Glimmer of Glamour — Gold Coast Motor Festival 2016

For so many years the annual classic car show on Chater Road, Central is the only event of its kind. Not anymore. 1–2 October saw the first Gold Coast Motor Festival, and despite the dazzling sub-tropical heat, the motors on display have certainly drawn a considerable crowd, and well-deservedly so.

The crimson 300SL showing off its full gullwinged glory.
Besides the gullwing doors, the side strakes and the mudguards above the wheelarches are also unique design elements.

Strategically placed at the end of the main entrance, doubling as the event poster boy, and very rarely presented in this bright crimson in place of the usual metallic silver, the Mercedes 300SL certainly stole the show. The aluminium spaceframe chassis necessitated the trademark door arrangement as the substantial structural members run through the door sills, while the slant six fed by a Bosch mechanical fuel injection system delivers the power to the rear wheels, through a slightly antiquated swing axle arrangement that could catch out less experienced drivers during hard cornering. Much of its fame was due to Sir Stirling Moss’s legendary 1955 Mille Miglia win in the 300SLR, maintaining an average speed of 99mph throughout the arduous 1000-mile rally round Italy. The rest, as they say, is history.

Virtually indistinguishable and true to the original, Pur Sang has certainly come up with more than your usual replicas. Footnote: Pur Sang means pure blood, and is meant to symbolise how the true “bloodline” are kept in the creation of these vehicles.

The Pur Sang Type 35 is a replica that refuses to be called one, and very rightly so. The company specialises in recreating iconic pre-war vehicles such as the Alfa Romeo 6C and the Bugatti Type 35 seen here, and they’re done to the exact original specifications — authentic materials, identical construction methods. The result doesn’t just pay homage to the originals, but also a convenient way of allowing the full thrashing action of these stunning vehicles without the enthusiasts getting paranoid about possible damage. Pur Sang, we salute you.

The spotlights after dark work wonders on the unconventional colour scheme, and adds the air of mystique on the EB110. Now firmly one of my favourites of the era — frankly I used to despise those looks — backed up appropriately by Italian performance and handling.

The Bugatti EB110 might be the early 90s hypercar that nobody’s heard of. The last of the Italian Bugattis, mounted midships within its carbon tub structure is this beast of a motor, a V12 displacing 3.5L and boosted byfour turbos, driving all four wheels through a six-speed manual, it clocked 0–100 km/h at 3.2s, and posted a whopping 342km/h top speed. Styled by Marcello Gandini of Miura, Countach, Stratos, (and Berlina) fame, to name a few, it was (and still is) very relevant today. It’s the second time for me to see these cars in person, the last time being at Classic Remise Berlin, and not one but two at a time — a normal and a Supersports side by side. To me it certainly brought back memories of flipping through the Bburago catalogue when I was 4, 5-ish, gazing at the 1:24 scale Le Mans Blue EB110, rather puzzled by its daring lines. By the way, maybe it’s just me, but I cannot un-see the Z32 Fairlady 300ZX in it, though it’s most obvious who copied whom.

First time seeing a McLaren F1 in the flesh and it’s much more compact than you might expect. All its elements were packed tightly round the carbon fibre structure, a construction method that is still followed by the latest McLarens. The 3-seater configuration with the driver in the middle has, however, not been replicated.

The McLaren F1 needs no introduction. Envisaged by Gordon Murray who led the McLaren-Honda team then, it drew inspiration from the revolutionary Honda NSX, which impressed the designer so much that he decided to have a go himself by marrying its concept with the Formula 1 racing technology of the time, of which he naturally possessed. The unitary carbon fibre construction housed a cab-forward design with excellent visibility, and a driver position at the centre of the car and 2 passenger seats behind on either side. Power is from a BMW-derived 6L V12 which famously utilised gold plating in pursuit of a high heat (and therefore cooling) efficiency, pushing out 627bhp; while the all round double wishbones allowed for more longitudinal than vertical play to achieve a balance between high speed stability and cornering sharpness. With a curb weight of around 1130kg, it held the title of the fastest production road car for 12 years since 1993, came 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours, and remained competitive till the late 90s on endurance competitions like and the FIA GT and JGTC Championships.

The Ghia bodywork on the Ferrari 195 Inter looks almost frugal when compared with the offerings from Vignale or Touring at the time, but still attractive and pleasing nonetheless.

This Ferrari 195 Inter was something entirely new to me, and probably the rarest car at the event — only 27 examples were ever produced. Ferrari was still in its infancy during the 50s, but the renowned Colombo V12, here in its 2.3L guise, would certainly be familiar to all Ferrari aficionados — it’s the maxim of founder Enzo Ferrari and therefore the spirit of the company, the V12 layout being inherently balanced but provided the perfect architecture for performance development. Coachwork was by Ghia, with fully integrated wings and smooth flowing, slightly bulbous volumes, the overall effect being rather baroque but still easy to the eye. Unfortunately, Ghia was absorbed into Ford in the early 70s, and till this day traces of the coachbuilder could only be found in some trim levels of Ford products. Again, I really should begin the discourse on the great Italian Carrozzerias soon.

