Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dream On ...

The Paris Motor Show opened its doors to the public yesterday, and for the next 14 days, is expecting around 1,500,000 pairs of feet to stamp over its carpeted areas. The organisers estimate that the exhibition area has some 500 vehicles from 30 countries. Naturally, along with the cars themselves, comes a plethora of safety equipment, in-car entertainment systems, low-profile tyres and the latest in Sat-Nav. Before 'Joe-Public' got to drool over the next generation of 'X', the press were invited in for a 2 day sneek preview ... and wasn't it fun? That is a rhetorical question and doesn't need an answer.

My brief was to photograph as many good-looking motors as I could over Press Days; luxury, sports, family saloons, concept and 4x4s. You name it, I had to find it and bring the goods back home. Normally I enjoy such shows as one's imagination gets the opportunity to run amok and I get a real sense of achievement, a job well done. It began with registration in the press tent ...

"Please fill in this form" said a stern hostess. I duly ticked and 'deleted where appropriate' two sides of the questionnaire with my name, address, for whom I was working and presented the completed form back to the bored looking creature behind the desk. Her eyes quickly scanned the front of the form then, turning it over, she stared longingly at the back. Without even looking up she thrust it back in my direction saying; "You haven't filled in your job title or filled in that part there, or this or that ..." I didn't even bother taking it from her quivering hand. "Yes I have. It's all done." She looked again, flipped the paper over and said "Oh". No apology, no smile, just "Oh". She then handed me the press badge without even a cursory glance. Cute. First impressions and all that.

The show is big. Really big. No doubt someone out there will say that Detroit is bigger. So what. You didn't have to walk round it. The major constructors were there 'en force', their stands groaning with the weight of flashy examples. There were a few odd ones too, like the Chinese who have a range of 4x4s which, we're sure, could never make a dent in the popular market as they'd fall to bits in a fortnight. They, however, smiled with the same enthusiasm as only the plastic Chinese can.

I hit the big ones; Aston Martin, Jaguar, Bentley, Mini, Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Land Rover, Peugeot and Citroen. Yes, it was impressive and yes, it made me want one but after a matter of hours I knew one thing; I didn't want to stay there any longer. The discipline of the French press corps was up to its usual mad manners and then something struck me (and not the elbow of a French photographer either). Who on earth were these badly dressed eastern Europeans and Asiatics leaning all over the place with these credit card sized cameras? Are they for real? Real journalists or people with free 'VIP' passes?

Then came the phone-camera brigade. These little shysters lean right across my shot in order to take a photo of an engine or suchlike, without even checking that the coast was clear. There's nothing worse than trying to work than some arse in a suit he borrowed from his elder brother, armed with a Nokia, places himself between your lens and the subject. As pros, we always check to see if there's anyone we're likely to block before taking a position. Oh no. Not these toss-pots. Great shouts from the French press of "get the f**k out of it!", followed by a sheepish retreat of said invader.

And so it goes on.

My trick is to leave the subject in question and come back later, once the brouhaha has died down. But where to next? Let's try something classy. How about Bentley? The Japs aren't interested in comfort, they just build for speed, so let's go and have a gander at the latest palace on wheels ...

Bentley was founded in the UK in 1919 by Wilfred Owen Bentley. He started by making aero engines, installing the BR1 in the top fighter of the day, the Sopwith Camel. In the 1940's, Bentley Motors was bought by Rolls Royce and in 2000 (heaven help us) it was stolen by the Volkswagen Group. As a Brit who's fiercely proud of his heritage, just listening to the sales personnel of today's Bentleys brought me out in a rage. Rasping, guttural German all over the shop. The cars are still made in Crewe but it's not the first time that the Germans have devastated the city. On to Mini ... again, another British icon purchased by the super-rich Krauts. It's seems a shame that nearly all our automotive producers sold out to the highest bidder and that the British government of the time did shag all to stop it. Had this happened in France with, say, the possibility of Citroen being snapped up by the Germans, the French government would have pulled out all the stops to halt the sale. Not so in nanny-state Britain.

Take Aston Martin. No. Give it back. Now a subsidiary of Ford Motors, Aston remains at the pinnacle of luxury motoring. Seeing as the Americans don't have the knowledge or experience to build a home-grown luxury car they can sell abroad, they snapped up Aston Martin. Jeeps and Chevvies are all well and good for the domestic market, but we have corners in Europe and there aren't many American-made vehicles that have the capacity to turn left or right. In August of this year, Ford declared that they were thinking of selling Aston Martin. Is that a German I see in my sights?

What's the point of bringing Formula 1 cars to a car show? The vehicles on show are family hatch-backs, saloons, sports, 4x4s, commercial delivery vans and concept cars. What on earth is a Renault F1 car doing propped up against a bank of disco lights? They serve no purpose at all except to entice small boys and their pee-brained fathers over to the stand. If Renault think that they can unload a Clio onto someone who was attracted to the firm because of their F1 record, then the twat in question shouldn't be in possession of a driving licence.

So, out to the 4x4 display area. Littered with difficult terrain, a huge 50' ramp and a veritable assault course of visual excitement, the 4x4 track is superb for photos - so long as you can get in an open-topped example and climb the ramp. It had just gone 2pm as I asked the chap in charge if it was possible to get a ride. "Yeah, OK", he replied begrudgingly. He then went on to tell me that they had no open-topped 4x4s and that the driver was going off for his lunch. At 2pm? This is Press Day! Don't you have a second driver? Are you averse to press coverage or what? He shrugged only the way the French can. "If you think that I am a little shocked by your replies sir, then I cannot wait to see what happens here during the next 2 weeks of public days." He shrugged again.

Then we come to the final gripe. Skinny clothes horses grinning like simpletons while leaning up against a polished motor. You are not allowed to talk to them and they are not allowed to take orders from the press. The same twat who bought the Clio would be reeled in like a retarded fish if he bought a Panda because some tart is photographed next to it. Now, if the retard was allowed to bang the girl right there on the bonnet, there might be a sale in the offing ... and some pretty hot photos too. So why do manufacturers do it? What purpose does it serve?

When the next car show comes around I think I might decline. It's all too much for too little. Promotion is one thing, but overall, it isn't exactly ingenuity at work, just another excuse to say "look how sodding rich the automotive industry is" and "look what you could not possibly afford".

Still, some people wouldn't mind being in a traffic jam for 3 hours just to see a self-starved example of woman-hood standing next to a Clio ...



Blogger Joker said...

Same time next year then Stu?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 8:24:00 pm  
Blogger Stu said...

Sadly, Joker, no. Fancy a crack at it yourself?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 7:09:00 am  
Blogger Joker said...

Only if I can play *Use* your camera...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 9:13:00 pm  

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