From the show to the streets

by Andy Bryenton

This weekend saw the culmination of months of planning and, for some exhibitors, years of design and engineering. It was the annual CRC Speedshow in Auckland, a showcase of cars both classic and cutting edge, including the reveal of Toyota’s highly anticipated new Supra.

It’s as close as we are likely to get in the flesh, here in New Zealand, to the grand auto shows of places like Geneva and Detroit. Places where the latest in auto tech is unveiled to the public. The problem is, many of the great, wild, interesting designs that come out of these auto shows never see the light of day or even turn a wheel. We are often treated to confections of carbon fibre and steel, which are without an engine; ones where the doors don’t even open. Sculpture and art, but not cars.

The list of ‘almost-didn’t’ prototypes is enough to make a true petrolhead nervous. Mercedes thought their sublime gullwing SL would be a novelty but nothing more in the 1950s. Lamborghini nearly didn’t make the crazy LM-002 off-roader in any numbers, until the motor show crowds (many of them from oil-rich Middle Eastern nations) started waving chequebooks excitedly.

Other cars have been boiled down from exciting auto show offerings to bland also-rans, once those huge rims, sweeping curves and futuristic interiors have run into the brick wall of the accounts department.

Saddest of all are those cars that have made it to the motor show but never seen production; cars like the Nissan Mid-4, a Toyota MR2 competitor, which would have packed a mid-mounted twin-turbo V6 and looked like a Japanese Ferrari.

Shinichiro Sakurai’s 330 hp, all-wheel-drive supercar slayer, wowed the crowds in Frankfurt but was never built, partly, so it’s said because bosses felt it would detract from 300ZX sales. Thankfully, Toyota’s beautiful, mad, six-cylinder sports Supra is not a sketch or a concept.

It’s very real and just as potent as the coveted series 4 in all its JDM glory.

Take that as a lesson, automakers of the world. Your graphs and surveys may say we want economy and clever seats.

What we really want is the daring and boldness of auto show concepts, delivered in the real world.