Sunday, July 27, 2008

"I don't like it": Sparky and Big Bro hit the motor show

I'd not actually intended on going to the British International Motor Show this year. Not because I've turned into a raving environmentalist and gone off cars, but because I know what I want for my next motor, and I don't see that changing at any point in the near future. Still, Big Bro got some cheapo tickets and asked me if I wanted to go, so I thought 'it's something to do' and said yes.

The day did not start well.

Let me pause here to say that Big Bro is in the market for a new car, but is dithering. Rather a lot. He's actually been in the market for a new car since the last motor show in 2006, and depending on which day you ask him, he wants a new VW Scirocco, a VW Golf GTI, a Renaultsport Clio 197, a Renaultsport Megane R26, a Mazda MX-5, a new Seat Ibiza Sportcoupe, a Seat Leon Cupra, a Ford Focus ST, or maybe a new Fiesta when they do an ST version. There's probably a few others that I've forgotten about, mainly because there's only so many things I can hold in my brain. He definitely does not want a new Alfa Romeo Mito, though.

With this in mind, we set off for the Excel Centre in the East End of London.

Where were we? Oh yes - things did not begin well. 

The first port of call was the Ford stand because, well, it was massive and both the new Fiesta and the Focus ST where there. I don't know if Big Bro was suffering from some motor show tension at first, but he seemed a little reluctant to get in a new Fiesta. So I did instead. It's interesting… quite sexy looking on the outside, but the dashboard is based on the design of a mobile phone. A mobile phone from about eight years ago, apparently. It's certainly nothing like my iPhone. After a bit of cajoling I managed to get Big Bro to sit in the driver's seat. His expression pretty much suggested that someone had farted in it, and as he got out he very loudly said "I don't like it" - straight at a nice Ford lady who'd come to ask if we wanted any information.

I am not kidding when I say that the look on her face made it seem like he'd called her mother a prostitute then punched her in the boob. I thought she was going to cry. Fortunately she recovered rather quickly and professionally, and set about trying to convince Big Bro of the Fiesta's charms. He wasn't having any of it, though - even when she said that he should go sit in the Titanium model because that has "all the goodies." Slowly coming to the conclusion that she was flogging a dead horse (admittedly one with a 1.6 litre engine in Zetec S trim), she tried to convince him to go sit in the new Ford Kuga, but Big Bro likes sporty cars, not four-wheel-drives, so he just smiled at her and eventually she just gesticulated towards the back of the stand and told us they were handing out free ice lollies there.

I was having much better luck, however. Now, in years gone by I'd go to motor shows just to perve over Porsches and Ferraris and the like, but since I actually started driving I've realised that I really like small cars - hence my infatuation with Minis. Small cars are cool; there's some really nicely designed small cars around with great little design touches. And in this day-and-age of high petrol prices, exorbitant running costs, and crowded roads, I'm more impressed by cars that can get 50 miles to the gallon than cars that can hit 200 mph and look like they were designed by someone armed only with a pencil and ruler. 

And so it was that I arrived at the Citroen stand and ended up sitting in a little C1 hidden away at the back behind all the bigger shinier, newer models. This little city car has been around for a couple of years now (I actually sat in one at the last motor show), but for a six grand motor I think they're pretty cool. I know someone who owns one and she loves it (even if the gearbox did just fall out of it); I think it's a characterful little car with the sort of cheeky personality that's missing from a lot of modern motors. 

Just I was about to get out, though, one of the Citroen ladies came up to me. Uh-oh, I thought, she's going to try and collar me with brochures and stuff!

"Do you want to drive it?" she asked.

