By the time you read this, I will have spent the last few days wearing out the soles of my shoes, and probably myself, dashing around the airy halls of the Palexpo, admiring and kicking the tyres of virtually every new car on display at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.
As always, the 2016 Geneva Salon does not disappoint, with important and interesting new models and concepts being unveiled by most of the manufacturers present – both large and small. These range from the SEAT Ateca and fourth-generation Renault Scenic, through to the Maserati Levante, Aston Martin DB11 and new Bugatti Chiron, amongst many others, as you will have already seen in our Geneva Show coverage over the past week or so.
Seeing a new car in the metal for the very first time is often intriguing, but these days some of that initial excitement and anticipation is diluted by the endless teaser images, videos and advance information that now tends to be released sometime ahead of the latest model or concept being ‘officially’ revealed on an exhibition stand.
Whilst I fully understand the rationale for vehicle manufacturers to drip feed pre-release teasers out to the media ahead of the actual car launch to help drive extra publicity and press coverage, the crucial element of surprise that used to greet motor show visitors years ago is sadly now missing.
As a kid I clearly remember visiting the Earls Court Motor Show with my father and being awe-struck by the unexpected surprise and wonder of seeing brand new cars that I’d never seen before. I particularly recall the excitement of my first view of the wedge-shaped William Town Aston Martin Lagonda in 1976, plus the wild six-wheeled Panther 6 at the 1977 Motorfair. Both of these cars were real show-stopping surprises, not previewed in the press before Earls Court event opened its doors to the world.
As an enthusiast with more than a passing fondness for cars adorned with a double chevron badge, I would have loved to have been present when Citroen shocked the planet when it revealed the advanced 7cv ‘Traction Avant’ at the 1934 Paris Salon, and then managed to do the same again at the 1948 show with its 2CV people’s car.
Citroen pulled off its most spectacular motor show coup though at the 1955 Paris Salon when it unveiled its space age DS to a stunned crowd. By the end of the first Paris show day, more than 12,000 orders had been placed for the new DS, with production of the model ultimately going on to reach almost 1.5 million examples.
By far the greatest and most famous new car reveal at any motor show though took place at the Geneva Salon in 1961, where Jaguar unveiled its stunning E-type to an unsuspecting world. Seeing the svelte Jaguar for the first time, Enzo Ferrari is reported to have said of the E-type, it is ‘the most beautiful car ever made’. High praise indeed from Il Commendatore.
The E-type’s Geneva launch made such an impact that Jaguar placed the very same car on its stand at the 2011 Swiss show to honour the 50th anniversary since the original reveal of this now iconic car.
Anther British sporting debutant at Geneva didn’t fare quite so well. When Triumph revealed its new TR7 on a turn table at the 1975 Geneva Salon, leading automotive stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design fame (with cars to his credit including the Alfa Romeo ‘105 Bertone’ coupe, the Gordon Keeble, Maserati Bora, Lotus Esprit, Volkswagen Golf MK I and the original Fiat Panda) stopped by to inspect the new coupe on the large British Leyland stand. Upon seeing the exaggerated wedged swage line on one side of the TR7 for the first time, Giugiaro then viewed the other side as the Triumph slowly turned, and exclaimed ‘My God! They’ve done it to the other side as well!’
I suspect that few, if any, new cars at this week’s Geneva show caused such as strong reaction, as we had already seen most of them – or at least sections of them – well ahead of their debut, with time to make comments, defamatory or otherwise.
It’s a shame really, as being surprised by a new model or concept that you know nothing about and were not expecting to see was always part of the magic of attending a motor show. Don’t let that stop you visiting the annual Swiss salon for yourself though, as the show is ‘do-able’ in a day, with frequent direct flights from the UK into Geneva airport, which is located adjacent to the Palexpo exhibition centre, about a 10 minute walk away. Enjoy…