AutoSport and Performance Car Show – January 2014

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With a history that goes back several decades, to what used to be called the Racing Car Show, the event now billed as Europe’s largest Motorsport Show, the AutoSport and Performance Car Show fills 4 halls at Birmingham’s NEC with a diverse array of all matters MotorSport, from the latest accessories and tuning parts to complete cars, along with displays of historic machinery and a long line of current and former stars present. The Performance Car Show part, organised in association with Autocar and PistonHeads provides the forum for both manufacturers and proud owners to show off their cars. There’s also a Live Action Arena. On paper, it sounds like a compelling event that few would want to miss. I’ve been several times, in the recent past, and always been somewhat disappointed. However, in a generally event deprived part of the year, the temptation to get a fix, especially when joined by a couple of fellow enthusiasts and good friends proved just too irresistible, and so I added the January 2014 occurrence of the event to my calendar, and can now report on what I found.


This was the first of the special displays which we found, and in many ways, this sums up this event. Nothing wrong with it, apart from the fact that what had been billed as a “star attraction” amounted to a duo of iconic Subarus, driven by each of the late Richard Burns and Colin McRae

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In many ways, this was even more disappointing. Replicas of each of the different teams that competed in 2013 were assembled together. But rather than put them all in a large cordoned off area, they were displayed individually, with protective cordons that were barely further apart than the cars themselves. There was a temporarily accessible back row of cars but this was only a place where you could stand when the celebrity interviews were taking place behind the cars. Some very zealous security guards were quick to hussle everyone out of this area as soon as the interviews were finished.

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2014 marks the 50th anniversary of John Surtees’ success in winning the Formula One championship, and to mark this, what should have been a fabulous display of some of the cars and bikes from John’s career had been assembled. Whomever designed this display should be utterly ashamed of themselves, as this priceless collection of cars and bikes were so badly presented, with ropes that were not even as far apart as the cars and bikes. Considering the effort that had been made to get the cars and bikes present, this was a huge disappointment.  Centrepiece of the display was the championship winning Ferrari 158, which is usually to be seen in a museum in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Also on show was the Lotus 18 that Surtees used on his F1 debut at Monaco in 1960, as well as the 1970 TS7 – the Surtees Racing Organisation’s first F1 car – and the Lola T70 in which he won the first Can-Am series in 1966.

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Among the two-wheeled attractions were Surtees’ first motorcycle, a 1939 250cc Triumph Tiger 70 and the 1949 500cc Vincent Grey Flash on which he won his first race at Aberdare Park in Wales, as well as works Norton, BMW Rennsport and, naturally, MV Agusta.

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John was to be found giving interviews during the day, and with typical self-effacing modesty, he spoke very humbly about his fantastic achievements of winning both car and bike championships over many years.

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A vast display of cars that are used to compete in the little known Auto Grass racing tested our recognition skills. Whilst some were obvious, removal of all the trim, lights, doors and in some cases cutting out some of the bodywork made cars such as a mark 2 Mondeo surprisingly difficult to identify. Notable was the fact that without exception, the cars were all front wheel drive models.

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Another opportunity to look at the model of the Bloodhound SCC. Having recently been in the Coventry Museum and spent some time looking at Thrust SSC, we asked the stand staff if we were correct in stating that Bloodhound is a lot  a smaller. They did not know definitively, but like us, suspected that it is. I have know looked it up and can say that it is 10 feet shorter (44 feet rather than 54), narrower and only 60 of the weight.

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With nothing like the profile that this series enjoyed in the glory days of the early 1990s, a very varied collection of cars do still compete in the BTCC, and several of them were on show, including the new for 2014 Tourer model of the Civic.

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Jason Plato stopped by the main stand.

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No surprise that Auction House Coys wanted a separate entry fee to get into the area where they had a vast assembly of varied cars up for sale.