And so five minutes later I was out the back of the Excel Centre about to get into a little black five-door Citroen C1, with my six-foot-something tall brother squeezed in the back (although he claimed there was more room back there than in my Mini) and some guy named Adrian sitting in the passenger seat to make sure I didn't try to steal it. I started it up, and headed off around the test track that was set up in the grounds of Excel. I expected Adrian to spend all the time trying to sell me on the virtues of the C1, but instead he just said "it's built in the same factory as the Peugout 107 and Toyota Aygo…" then started telling us how he'd been getting into all the concerts that had been taking place at the show in the evening, and that the Alice Cooper gig had been awesome with lots of fake blood and vampires sacrificing a baby or something. "Does he actually do any singing?" Big Bro asked. "Oh yes," replied Adrian. "He was singing while he was sacrificing the baby." He then proceeded to stick his head out of the window, claiming that he'd barely seen daylight since the show started five days ago. Then he let me do another lap, which might've been a mistake because by that time I was revving that little three-cylinder engine quite happily and crying with laughter. And when we finished he gave both me and Big Bro free road atlases worth £6.99. Bonus - but admittedly a bit of a pain that we had to carry them around for the rest of the day. On the other hand, they did give us the opportunity to map-slap any annoying people who got in our way.

Returning to the show we started talking to some Vauxhall dude who told us about the Platinum Lounge hidden away somewhere which contained lots of exotic supercars like a Mercedes SLR and a Bugatti Veyron. It all sounded rather wonderful until he told us that to get in you needed to show a key from a car that cost over 100k, which admittedly made it sound like a swingers club for the super rich. The Vauxhall dude nevertheless suggested that we should try to sneak in, but always one to walk on the right side of the law we asked if we could borrow the keys to enough Corsas and Astras to add up to the required 100k figure. He said no, so we headed off. 

After spending half an hour outside in the sunshine watching a number of awesome classic supercars be pelted round a small test track, we reached the Mini stand where I spent plenty of time hugging various Minis, but failed in my attempt to convince Big Bro to let me go into the Mini owners lounge where they were offering free drinks. I think he was worried that he'd be left outside while I chillaxed in a Mini-branded oasis. Then we headed over to the Alfa Romeo stand, where Big Bro was fully prepared to diss the new Alfa Mito, but curiously ended up thinking it was pretty awesome; I'm not sure, but it may have had something to do with Letitia, the lovely Alfa lady in the low-cut dress who stopped to talk shop with us while we queued to sit in it.

All-in-all then, it was a pretty cool day. And a successful one for Big Bro, whose list of desired motors now consists of … well, pretty much all the cars he'd been interested in before, but with the Mito taking the place of the Fiesta. And me? I'm still gunning for that Mini Clubman.


Some photos? Some photos!

Apparently Ford's engineers were told to bear in mind the environmental angle of the mental new Focus RS - so they painted it green.

Just about to head out for a drive in the Citroen C1. Skinny tyres, a tiny three-cylinder engine … it was actually a quality, characterful little car!

It looked like there'd been a hit and run on the Vauxhall stand.

The Mazda Furei is a definite contender for the next Batmobile.

I'm not sure if Big Bro is down with appearing on my blog, so I've pixelated his face to protect his identity.

I tried taking a picture of a Ferrari F40 at the outside classic supercar track - and missed.

Vrooooom! He was going even quicker on the second lap…

Big Bro was a bit quicker off the mark with his camera - James Bond's motor, anyone?

Big Bro made me pose by a Renault Megane R26R like a cheap piece of motor show totty.

Just look at the dopey expression on my face as I check out the new John Cooper Works Mini.

For some reason I've developed a fascination with cubby holes and glove boxes. Most new cars have tiny gloveboxes - what's that all about!?

Checkin' out the concealed boot floor in the Mini Clubman for reasons that are neither interesting nor immediately apparent.

OK, even I'll admit it's a little bit weird to just stand there stroking a Mini.

D'ya see how cumbersome my free atlas was? Still, it was free so I shouldn't complain too much.

I look like Han Solo about to boot the Millennium Falcon into light speed here. In reality I was fiddling with the new ceiling-mounted toggle switches in a Clubman.

Alfa's done a damn fine job of carrying design touches over from the 100k+ 8C Competizione supercar to the new 13k Mito. Let's just hope they've worked out how to put a car together so that bits don't fall off, eh?

The Toyota IQ was one of my stars of the show - it's an unbelievably tiny, chunky-looking urban runabout that can carry three adults, but is barely bigger than a Smart ForTwo. I'm not kidding - this is the car of the future.

This is my 'do hurry up' face.


Dinah said...

Awesome! Those pictures are great.

Dithering is the worst possible offense that one can commit in my family.

