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Headline:MPH03 Gala Preview eveningDate:15/12/2003   (Click Here for more details).Article
Review:MPH03 Gala Preview evening

MPH03 professes to be a new kind of motorshow. Organised the way that all motorshows will be in the future - a fact reflected by some of the announcements made about next years NEC British motorshow - which will feature more shows and interactive attractions.

Arriving early we joined the collected motor-heads outside Earls Court 2. At exactly 17:30 the doors opened onto the exhibition hall, The first two cars that could be seen were a Red Ferrari Enzo and a two-toned grey Rolls Royce Phantom.

Despite what you may think I actually made my way over to the Roller. To me it is an intriguing car, it is so different to every other car on the road - it is unexplainable what 'effect' it projects. It size is something that I had been interested to put in perspective - talk of being nearly able to walk inside it. Along with it's stated height had to be seen for me to believe. The bonnet was in fact the same height as my hip - The scale of everything including the colossal 24 inch wheels as big as reported but for some reason hard to imagine. Among the people pouring over the car was a elderly couple who seems pretty interested in buying it.

Next I took in the rest of the hall, Unlike every other motorshow I had been to, there were no manufacturer stands.Cars we lined up next to each other, both Classics and new cars. With no barriers and virtually every car accessible (bar the Enzo and a Classic Racing Bentley).

Around the edge were small stands offering everything from insurance; to performance tweaks (superchips) and exhaust; models, books etc. Orange offered a drive in cinema, Privilege insurance a 0-60 show.

Other cars worth a mention the new Holden/Vauxhall Monaro in black, the car shares the same engine as the Holden HSV, which has been available in this country for several years but has never taken off. The Monaro will be different as it will be badged a Vauxhall and available through the dealer network. The interior of the car is pretty special - although the black and yellow seats were not to my or other people's tastes. There were a few 'its a Vauxhall' comments when I was looking at the car but most were accompanied by its a Holden really. So I think it should sell well in the petrol head community.

Next I sauntered over to the BMW area - they had three cars on show the new 5-series (a silver 545i), the new 6-series coupe (silver 645ci) and a Z4 (also in sliver). The 5 has grown on me - no disputing it, on the road it is less confrontational than I expected - in fact from a distance it is visibly a 5-Series before you work out E39 or E60. In silver the shape works well.

This was the 6-Series UK debut and it was a pretty nice car - albiet the front is a bit too nice and the rear a bit too big. The 6-Series interior (particularly the dual dash-cowlings) is much better than the messy dash in the 5-Series. The car will grow on you - like the Z4 and 5-Series, and unlike the 7-Series which frankly hasn't improved with age or the emergence of the 5-Series.

Opposite BMW, Audi had a TT 3.2 V6, S4 and S6 Avant. The black S4 was finished with metallic wing mirrors that always look impressive. But next to the new BMs the Audi somehow didn't stand out and looked ordinary. Given they were the sportiest models this is a bit of a worry for Audi and may indicate that the 'Banglism' of BMW isn't such a bad thing. Certainly the BMWs were getting all the attention.

On the row behind I noticed the ALPINA signage and made my way over, recognising Nick Godfrey halfway over. ALPINA had just one car at the show - but what a car - a dark blue Z4 roadster featuring the 3.4S engine - 300bhp, manual (the only option currently available in the UK). The car also featured 19inch dynamic wheels that looked amazing. Like the 6-Series the front is a bit nice for me, but the ALPINA front lip certainly improves things. Nice touches were the interior detailing, Alpina emblem stitched on the backs of the seats; the wind cowling also featured a ALPINA emblem; and classiest of all the door shuts were a stamped metallic featuring ALPINA Roadster 3.4S.

Speaking to Nick he is very optimistic about the car - he reckons it is really going to sell well and given the show car I cannot argue. Certainly in the short time I was with him a number of people showed serious interest. Nick also talked frankly about the 5 and 6 Series - indicating that the B7 (4.4litre V8 supercharged) engine would be coming in both guises. He also indicated that it was unlikely that there would be a 3.4 litre version too. The news about the 3.4 is a bit disappointing but can be attributed to the poor B10 sales in comparison to sales of the V8 and subsequent V8s. The B7 will start appearing in June 2004.

Next to catch my eye was my current favourite supercar, alongside the new Invicta. Both cars look brilliant with my favourite the Pagini Zonda - in a bright blue looking utterly gorgeous, getting really close to the car reinforced my desire for it.