For sure the most valuable car on show, though not actually for sale, was this, which looked to all the world like a 1957 Ferrari 250TR. Actually, it is not one of the 33 original Testa Rossa cars at all, but one of the 46 that now exist (!). Ferrari chassis #0611GT, built in 1956 started out as the 53rd out of 88 Boano bodied, low roof 250GT models. A left hand drive car, it was originally sold new to Mario Machiarelli of Genova, Italy. By 1988 it was owned by a Robert Fehlmann, who at one time raced a rare, if not unique,Ghia Supersonic bodied Conrero and who ran a garage business in Altenhaus in Switzerland. Fehlmann had the Boano body on this car replaced by the much respected restoration specialist Giovanni Giordanengo of Cuneo Italy with a new body designed to look like the Scaglietti pontoon bodied Le Mans winning 250 Testa Rossa, with right hand drive.

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A new world record was set for a Lancia Fulvia when the sole-surviving of 3 that were produced 1969 Fiorio & Maglioli Spider made an astonishing £231,400. The car, with Targa Florio, 1000km of Nürburgring and Monte history, was masterminded by the team manager and driver after pilot’s suffered heat exhaustion in endurance events. Another Fulvia also sold well, a 1970 1.6 HF Fanalone making just under £50,000.

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One of my favourites was this a Fiat 850 Spider, with Abarth tuning.

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Another nice car was this 115 series Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina.

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There were a number of E Type Jaguars on offer. including a 1965 Mk 1 4.2 which sold for £45k.

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1969 Ford Mustang

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2002 Morgan Aero Eight

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Two fabulous 1960s Mercedes were this early “Pagoda” 230SL and the very elegant 220SE Convertible.

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There were a couple of historic Porsche tractors.

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There was big money for the ex-Jimmy McRae and Russell Brookes 1983 Open Manta 400 Group B rally car, which made £71,240 and another competition car, the ex-Innes Ireland and Pete Lovely 1960 Lotus 20  also went over estimate when it made £43,240.

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On the more modern front an ex-Klaas Zwart 1995 Ascari FGT-GT1 looked very good value at just under £65,000, and there was a nice pre Integrale version of the Lancia Delta HF Turbo.

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Other cars that I could photograph (not very well, it turns out) included an Alfetta GT and a Ford GT40.

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A line of cars at the end of one of the halls seemed to be the sole contribution from PistonHeads. Further investigation revealed that although there were indeed some lovely cars on show, the majority of them were supplied by the manufacturer or importer rather than an individual owner.

Aston-Martin Vanquish

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Audi Quattro

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Ford RS200

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Honda NS-X

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The very first Jaguar D Type made

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A real Q car, this W116 S Class Mercedes was the 6.9 litre version.

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Nissan Skyline GT-R

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This is one of the 200 roadgoing Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 cars built, and believed to be the only one in the UK.

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Porsche 911 Carrera RS

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Renault Clio V6

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Among the TVRs in the display were a 420SEAC and a Sagaris

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This Vauxhall Lotus Carlton is a well known vehicle, property of the Vauxhall Heritage trust

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VW Golf GTi

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An interesting display of three cars. I chatted with one of the officers on the stand, and he joked that although they might all want to drive the McLaren, they would more likely find themselves behind the wheel of the BMW i3, though he did say that it would not be much use (for long) as a motorway patrol car.

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It’s several years since we first saw this rather bizarre way of producing art work, involving using the wheels of model cars to spread the pain around. Now artist in residence at the Gaydon museum, Ian Cook was on hand to demonstrate how he goes about producing his striking art pieces.

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One of those display stands with an eclectic mix of vehicles from the near standard looking Isuzu D-max truck to some rather more bespoke creations.

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A display of some of the vehicles in which you can learn the Silverstone circuit.

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There was no single display for these, but there were a few of the current generation of WRC cars on show throughout the event.

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Highlight of the Abarth stand was the UK premiere of the Fiat Abarth 595 50th Anniversary, a limited edition model 299 of which will be produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 595 Abarth. Yes, it really does include Fiat in the model name, which has occasioned much debate among current Abarth owners. It develops 180 bhp from its 1.4 litre turbo engine, and all models will be finished in a very distinctive matt white paint.

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The original car was also on show.

