor that housed the "Mainstream and Specialty" Cars. Through the front door we find the Toyota Furia concept, yet another step in the sporting direction set forth by the GT86. The name is just brimming with intent. I welcome it, well engineered small japanese sedans are always a great thing to give to the world. I'm sure Toyota wants a slice of that pie that the Mazda 3 currently has to itself.

Hurry, Hurry, Step right up!

Meanwhile over in the Mazda stand, they were taking their showgoers for virtual rides at Laguna Seca. You race (sit and get thrown around) on Mazda's home track on the west coast in a convoy of the who's who of Mazda passenger cars. Strangely enough it's a Mazda 2 leading the pack, with a Miyada and RX8 in tow.

Lady, can you get out of the way? I want to take a photo...

Revival nameplates are so 2000's, but that didn't stop Dodge, with this Challenger R/T recalling a bygone era. Resplendant in period purple and muscle stripes. It really reinforces the notion that Muscle Cars are unwilling to embrace the future by their very nature. I guess that's why we love 'em right?

Surfie bambino?

This historic nameplate is still in use occassionally, Mopar customised a modern bambino just for NYIAS, or so the little plaque says. With the irony that Fiat now owns Chrysler, and owes a great deal of its survival on that fact, you could only see the need to brand a Fiat like this in America.

There's a party in my engine, and you're all invited!

Here, Fiat is showing off its Multi-Air electro-hydraulic operated valve technology. The funky disco lights were timed to simulate the combustion cycle.

Is nothing new anymore?

Another revival of a classic nameplate, the new Dodge Charger Super Bee.

Away from all the riff raff

Elevated on a plinth was the new SRT Viper. Along with the name change, a subconscious attempt at separating the vehicle from its rudimentary origins as a truck engined hot rod. I barely remember it inspiring the dreams of young petrolheads all those 20 years ago. It's come quite a long way.

Another one for all you comic book/korean car crossover fans, whoever you are.

They did well to recreate the image of the latent Superman bursting out of its err... body panels? It's hard to spot from this photo but the seats are emblazoned with the Superman logo. Neat, but I still find it tacky.

Only Supermen may sit in these seats.

Just what did you do to Grandpa's car?!

Here's Toyota's attempt at creating a Camry to appeal to people who will wear anything but cardigans. I think it's kinda cool. It's the Rowdy Edition, by Nascar Driver Kyle Busch. Unfortunately it's only a bodykit and trim job, any pretense that this is powered by something that backs up the muscle outside is purely imaginary.

Apparently bicycles are indigestible to Hyundai Velosters...

With a name that suspiciously reminds me of the naming conventions of a quirky French car manufacturer, we have the Veloster C3 Roll Top. I like how the wheels are different colour front to right in a nod to the way the dedicated bicycles, it exists to serve, are often modified.

In the presence of greatness.

For an enthusiast, there are few makers that serve them as wholeheartedly as Porsche. With the 911 forever evolving like some Darwinian messiah, this is the best of the breed. To be able to walk up to it, to touch it, I still could barely believe. You see, the Sydney Motor Show was long forgotten by Porsche, and this is arguably their most important model since the Carrerra GT,  so as you can tell, seeing it was a big deal for me.

Jaguar, dipping its toes

Arguably as important, but in an obviously different way, is the new F-Type from Jaguar. The smallest Jaguar in recent years, (because we don't talk about that X-Type), has been created for the younger demographic. So they can start earlier on that path to loyal Jag ownership.

How could I have missed this...

Having only read about it a few days earlier, the significance of theXKR-S GT was missed by me on the first walkthrough. I ended up going back to the Jaguar stand to see this after I had already done one round, hence the slightly lesser quality photo because by that time, my camera had run out of space, then batteries, so now I was relying on the picture taking qualities of my (very) humble phone. Just one look at this machine tells you where it loves to spend its time most, on the racetrack. Another emerging sign of the broadening of the philosophy at Jaguar. To echo the sentiment of automotive journalists worldwide, now all that's left is a small sedan, no we don't need your help this time, Ford.

So what's this... an MP12-36CCC?

Unfortunately McLaren didn't see fit to bring their P1 hypercar, having been unveiled at the Paris Motor Show a few months prior, I was a little dissappointed. But a brace of MP4-12Cs painted in the creatively named McLaren Orange, were there to try and brighten your day. Coupe, Roadster and Can-Am racecar all present and accounted for.

What can I say...

Merely part of an amalgamated display, that's why you see a Lotus Evora next door, I guess Lamborghini didn't really need to bring any other cars. Another car I was happy to see in the crisply folded metal. This is the last photo I took with the camera before it ran out of batteries. I can't believe I forgot to charge the batteries the night before. So the rest of the photos were taken with my Mobile Phone with the aforementioned drop in quality unfortunately.
 Ironically this car made me feel nothing but nostalgia.

Growing up I put the NSX on a pedestal that most people reserve for things more special like Ferraris and Lamborghinis, it was the car that forced those makers to grow up, and take their customers more seriously, because for too long they were forced to stomach unreliable, difficult to drive and live with vehicles whose greatest redeeming quality was looking pretty. As the years went by, the lessons taught by Honda to the supercar establishment were noted, and taken seriously, and then a sad thing happened, Honda held on to the NSX with stubborn pride, and it never really grew from that point. History has been hard on the NSX, because the game has moved on so far since then, but we must remember, the game changed because of Honda. Anyway, I mention this because I have a sneaking suspicion this car will do nothing of the sort. While yes, it is a hybrid, and as you may be quick to point out, so are the LaFerrari and P1 hypercars, but those are also million dollar creations, existing for the sole purpose of sitting atop the fast car food chain. On paper this new Acura NSX looks positively mainstream, so exactly why it borrows from it's forebear remains a mystery to me. All-wheel drive, hybrid system, next thing you'll tell me it's auto only. At least it looks nice?


That leads nicely to my next specimen, spiritually, the Lexus LF-A would be far closer to the NSX in terms of what it's done to the supercar establishment. It really doesn't do anything new, it just takes the things that the current supercar crop does, and polishes all facets until they're near perfection. It's also obscenely priced like the original NSX and destined to become a cult icon as a result. And that engine note. As I approached the display I was wondering whether or not they would bring the glorious engine noise of that 5 litre V10 to the showgoers, they wouldn't gas everyone if they used speakers... and sure enough, speakers were wired up sitting underneath the rear of the car, connected to a computer display, synchronised to the engine noise with a virtual tacho. This is the closest I may ever get to an LF-A for a long time, and I was happy.

I have many more photos, but to show all of them to you would blow this blog post out to novel like proportions, and you probably have your lives to get back to.

So with that comes the end my tour of the New York International Auto Show, I hope you enjoyed what I've seen fit to show you all. In summary, if you live in Australia and are a car enthusiast at any level, you would be missing out if you didn't budget a trip to a Motor Show in any continent where there is still a thriving car industry, America, Europe, and for Asia, Tokyo and Shanghai (that's where all the money is) most likely. The sights, the sounds, the experience will very surely, keep the petrol in your veins pumping.
Get it? You've reached the... end! hawhawhaw

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