Past, present, future

Russ Atkinson
Russ joined Factory having completed his degree in Graphic Design at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth. Handling the rare combination of a mastery of both words and images, Russ lends his writing skills to his overarching responsibility for design and production scheduling. Russ loves building BMWs of both the 2 and 4 wheel variety.

Geneva’s annual Salon International de l’Auto is considered one of the most important motor shows globally and the perfect place to showcase the latest in vehicular concepts, giving us a glimpse into the near future of motoring.

Having spent a day gawking at the mouthwatering automotive offerings whilst simultaneously and paradoxically basking in the sweltering and insanely dehydrating light of a million suns suspended from the ceiling, I discovered that all the future holds is a vast array of variations on the Mercedes G-Wagen theme and an alternative fuel vehicle called a Quant. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to be said about them though as their website provides only mystery as to how the car works and the stand was just a gigantic glass fortress filled with attractive young women that nobody was allowed into. Apart from the two gentlemen behind the brand whose mugshots appear on said vague website.

Whilst Mercedes were busy continuing the tradition of pretending to drop the G-Wagen from their range yet again by presenting us with a ‘brand new’ four litre twin-turbo V8 version of their 36 year old workhorse called the G500 4×42, everywhere else aftermarket tuners seemed to be proudly shoehorning in even more absurdly powerful engines to their G-Wagens to the point where most of the floor looked like a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles where only gangster rappers had managed to survive.

The exception to this rule was Kahn’s latest offering, their 105 Flying Huntsman Longnose Defender. Imagine the body of a 90 inch Land Rover Defender, but mounted onto a 110 Defender chassis with 20 inches added to the front wings. As if by means of justification, they’ve also swapped the Transit engine for one of GM’s LS3 V8s but Twisted have been doing this for a while without making their Defenders look like an extra from the set of Thunderbirds. Prices start at around the £150,000 mark for a 4×4, with the 6×6 no doubt costing so much more that I had to close my eyes before my brain imploded.

Elsewhere, and in total contrast, as if cleverly orchestrated between the exhibiting manufacturers, the other big trend this year seemed to be hybrid vehicles. Bentley were showing off their EXP 10 Speed 6 which combines a load of batteries with a 500 horsepower 4 litre twin-turbo V8 (on a basic level much like the G500 4×42 except with more batteries) and Audi unveiled the R8 E-tron, the name of which has never amused me more than in this setting, a predominantly French speaking part of the world where étron means faeces. So, what have we learnt so far? Gangster gas-guzzlers and hybrid gas-guzzlers are the order of the year for 2015.

Another manufacturer present who have been promising us that they’re going to stop producing their flagship model whilst simultaneously unveiling a plethora of special edition versions is Pagani, although I must admit that the engineering beauty that lies beneath the carbon skin of their Zonda is nothing short of breathtaking. It literally took my breath away, as well as the searing heat emitted by those pesky, yet necessary, overhead spotlights.

It was whilst gazing out over the sprawling and almost never-ending sea of captivating metallic reflections, beer in hand to loosely counteract the symptoms of dehydration, that I saw a pastel coloured silhouette and those three fateful letters hanging from a sign above the stand in the distance. RUF.

Promptly ignoring almost everything that lay between the elevated bar area and the pastel-green shape that had been so recognisable even from afar I stood within touching distance of what is possibly the most incredibly beautiful piece of automotive artwork I’ve ever witnessed. A brand new restoration build of an original RUF RCT, the boutique German manufacturer’s turbocharged take on Porsche’s narrow-bodied 964 Carrera, in its purest and most perfect form. Inside, matching olive green leather covered almost every surface bar the cushioned areas on the bucket seats which were instead trimmed in contrasting dark green tartan left me almost paralysed, only able to move one footstep at a time to appreciate it from every conceivable angle. It may sound excessive, but it really was that good.

Volkswagen didn’t disappoint by extending their range to include Variant variants (that’s estate, to the rest of us) of their Golf models across the board including the GTD and even the R version as well as a raft of electronic and hybrid versions of their entire range, it’s just such a shame that they can’t seem to make their mind up about whether or not to put the Golf R400 into production. After all, who doesn’t need a 400 horsepower lava-hot hatch?

Other highlights included one of only three Longtail McLaren F1s manufactured and the 2011 24 Heures du Mans winning #2 Audi R18 Ultra of Fässler, Lotterer and Tréluyer that defeated Peugeot in an against-all-odds feat of endurance and Ferrari avoidance, the end of which I barely remember due to excess alcohol consumption despite being right there at the Circuit de la Sarthe when it all happened. Whoever said you should never meet your heroes clearly wasn’t talking about Le Mans prototypes.

Wow, all of this typing has made me thirsty…