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The stand also featured examples of the rest of the range, including the 595 Competizione and the 695 Tributo Maserati.

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On the Auto Italia magazine stand, I came across this, the latest creation from Daron Brown at TMC MotorSport. I had seen photos of this car as it was being created, and there can be no doubting the thoroughness of execution. Daron built it to show at events during 2014, with the view that it contains the superset of all the things he could offer, but he said he had received three serious requests to buy the car whilst he was at this event, its first showing. The car was headed to an Auto Italia photo shoot immediately after this show.

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This 131 Abarth held plenty of appeal for me. A very successful rally car in the mid 1970s, they are a rare sighting these days.

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A couple of the Atom were on show.

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A fabulous display of recent le Mans Astons.

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It did not take long to realise that this S5 is not quite standard.

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A Speedwell tuned A35 featured on the Octane stand.

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The much praised Mono was making another appearance.

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A large stand for this ever popular British maker. Star billing went to this concept called Aero Seven, It is understood that a number of changes will be made to the design before it goes into production, and that these alterations mean it will be mid 2015 before we can buy the finished effort.

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Something you can buy now is this, the SP/300 R, a track car first shown in 2010, designed in conjunction with Lola, production of which is limited to 25 cars a year.

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Among the familiar Seven based cars, were examples of the new Suzuki engined 160 (badged 165 for European markets) at the bottom of the range and R620 at the top.

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Elsewhere in the show, was one of the 48 C21 models made.

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The less than subtle Ram pickup.

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One of many highlights on the Autocar stand was this F12 Berlinetta.

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This 128 3P has been cheaply adapted for amateur motorsport.

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This XKR-S GT was on the Autocar stand.

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Dating from the mid 1980s was this racing XJS in famous Motul lovery.

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This Delta Integrale has been owned by the same person since new in 1992. It cost a heady £26,500, which seemed a lot, and indeed when I did a bit of research on getting home, that price must have included a few pricey options, as contemporary price lists suggested that in standard spec it should have been nearer £23k. It has now done 200,000km, but looks like it has just come off the production line.

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Lotus had a 5 car display, which included the Elise, Exige and Evora. Among these was the brand new 217 bhp £53,000 Elise S Cup R car, a model aimed at the burgeoning track day market.

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Classic Team Lotus had an interesting stand, as ever, the highlight of which were a duo of Lotus 72 cars. The 72 was a successful Formula 1 car for more than five seasons, which would seem incredible now. A couple of these, in their iconic JPS black and gold livery made a very striking sight indeed.

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Dating back to the late 1950s was this, a very rare Type 19.

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There were a number of other Lotus on display, ranging from a recent Exige to a racing Elan of the 1960s.

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Showing what those with money (and no taste?!) could do to ruin a Range Rover, there were three examples of what Lumma can do.

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There were several examples of the 12C, as it is now known, displayed on various stands around the event, among them, the 12C GT Sprint that was on the Autocar stand.

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The current M600 was making another show appearance.

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The Noble Owner’s Club had assembled a collection of M12 cars.

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Another cheap adaptation for motor sport was this 309 GTi. Turned out that the same person has owned the car from new, and when he ceased to use it as a daily driver, he decided to keep it so he could rally it instead it.

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The latest Boxster was on a plinth, celebrating the fact that WhatCar magazine recently declared it as their Best Sports Car of 2014.

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Porsche UK had a stand with a couple of the 991 based 911 GT3 models on it.

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The Porsche Owners Club had a sizeable stand with a variety of cars on show, ranging from the familiar 911 to the front engined 944.

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Elsewhere, we came across this fabulous 1994 Le Mans Kremer Porsche K8.

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There were several examples of the recently revealed RXC on show, including one with the addition of a Turbo to boost the power  to 454 bhp. It features a 3,5 litre unit, as opposed to the “standard” car which has a 3.7 litre engine. The 0-60 time is quoted at just 2.6 seconds.

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The potentially road-going SL1 was also present.

