2006 British Motor Show

July 22, 2006
Press day at this year's British Motor Show was hotter than hell inLondon's Excel exhibition centre. Ford was playing it cool with a 6.5-ton ice sculpture of the new Focus Coupé-Cabriolet, hand-crafted in a freezer over two weeks by experts who could only do 40-minute shifts because of the cold. Transferred to the show in chilled trucks, the stifling heat was melting it faster than predicted. The company's PR boss was seriously thinking of stripping off and sliding into the rapidly disappearing bodyshell in a bid to cool down. We Brits don't deal well with extremes of temperature. \

Nearby was newcomer Barabus. We thought it was a spelling mistake, but the car on the stand was like no Brabus you've ever seen. The TKR is a bright blue rocket ship that's capable - if you believe the hype - of 0-60 mph in under two seconds. Top speed is said to be well in excess of 200 mph. Under the bonnet is a re-engineered Chevy twin-turbo V-8 capable of 1005 bhp at 6800 rpm. The first customer car is going to a Saudi Arabian in November, and he, like everyone else, is paying £300,000 ($550,000) for the privilege.

2006 Opel Corsa

2006 Opel Corsa

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On the Vauxhall/Opel stand GM bosses including Rick Wagoner and Bob Lutz were in town for the world debut of the Corsa. And the company gave its biggest hint yet that the supermini might eventually cross the Atlantic. Referring to the all-new model, a spokesman said: "This car hasn't been engineered for USA, but if fuel prices continue to rise the next generation car could be." In a pre-show stunt on Monday, a Corsa had been flown high above London's River Thames slung under a helicopter. It goes on sale in Europe in October, with the eagerly anticipated VXR performance version slated for a premiere at the Geneva Motor Show next March. Insiders say it will have close to 200 hp from its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. After press day Wagoner and Lutz were due to attend an exclusive gala reception for the cream of the industry. The venue and host?
10 Downing Street
and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

BMW had the honor of being the first global launch of the day, with the wraps coming off the M6 Convertible. It's the first time the company has ever used the British Motor Show for a world debut, with bosses saying it highlighted the importance of the U.K. market for the Group as a whole. Both MINI and Rolls-Royce are built here. Dr Helmut Panke, chairman of the board of management, said: "We have invested more than £800 million into the expansion and development of our British plants. Investment into the expansion of Plant Oxford [the MINI factory] will have totaled an additional £100 million by 2007." The M6 Convertible goes on sale in the U.K. in September. Powered by BMW's V10 5.0-liter engine delivering 507 hp, it can hit 60mph in 4.8 seconds.

Kia also unveiled a new car at the exhibition, which is being held in London instead of Birmingham for the first time in 30 years. Sadly, the vehicle wasn't there in the metal, only on paper. The Korean firm released pictures of its all-new European family car, known only as ED at the moment. It will go on sale in December, and the platform will also spawn a rival C-segment vehicle from stablemate Hyundai next year. U.S. plans are uncertain for the new vehicle.

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