1999 Frankfurt Auto Show
Story and Photos by James Salazar
My recent trip to Russia included connecting flights in Frankfurt and with the Frankfurt auto show in full swing, I was going to have to spend an extra day to take the show in. (Fortunately, Lufthansa does not mind you taking your time between connecting flights.) For convenience, I stayed at the Sheraton at the airport and took the train to the show. As the train approached the convention center, I realized I would be in for a lonnng day. I can usually do Houston's auto show in about an hour. But at Frankfurt, I spent two hours just at the BMW displays! And yes, BMW, like Mercedes-Benz, had several display areas. The tuners also had a large presence - Alpina alone had an area as big as BMW's presence at the Houston show.
The biggest attractions at the BMW centers were the E46 M3 and the new Z8 - you really had to fight your way to the front to get a glimpse of these cars.
BMW, like many other automakers, had a large number of cars from tis to 7-series, that showcased BMW's work with alternative fuels. Interestingly, BMW did not limit itself to one alternative fuel: it had Hydrogen powered models on display as well as Natural Gas models.
Another interesting thing about BMW's presence at the show was that, unlike Mercedes-Benz, it did not distance itself from the companies it owned. The BMW Group included BMW (of course), Rover, Land Rover, MG and the venerable Mini. In fact, some of the BMW literature and complimentary bags displayed all the logos of the companies.
While I love the comfort of our 323 convertible, what I really enjoy most is the simplicity of my 2002 and a certain Japanese roadster that is also in my garage. With that in mind, I was most interested in roadsters like the Lotus Elise, the Boxster S, Honda's new S2000 and Toyotas redesigned MR2 Spyder. I tried several of these for size and was impressed by all. I had to admit that, even though the Honda exterior reminded me a lot of the Miata, it looked and felted (interior-wise) better than the Miata. Then again, I am sure Honda spent a lot of time studying the Miata and looking at way to improve a great little design (just like Mazda did with the Lotus Elan).
US automakers were also at Frankfurt although it was a much smaller presence. Of special note was Cadillac who brought out their hopes for capturing a win at next year's Le Mans. Cadillac also had a concept car that was interesting to me because it had its own guard. Given that this car looked like Batman's hearse, I can only assume the guard was there to protect this ugly creature (just like Frankenstein's creature needed protection from the villagers).
I spent a total of eight and a half hours at the show and did not even see half of the displays! I tried to concentrate on the cars that appealed to me (or the ones with the good stage shows) but at times I found myself just stuck at some of the areas, unable to move because of the number of people. In the Mercedes area, for example, not only was it incredibly crowded, it was also very hot because of the number of people there (and yes, the A/C was working a full blast!). But, with Mercedes, I think they had so many people in their area only because everyone was having a difficult time finding the way out!
By the way, when you check out the the ti's photo, notice that it is a 323ti! The ti is a blast as a 318 - just imagine the fun it will be as a 323ti. AND, I am told that they will bring the 323ti to the States - I will be anxious to test drive it!
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