The Show Must Go On

Just as we closed for press, the 1990 Motor Show was opening its doors to the general public. There was an opportunity, though, to go to Birmingham on press day to see what was new.

Most of the stands were impressive, but that of Ford in particular was massive, the total investment running into hundreds of thousands if not the million pound mark, but it was an important Show for the multinational manufacturer since it was the occasion for the European debut of the new Escort/Orion range. Since the former has been a best seller in Britain for years, Ford had necessarily pulled all the stops out.

Proudly on display on the slightly less vast Rover stand was their latest model range, and although pride of place went to the new 216 GTi 16V, the new flagship of the 200 series, the real 'star' was the Mini Cooper. Who would have thought that a derivation of a model first introduced thirty years ago from a major manufacturer would still hold its own with the latest products?

Vauxhall announced a new-look Nova and a new 2.6-litre 'Dual Ram' engine for the Carlton and Senator while Jaguar had the 3.2-litre version of the XJ6 which replaces the 2.9. BMW meanwhile used the occasion to launch the 850i in Britain, while round the corner were Alpina, at the Show for the first time, with their own version of the model alongside the incredible B10 Bi-Turbo. Other new flagships included Mitsubishi's HSX 3000GT, developed from the HSR II concept car which was also on show, the Alfa Romeo 164QV, Vauxhall's controversial Lotus Carlton, the Citroën XM V6 24 Valve, the Peugeot 605 SVE24, the Saab Carlsson Installed with a 2.3 turbocharged engine and the world debut of the Volvo 960/940. Despite this fine bunch of cars, though, it was the Aston Martin Virage Volante, the Lamborghini Diablo, the Honda NSX and the 320 bhp, four-wheel drive Citroën ZX Rally Raid challenger which undoubtedly stole the limelight.

Such is the importance of the British market to the VAG Group that the Show was used as the occasion for the world launch of the Volkswagen Polo as well as of the Audi Coupe S2, while making its British debut was the Audi 80 16V. Fiat showed the new Tempra saloon, Nissan the new Primera while Renault introduced the Clio, even though it is still more than six months away before its official UK launch, the 140 bhp Renault 19 16V and one of the most exclusive cars at the Show, the GTA Le Mans, the sales of which are limited to just 35 in the UK.

Hyundai introduced the hideously named Scoupé, their new coupé, Lada the Samara Cabrio, Skoda a prototype Favorit Roadster and world premier of the Favorit Estate and Proton their second generation range of models.

New models from the specialist sports car manufacturers included the beautiful TVR Griffith and a prototype of their forthcoming Speed Eight, a 2-litre Marcos, a convertible Ginetta G32 and the new G33. Of the four-wheel drive manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz unveiled their new Gelaendewagen, Land Rover their new five-door Discovery, Daihatsu their new Fourtrak EL Special and from Turbo Technics the debut of a turbocharged 3.9-litre Range Rover. Of a different nature altogether on the Toyota stand, there was the new eight seater multi-purpose vehicle Previa which was making its European debut. Of a similar nature, but as yet just a concept vehicle, was the Mazda Gissya, the Japanese company's interpretation of a family vehicle in the 21st century.

These were just some of the examples on display, but it was simply impossible to do justice to the four car halls, let alone discover the other four in use in just one day. The economy may be depressed, the motor industry may be in a slough, but that would never be guessed from the bravado displayed at the Show. WPK