Volume VII, Number 2

by Rainer Sliwinski

Editor's note: Rainer found images of many of the cars noted below but copyright restrictions were not resolved at the time of publication. As publication had already been postponed, I decided to print the story with the limited images shown here.

The 60th IAA (Frankfurt International Motor Show) held in September in Frankfurt showed the new automotive faces that drivers will soon expect to see in their rear view mirrors. I visited the show on the last but one day before closing and it was quite difficult to catch sight of the new beauties. To count all exhibitors represented and their products would be something for the records. Therefore I'll just highlight a few cars, which I think are worth to list here.

European automobile marques are naturally having a quite big share since IAA is THE motor show at the European continent. Apart from the ready-to-launch models suitable for the everyday struggle on European downtown streets (Citroen C2), manufacturers are showing once again their innovative, unconventional design studies and concept vehicles as there are the Alfa Romeo C8 Competizione, Peugeot 407 Elixir, the Renault BeBop and Initial, Opel Insignia and Mercedes-Benz Vision CLS, just to call a few.

Apart from continental based producers our British neighbors are surprising automotive enthusiasts with stunning models like the Jaguar X-Type Wagon and the study of the breathtaking R-D6. The firstly mentioned will find its customer for sure by challenging BMW and Mercedes-Benz. This car is the result of the massive competition, which has forced many manufacturers to widen their product range in order to attract more buyers for the relevant brands. The last one is redefining the classic coupe concept by introducing a new type of cabin doors in order to ease access to the rear seats, similar to the already launched Mazda RX-8 (models available from Tomica and AUTOart). Let's hope that the R-D6 will ever see regular production. Remember the XK-180, which has been presented in 1999 already but Jaguar still hesitates to launch production for yet unknown reasons. It has been by far outnumbered by its toy car models production! Bentley is more serious with its Continental GT, its scheduled yearly production of 3,100 units has already been sold out for 2004.

Many models we already know for some years have seen slight modifications, mainly coming up with powerful engine versions, luxurious equipment and safety features. Remarkable the Peugeot 407 Coupe Bertone: this beauty is still an eye catcher since put to production in 1997. The car is on its way to become a design classic of the Nineties.

VW and Opel presented the succeeding models of their German bestsellers Golf resp. Astra. The new Golf Mk. V is of course at level with newest automotive technology but surely not a pace setter. My impression is that VW rather chose to maintain the concept of the Golf, which was once revolutionary and successful then to risk their established market share. The Astra is based on the same concept as the Golf but showing a more ambitious design. Also a new station is available from the Vectra model line and competition will get tough with the well loved German "family cart" of VW, the Passat.

Mercedes-Benz ­ the inventor of the automobile ­ has occupied a whole hall alone. The so-called Festhalle, which normally fits up to 9,700 seats, has been turned into a giant showroom. Entering the upper circle you'll be guided downwards by a spiral walkway passing by all the current models until ending up at the show stage for the Vision SLR. A huge video screen celebrates the new model in motion and even the deep-rooted car dude will be thrilled by this kind of presentation. For my opinion a little bit too theatrical. Anyway, the SLR is a pure driving machine and the design doesn't pretend to borrow from the famous 1956 SLR Uhlenhaut. According to M-B: a legend reborn to live on in the 21st century

More of a kind down to earth car is the new BMW 6-Series, replacing the well-worn 8-Series. Actually it was not very clear whether the new 6-series is to be seen between the 5 and 7-series or somewhere else; in fact it doesn't matter once you see this fascinating coupe, suppose you could. Also to be mentioned here is the X3, the small brother of the X5.

Audi brought its new Le Mans Quattro to Frankfurt, one of the ultimate sports cars on this show and worth to continue the successful story of the TT in the premium car class.

The tendency to crown product ranges with hyper cars is all around and the question arises if we really need them. It is a very controversial matter; one may count pros and contras, take measures strictly scientific but still: there's something more than just dry facts which turns a car into something special

Alfa Romeo has made a successful attempt to re-conquer the class of the Gran Turismo with its new 147 GT. Visitors are rushing the desk in order to apply for a test ride, I have to confess: I did too. The sedan also has lifted its face and the typical front grille now becomes a distinctive icon of all Alfa models.

Maserati has long been planning to release a new 4-door sports sedan and finally unveiled the long sought Quattroporte, one of the big show stars in Frankfurt. The unique design of Bertone once again shows the perfect refinement and combination of a limousine and a sports car. Mattel already caught up by including this fine car in its 2004 First Editions Hot Wheels series.

As I'm dedicated to view things globally, I've to acknowledge that American automobile marques are not being represented at the show as they are supposed to be. Indirectly and represented by General Motors, Saab and Volvo are showing new models like the 9-3 Sport hatch and the new S40, two cars which are continuing the successful comeback of these marques in the Nineties. Unfortunately the Saab X-3 Concept was not shown but the miniature model by Maisto may be seen soon in shops.

Not seen on the show were all the different labels firming under General Motors. For completion of the records I would like to mention the following:

Chevrolet Bel Air Concept (casting by Maisto, right)
Chevrolet Corvette C6
(casting announced for Hot Wheels '04)
Chevrolet Equinox
Buick Rainier

Instead GM had placed a design icon of the late Thirties on their stage: the 1938 Buick Y-Job. But where was its modern clone, the Buick Blackhawk? Both cars would make up a perfect Then and Now set to be launched by Johnny Lightning.

Cadillac presented its XLR and the study Sixteen, a car full of superlatives. The first one will be a welcome change in the world of almost edge less air-stream designed car bodies and this car will surely find its clients on both sides of the big pond. The Cadillac Sixteen is bringing back what Cadillac once was recognized for, after the Bugatti Veyron the second car of this millennium having more than 1,000 horses working under the hood. Collectors will find a model of this bold vehicle in the Hot Wheels FE series for 2004.

Chrysler under the roof of the giant conglomerate DaimlerChrysler has overcome its marketing problems of the past period and now decides to go back to its American roots by the presentation of a new "letter car", the 300C and 300C Touring. Both models are featuring typical American car styling and philosophy in combination with intelligent technology. Why did people around the world liked and continue to love American cars of earlier periods? Because they are typical American! I think that's the stuff drivers prefer to see on roads rather than cars, which have lost their identity by denying their birth place.

Ford presented its study Visos and the Focus FCEV with fuel cell technology, both models from Ford of Europe. Ford's model policy is not well balanced in the European market. The brand's design doesn't attract many customers, except the Cougar. Ford models are always good for an economical buy: a lot of a car for less money.

I think what diecast collectors would really like to see is a casting of the Forty-Nine as it is the most recognizable car of the recent years made by Ford. The new Mustang GT for the year 2004 has been already introduced last year at the North American Motor Show. The styling of this car clearly doesn't hide his heritage and it is worth to be part of Hot Wheels' First Editions and Matchbox line for next year.

Last but not least amongst the automobile marques from Japan and other countries from Far East I discovered some new models and concept cars with unconventional engineering and styling ideas: Mitsubishi I Concept and Mazda Kusabi. Other new models are the Mazda 3-Series and the Nissan Dunehawk. Many others have seen refinements but the "Z"-Car stole the show in the Asian pavilion.

Trying to give an overview of new automobile trends and their representatives at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) has been in my mind for this article. Readers may excuse me for not mentioning a specific country, manufacturer, brand or model as they are many and therefore would extend this writing by far. The selection here could now serve the purpose to create your individual wish list for new toy car castings, which you wish to see in shops and stores next year. A few have already been "awarded" by diecast companies to be released sooner or later.