The established and gigantic Frankfurt International Motor show was bursting with sports motoring interest this year. Rather unfairly, in view of the fact that Porsche displayed its Indianapolis challenger and BMW unveiled its two-seater Z1, it was the British who hogged much of the limelight.
For it was on the eve of the show at a normally unremarkable annual Ford press reception that the company announced it had won a takeover battle, that for Aston Martin Lagonda. This after wounding Sixties rejections from Ferrari and Eighties repulses from Alfa Romeo and Austin Rover.
The immediate implications of Victor Gauntlett and the Greek Livanos family selling for an undisclosed sum are unlikely to be major, as Victor stays on as Chairman and Ford had yet to even appoint a board member. The declared intention is to maintain the independence of Aston Martin. Suggestions that Ford might employ the Aston Martin badge in the manner of Cosworth or Ghia are vehemently denied by both parties.
Looking at the longer term, Ford Vice President Walter Hayes allowed that Aston Martin production could exceed 1000 units a year in the early Nineties. That suggests that Victor Gauntlett’s ambition of producing a totally new, rather smaller, but still expensive, Aston may be fulfilled. The Newport Pagnell concern has already confirmed it will build a new version on the V8 theme for production “at the end of 1988.”
BMW expects June 1988 to mark the initiation of the 325i-engined Z1’s production life. We gave some outline details of the innovative BMW’s specification last month. The metallic green display example’s unveiling and demonstration of unique fold-away doors before BMW Chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim drew the kind of spontaneous applause and sharp intakes of breath that augur well.
BMW plans no RHD model of the Z1 at present, but we will get the neatly executed five door Touring on a 325i base in April 1908 at no less than £20,000.
May 1988 is scheduled to see Panther’s much postponed Solo 2 entering the world from a new production facility in North London. Korean-born Panther Chairman Young C Kim has invested in composite body construction techniques from a March Engineering subsidiary (Comtec), cutting assembly man hours over his labour intensive, and now resurgent, aluminium bodied Kallista , which remains in production.
The “2” in Solo is no marketing cosmetic appellation, for the original Solo of 1984 was completely different. That Solo’s Escort XR concept of affordable sports motoring was overhauled by Toyota’s 2000-units-a-year MR2 dominance in this market sector. Now Panther expects to charge no less than £28,000 for a 4WD 2+2 that relies on Ford Cosworth’s 204 turbocharged bhp and a new home for Ferguson components.
Porsche’s hastily completed Indianapolis car (lacking exhausts) was displayed in pearlescent white with its 2.6-litre V6 alongside a magnificent display of 911 and 928 engines deployed for marine and aviation use. Emotively the star of Porsche’s stand should have been the 911 reincarnation of the Speedster, but the appearance in fully cowled form, minus windscreen, was redolent of a misshapen and lowline Beetle.
On the other hand, with its re-raked windscreen lying back at a further 5° over standard, the speedster appears functional in the Porsche tradition. Recalling a weight loss of more than 140 Ibs, we can expect its standard 231 bhp to prove exceptionally effective, provided the customers do not all start putting in the luxuries that Porsche deleted . . .
Other Show novelties that you can expect to read about in future issues of MOTOR SPORT included a more powerful Lancia Delta HF 4WD, now rated at 180 bhp. Audi’s original quattro turbo coupe now has the inevitable Torsen centre differential and 2226cc plus raised compression for fuel economy and faster response.
There was also a replacement Honda Civic range (all with 16 valves, right down to the 1.3 litre hatchbacks!) topped by a 130 bhp version of the rebodied CR.X coupe.
In the increasingly prolific supercar category, Ferrari’s F40 was more alluring in composite red flesh and straightforward “road racer” blatant appeal than imagined from that hectic Press preview. The first of 500 planned production F40s in the £135,000 stratosphere of claimed 201 mph motoring should leave the factory in January. JW