The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Sunday, October 11, 2009

At the Salon Auto (car show)

As car shows go, the Salon Auto de Lyon isn't one of the biggees, not compared to the shows in Geneva, Paris and Frankfurt where the manufacturers unveil both their new models and their eye-catching concepts that will never be built [photo: unlikely-looking Peugeot interior]. Still, I'm a car guy (despite not currently owning a car), I'm endlessly amused by weirdo French vehicles, and there's cheap reduced admission if you go after 5pm, so why not?

The Eurexpo conference center is way out in the no-man's land beyond Bron on the way to the airport. To get there by public transport, you have to take the A Metro to the end of the line in Vaulx-en-Velin, then catch a shuttle bus for another 10-15 minutes. I suppose because Lyon is so densely built, it wasn't possible to plunk a brand-new conference center down in the city center, but still it remains a very un-French example of autocentricity in urban planning. Fitting enough for an auto show, then.

These are tough times for the European auto industry as well, so as expected a recurring theme among the exhibits was affordable, economical, fuel efficient cars. So there were a lot of smaller manufacturers pushing tiny electric city cars that are really little more than golf carts [photo]. utterly unworkable in the US, but they might make sense for some people in Europe. People who don't have kids, that is, and who have blase attitudes about crash safety.

Though the luxury brands (BMW, Mercedes, Lexus) had the highest-profile spots right at the entrance, the French domestic marques had the greatest amount of floor space, displaying one of each of their extensive model line-ups rather than just the flashiest new iron. Plenty of Gallic je-ne-sais-quoi (read: ugly or strange cars; photo, a Citroen Cactus) to marvel at here.

There were displays of vintage cars as well, like this Citroen SM [photo]. Dig the hood intake vent with the Citroen double-chevron.


And oooh, look, a Dacia-mino! [photo] Just needs some green astroturf in the bed. Dacias are made in Romania and are the most popular car in Eastern Europe, mostly because they're dirt cheap. This El-Camino'd Dacia Logan was listed at 7999 euros. I've not driven a Dacia but apparently one pretty much gets what one pays for. I suppose if a vintage El Camino, Ranchero or Subaru Brat is out of your price range, this could be one way to get your automotive mullet on.
And what's a car show without booth babes? At car shows in the US, the eye candy in cocktail dress is ubiquitous on the rotating platforms, smiling placidly as she deftly fields "Do you come with the car, honey?" about 200 times a day. Her rent-a-skank cousin may be found at the aftermarket/tuner shows [be discreet with that link if you're at work], gaping vacantly as she drapes across the hood of a be-winged Civic Si-R in bikini and clear heels. None of that is on display here, though; booth babes are definitely present, but they're decked out in snappy Chanel suits [2 photos]. Yes, they're off center... I still haven't mastered the art of "I'm an American blogger, may I please take your picture" without looking like a complete idiot. Surreptitiously snapping off-center photos while still looking like a complete idiot is more my speed.

Best in show goes to this gull-winged Benz SLS [last 2 photos]. I'm not a huge fan of Mercedes, as a lot of what they make appears to be overpriced, soulless luxobarges aimed at retired orthodontists, but man, I'd take one of those in a heartbeat. Only 170K euros... I think I can swing it. Just need to cut unnecessary luxuries like morning patisseries. And mortgages.

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