Mixing The Future With The Past At The Largest Autoshow In The World: The Frankfurt IAA
Photography by Alex Sobran
The passenger vehicle (as opposed to commercial) version of the Frankfurt International Motor Show occurs every other year, and when it does it’s the world’s largest exhibition of new and upcoming automobiles. Given the recent history of diesel cheating and all the associated “-gates” that came with it, it wasn’t a shock to see such a heavy focus on electric power in either full or hybrid configurations. That along with advances in autonomous driving made up the general thrust of the manufacturers’ vision for the future, but it wasn’t like the whole of Messe Frankfurt (it was actually pretty well organized) was beset with egg-shaped EVs.
For instance, there was a corner of one hall set aside for what was called “Die Wilden 70er,” even though it looked like half of them were from the ‘80s. Regardless of signage, this collection was a definitive source of contrast to the displays heralding the future. I suppose these do share at least some aspects with the new stuff though; there was certainly plenty of plastic. The businesses behind these gaudy but undeniably interesting creations were not car refiners as some call them, but more like car transformers who’d watched too much Miami Vice on their lunch breaks. There were Testarossa slats slapped on rocker panels, gullwing doors, converted convertibles, and every other hallmark of that era’s excess in tuning, and it was a nice respite from the PR and PC attitudes that the big booths adopt to appeal to everybody.
Of note as well was an impressive grouping of cars from bb, or Buchmann and Buchmann. The German tuner’s signature rainbow-striped Turbo Targa was the centerpiece of the display (as 2017 marked the car’s 40th anniversary of polarizing car enthusiasts), but given how often that car is replicated the really special sights were the Mercedes W126 Magic Top and the Turbo Targa Moonracer, the latter looking like something the big bad would drive in an even campier Moonraker knock-off.
The brief blindness brought on by the white pearl paint having worn off, I then went looking for the happy medium: the cars of today and the near future that still focus on the act of driving. My favorite of this loosely-defined bunch was the Joh Cooper Works GP Concept from Mini; it’s not wrong to call it contrived, but I couldn’t help loving the silhouette-style aero pieces augmenting the standard Mini’s shape into something reminiscent of the old Group 5 kits.
There was too much to go into detail about, but below is a selection of the pieces that A) I thought might be interesting to people like us, and B) had enough space around them to take a photo that wasn’t full of iPads and candid photographer faces!
A quick question before the rest of the images though: what do you think of the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE? It doesn’t have the excessive venting and aero that recent super and hyper cars have led us to believe is necessary to put all that typically-unused power down, and it’s a refreshing return to poster cars having shapes that you can trace for more than a few inches before being interrupted by a strake of carbon or a hacked-in slice of negative space. From some angles it recalls the timeless paragon on super cars, the McLaren F1, which is always a good thing to be compared to! The motor is a story all its own of course, and it looks like reality is finally catching up to the decades-old claims of F1 technology for the street. It’s a radical car no doubt, but what do you think it’s place in history is? Will it stick around in our collective want when it reaches production form (in what could be an all-electric power source), or is it another link in an increasingly crowded chain of hero cars that best each other every few years?