Probably should get the Bond theme rolling. On the right the DB2 in Old English White could hardly get more English.
Viewed from this angle, the taut Superleggera construction and the rear wing treatment of the DB5 contrasts the higher roofline and the Kamm tail on the DB6.

Hidden deep within the garden landscape is an Aston Martin area set up as a dedicated pavilion. There’s the DB5, complete in the correct silver as inGoldfinger sans the Bond gadgets of course; while the DB6 next to it in the same colours provided a neat contrast, the latter a more relaxed GT to suit the period tastes. Another Lagonda, this time finished in an elegant dark blue, complete with colour-matching wheel trims. Due to the barriers it was impossible to peer into the futuristic interior and try my chances at spotting those infamous CRT screens on the dashboard. Next to this V12 Zagato in bright green is its elder sibling, a Vantage Volante Zagato, which I’m almost certain was the exact car at the Aston Workshop in County Durham in July. Who would’ve expected our reunion that soon? Looks like I should send the photos back to UK!

Two generations of Vantage Zagatos — the V12 Vantage of this generation, and beside it the Vantage Volante Zagato at the Aston Workshop in UK in July. Apologies for the pillar but I have no way of moving it.
Better view of the VVZ with the Lagonda. I hate bloody barriers.

Yet more points of interest include a C2 Corvette Stingray, although not of the 1963-model-year-only split window variety; the mid-90s rally giants — the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI Tommi Makinen Edition (known in its circles as the Evo 6.5), and the Subaru Impreza STi 22B; an Audi Quattro Coupe LWB, and a BMW Z1, both in RHD format, a stock Skyline GTR R32 (my favourite generation) next to an R33 Nismo 400R and an R34 Nismo Z-Tune; a Porsche 901 complete with Fuchs alloys; a 190E EVO II 2.5–16 Cosworth; and other late 80s/early 90s supercar greats including the Jaguar XJ220, the Porsche 959, and the Ferrari F40; just to name a few.

The Evo 6.5 going head to head with the 22B, both in their distinctive liveries sans racing decals.
The Audi Quattro, yet another rally hero. Right hand drive makes this extra rare. Still wanting to see the short wheelbase Quattro Sport Coupe though.
The R33 Nismo 400R sits next to my favourite R32…
…together with the R34 Z-Tune (and the R35) shows the lineage. Nismo acquired 20 used R34s for the Z-Tune project, bored out the engines from 2.6L to 2.8L. Note the outswept corner of the front wing at the bottom of the A-pillar.
The F40 of 1987, the last of the old-school turbo Ferraris. It cracked 200mph and handled like a go-cart on fast-forward, but was allegedly not too aerodynamic despite its sleek appearance. Still among my favourites.
The Porsche 901 (later 911) sitting on Fuchs alloys.
The Pagani Huayra with a 6.0L AMG V12 twin turbo, carbon construction all round, and active aero with flaps front and aft to create both downforce . The typical Pagani interior is often compared with a Swiss watch. Note the dials and the gearstick / centre. Exquisite indeed.
The Aston Martin Vantage is a British Mustang inside and out, running an understressed 5.3L V8 with the external styling to match. Brutish yet elegant.
…while the real American Mustang shows off its muscular lines with not just the aero modifications but also a “shaker hood” with air intake trumpets menacingly poking through.
No split window, but still breathtaking to look at. The Stingray remains my favourite Corvette and is neither strictly American nor European. It just works.
The BMW Isetta with its three-wheeled, single-door layout and a single cylinder air-cooled engine that ekes out a few hp (likely not more than 10 on a good day), it is one of the innovative answers to the post-war demand for affordable mobility. Later versions gained an extra wheel at the rear.
Not a bad series of performances on stage throughout the day. I’ve actually brought my own bottle of wine to make the best out of the occasion.

Some points worth considering for the next event, if it’s going to happen:

· The entry fee of $100 HKD (approx. £10) was pretty reasonable, especially considering the vehicles on display — rare and iconic, a feast for the eyes but eye-watering in value; however, the ticketing arrangements could be improved.

· The site was well selected for prestigious events like these, but was rather constrained in terms of space and layout, therefore rendering all the exhibits strictly as static displays only. No demonstration runs, startups and revving to be had. At all.

· The barriers round the cars were a bit of an overkill — surely we all know how incredibly valuable all these motors were, and nobody in their right mind would risk causing any damage; together with the fair number of security guards on site, it seems preposterous to go to such ends to organise such an event, only to deprive the visitors from getting a closer look at the exotic mechanical layouts and exquisite interior craftsmanship of the exhibits.

· It’s still a first time and I do appreciate the organiser’s ability to attract so many owners to display their prized and priceless collection, but many of the vehicles were just fairly recent imports, mainly from UK, and probably couldn’t be licensed on HK roads. It’s about time that the interested parties and the general public alike should consider suitable empowerment tactics to seek reasonable breathing space for Hong Kong’s car culture.

· It’s still that bit short from a proper car show without even one single Alfa Romeo in it!

Anyway, still very much looking forward to the next event. Till then.

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