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The Red Bull X2010 (originally named Red Bull X1) is a fictional prototype vehicle featured in the Play Station 3 video game Gran Turismo 5. It reappeared in Gran Turismo 6. The Red Bull X2010 only appeared on the Goodwood Festival of Speed.  The digital creation was a response to Kazunori Yamauchi’s question: “If you built the fastest racing car on land, one that throws aside all rules and regulations, what would that car look like, how would it perform, and how would it feel to drive?” The Prototype was designed by Red Bull Racing’s Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, in conjunction with Yamauchi. It features enclosed wheels, and a “fan element” to increase low and medium-speed downforce (much like a Chaparral 2J or a Brabham BT46B.  This hypothetical car, designed as an ultimate racing machine, was designed with pure speed in mind, rather than to regulations. It is theoretically superior to a Formula One car in terms of speed and handling

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The zany RenaultSport Formula one Twizy was making another appearance.

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A separate stand showed some of the latest production models with the newly facelifted Megane appearing alongside one of 2013’s disappointments, the Clio RS200T.

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Renault are still enthusiastic promoters of “affordable” motorsport, and there was a Clio Cup and a Formula Renault car on the stand to remind us of this.

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The promised road-going version of the R1  was clearly not quite ready, as the Bulgarian brand had only a partially completed car to show. but the Bulgarian company instead arrived with a hollow shell showing only the exterior of the car. Still, the road-going R1 does show plenty of promise. With around 450bhp coming from its Chevrolet-sourced 6.2-litre V8 engine, CEO of the firm Rosen Daskalov reckons it’ll be good for a 186mph top speed, and a 0-60mph sprint time of less than five seconds.

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This little Smart ForTwo was on the Autocar stand, a reminder of the scheme that they are sponsoring to encourage safe young drivers.

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Although all that rallying heritage has been discarded in Europe, to concentrate on trying (and generally failing!) to sell some ugly 4WD vehicles, all is not lost, as this example of the current Impreza evidences.

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The much praised Model S was on show on Autocar’s stands. It goes on sale in the UK in a few weeks, and could do very well. Tesla have built over 15,000 of these cars already, and they are quite a common sight on the roads of California now.

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Another appearance for the Iceni.

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The V8 version of the TR7 enjoyed moderate success in its rally career, with drivers such as the late Tony Pond often struggling with reliability issues to get the car on to the podium.

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It may go back a few years now, but this Speed 12 is still a real crowd puller.

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Far more tastefully modified than the Lumma creations were these modified Land Rover Defenders. the stand vehicles being the new Definitive and Ultimate Edition models. The Land Rover Defender tuner has chosen to simplify its model range, meaning that all future Twisted models will be based on two car packages.

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A three car stand had VXR models on it, the familiar Corsa and Astra as well as the UK premiere of the Australian built VXR8. Although still a large car, it appears a bit smaller than its predecessor, and with a higher quality interior than what went before, this car will be relatively cheap to buy (for what it is, a 576bhp V8 supersaloon), but doubtless fearsomely expensive to run.

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Another expensive toy, the recently launched E10 is the first of three models planned by this start up British manufacturer. Powered by a 2 litre Ford engine, it will hit 60 mph in under 5 seconds, thanks in no small measure to its light weight, achieved by being constructed around an aluminium spine and a carbon fibre tub. Prices for the basic car are planned to be around £25,000, though the first 75 to be built will feature a number of additional features such as performance wheels. a limited slip diff and bespoke paintwork.

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Although there was quite a lot to see, I still felt somewhat disappointed by this event. Some of the displays were simply poorly executed, but the real problem is the cost. In 2013 there was a 2-for 1 ticket offer, but the organisers were adamant that there would be no such thing this year, and they held their nerve. £31 plus £2 booking fee in advance or £34 on the door, along with the NEC’s usurious car parking charges, and the pricey on-site catering make this event a very expensive day out. Quite frankly, it is not worth the cost. Were it not for the fact that it was a chance to catch up with friends, and that there is nothing else going on in January, I would find something else to do with the time. I’ve read an awful lot of comments on various online forums that agree with me, but whether the organisers will do anything about it remains to be seen.

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