WillowC said...

I think I see that "do hurry up" face quite often... oh dear...

Tim said...

Dinah - It's not massively encouraged in my family either!

Willowc - Naaaaah.

OK, yeah, you do, don't ya?

Inexplicable DeVice said...

There's a curious lack of you sprawled half naked over car bonnets. How strange...

My next car is going to be an Alfa 8C Competizione. However, I do have a back up plan in case my funding isn't as it should be - An Alfa GT!

I'm glad your brother has seen sense and dismissed the crappy Fiesta for the cute and sexy Mito. He obviously has good taste (as long as he ditches the Golf, the Ibiza Sport coupe and the dullsville Focus ST - Yawn).

T-Bird said...

Pff. Boys and cars. I have one wot works, and as someone commented (I think it was Dora) 'It looks like you're homeless and you live in it'.

It's a messy car.

Although, there is a mini dealership near me which I pass whenever I can...

The concealed boot looks just right for small arms. And guns.

Tim said...

Inexplicable Device - I know. I oiled up, clambored onto the bonnet of a Honda Civic, slid off and was chucked out. What can I say?

You better hurry up with getting that GT - aren't they taking it out of production soon?

T-Bird - I always find it important to carry small arms in my car. They're vital for getting to those hard-to-reach places when you drop stuff under the seats.

Dinah said...

Whenever I see a mini I always think "oh! it's Tim!" and then realize "hmm...probably not."

WillowC said...

It might be if it's being REALLY fussy about its parking space.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Heh! Sounds like someone is just as fussy as me/Car when it comes to parking.

May I suggest clambouring over the bonnet of a less slopy-bonnetted car next time, Tim? Or start practising? I know Car wouldn't mind as long as I'm there to supervise...

Tim said...

Dinah - One of these days I might surprise you!

Willowc - Rude. The only reason I took so long to park the other week was because all the spaces were taken and I had to go to the car park miiiiiiiiiiles away!

Inexplicable Device - It's true, I do like a parking spot where my car doesn't look like it's at risk of ending up on bricks.

I'll gratefully decline your offer, thanks. After all, I wouldn't want to damage Car.

watch*paint*dry said...

I KNEW IT! Sparky Bro is The Stig isn't he? He has that look in his eye/pixel!

CyberPete said...

Big Bro made me pose by a Renault Megane R26R like a cheap piece of motor show totty

Honey, there is nothing cheap about you.

Work it!

CyberPete said...

Love the Cooper! I want one!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Car is quite robust, actually. Alfa have "worked out how to put a car together so that bits don't fall off".

And if I'm too late for the GT, I'll just get a Duetto instead.

CyberPetra is right - You're not cheap, so work it (that means take some clothes off)!

Tim said...

Watch*Paint*Dry - HA! He wishes!! Don't tell him that - he'll get delusions of grandeur.

Cyberpete - Well bless you!

(And Mini Coopers are AWESOME)

Inexplicable Device - That's good then. I expect all the people who bought Alfasuds are taking comfort from the fact that their cars didn't rust away for nothing.

'I'm not cheap' and 'strip' don't exactly go together too well…

Tim said...

As for the Duetto - you really believe Auto Express?! That mag's the best piece of weekly fiction going…

T-Bird said...

What or who is the Stig?

Tim said...

T-Bird - He's a mysterious racing driver on the TV show Top Gear who pelts sports cars round test tracks at unbelievable speeds. No one knows who he is, but there's a rumour he's a famous driver…

T-Bird said...

Ooohhh! I've seen Top Gear...

Is your brother The Stig? We might have to transfer our attentions to getting his shirt off.

watch*paint*dry said...

*grins impishly*

Look I totally started a rumour!
I am now convinced Sparky Bro is The Stig! His name starts with 'S' too, it all makes sense. Really it does ;>

*Gasps* Unleesssss Tim is The Stig!?!

Tim said...

T-Bird - No he's not, and that's something you wouldn't want to see.

Watch*Paint*Dry - The closest comparison to the Stig that I am is Stig of the Dump.

watch*paint*dry said...

I was going to say something about white leather suits and white helmets, but I am not.

Oh sh*t I just did.