The Invicta is quite a novel shape it appears very wide and squat, it will be interesting how successful the car will be. Certainly it was getting quite a lot of attention even though it was parked next to the Pagini.

Saab had its own stand featuring the 9-3 Aero.

Over the other side of the hall, Mitsubishi had a red example of the new FQ330 and we had a amusing conversation about the new WRC spoiler, the FQ330, speeding, road angels and yellow Evos. The ex-director showed that even after a long career within the motor industry you can still get excited and animated about cars.

MG were showing off their Xpower SV (also featured in thiw weeks TopGear show). The car is certainly different and whilst there is a slight element of Audi TT in the shape the styling is certainly unique. Prices of the car start at 75k and power ranges from 320bhp to an eyewatering 1000bhp.

Track cars featured heavily and we used the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our next little project..... the reception was great and we looking forward to launching the site early next year. On show were Radical, leading Edge, Caterham, Lotus, Westfield, SCS and Atom.

Eurosportscars had a small stand featuring their digi-tec tuned Smart Roadster and Roadster Coupe. Both featured a great little body kit plus performance tweaks. Eurosportcars are also the sole UK distributor for the Pagini Zonda and as such made my night.

Around 7.15 we made are way into the theatre for the live part of the evening. Earls Court 2 was basically split in two. With the theatre area being at the rear. The spectator stands spanned the width of the hall and the 'stage area' used the rest of the space. on either side were 'roundabouts' and in the middle was a small stage. On either side of the raised stage were large screen onto which adverts for Topgear, Gumball rally, shell optimax ... ran.

At 7.30 three cars drove out into the arena: an Invicta, driven by Richard Hammond; a Jaguar XKR-R, driven by Jeremy Clarkson and a Noble M12 GTO, driven by Tiff Nedell. The appearance of Jeremy and Tiff, set the scene for the evening, basically Topgear vs. 5th Gear.

The first contest was the fastest lap between the Stig and Tiff. Tiff screamed off in the XKR-R (a car that had been sorted by Jaguar to have 440bhp and unbeknown to Tiff a messed up rear suspension) - Tiff handled the car really well and had power versteer around the roundabouts - basically giving a very entertaining lap, with a time of 32secs. The Stig on the other hand did a very cautious, but ultimately faster (30secs) lap.

Russ Swift then came on with 4 Peugeot cars to do a ballet - this was fantastic and showed off Russ and his team's skill. The cars powered around each other forwards backwards and sometimes both - a really clever performance.

At different points a number of car-catwalks were shown featuring lots of desirable metal - often revving hard or donutting.

TVR debuted their new 'Sagaris' which looked frankly fantastic the design features on the bonnet and front wings are really wild. The rear end is also 'interesting' and has to be seen to be believed.

There were two races during the show - one using scaled down american cars - blasting around the track at barely believable speeds. The second was a highly amusing and frankly dangerous (in the rehersal earlier in the day on had ended up on its roof) robin rilient race.

Jeremy and Richard has an autotest type race in a couple of Caterhams - JC won much to the crowds disappointment - but he did break the clutch on his car ! Richard Hammond nearly put his into the wall (Something he had also done earlier in rehearsal).

The show was great, lots of variety, normal JC banter and a healthy amount of competition between JC and Tiff. On a serious note some of the gala evening ticket price (5) was going to a children's' charity. There was also a raffle with some good prices, and finally clarkson held an auction for some even better prizes including a day at Invicta (went for 2.5k), a day a Ferrari and their test track (4.5k).

As a finale one of the audience were set to do a handbrake parallel park - after receiving tution from Russ Swift. Clarkson couldn't resist a go himself and after some pretty abismal attempts he smash into the rear car. The guy from the audience did far better, however Clarkson had pushed the cars together so the gap was about half the size of the car (a Seat estate). As a result the guy crashed into both cars. The only payback was Clarkson hurt his leg in his crash.

Finally Tiff drove a BMW through a caravan, this was particularly good as they had not rehearsed it and had no idea what to expect. Nevertheless Tiff managed it easily and didn't even wear a helmet.

What was are impression of the show? When's the next one!

To see every photo we took click Here

Cars:Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII FQ330 (VIII (12/03 - 04/04))
Jaguar XJ R (X350 (03 - ))
Rolls-Royce Phantom - ((03 -))
Audi A4 S4 (2 (03 - ))
BMW 5 series 545i (E60 (03 - ))
Saab 9-3


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