The Festival Automobile International (aka FAI) is one of those events that I just love (read all about the 2016 edition HERE). Not only does it kind of « kick-off » the car season in France (after a very calm winter time, where every car stays tucked inside their garage), but it’s also an incredible opportunity to see all kinds of interesting cars (for various reasons: rarity, price, story, uniqueness…). The FAI takes place every year around end of january / beginning of February, usually coinciding with the whole Rétromobile week. The event is held in a HUGE tent, right next to the gorgeous golden dome of « Les Invalides », in one of the poshest neighborhoods in Paris.
This year, they really outdid themselves as far as showcasing the cars: there was a lovely red & black carpet that outlined each car, in a very spacious manner (probably less cars than last year, too, so it helps), giving it a very classy feeling. As every year it seems, the public was lucky enough to see some very interesting cars. Including, if I’m not mistaken, some cars that weren’t seen by the public before. I’m talking about the « star of the show » (well, at least, MY star): the Aston Martin AM-RB001 concept. Most people simply call it the NEBULA, but whatever.
It’s basically the first car that you saw when you come in. As in « hello, yes, comme in. BOOM IN YOUR FACE ». I loved it. One thing you have to know is that this is the exact same prototype that was revealed by Aston Martin a few months ago. So you need to know that it’s not a real « car » per se, it’s more of a model. But then again, we *are* at the « concept car show ». At first glance, the car is absolutely impressive and it hits you right in the face. But when you look at it with more attention, a lot of things don’t seem… right. Start off with the proportions: for some reason, the car feels a little smaller than what it should be. The huge bubble-cockpit seems awfully small, even for someone body-shaped like a pilot. I find it hard for someone to get in there, let alone two people (the fact that the interior wasn’t made didn’t make it easier to imagine). Also, there were a lot of « holes » everywhere. It really felt incomplete from certain angles, under the front wheel arches, and from the back, when you kneeled down. But then again, the Ford GT does look like two cars that fused together, when you look at it from certain angles as well.
From the back, the Aston Martin NEBULA bears a certain ressemblance with a McLaren P1, in my very humble and unexperienced opinion. Most people on my page commented that I was wrong, and they all seemed to see a bit of Chiron in there. I guess, yeah. I know it’s always a bit silly to see some cars in other cars, but that’s just how the human mind works: we look for patterns and things we know and recognize haha. So yeah. It felt like a very P1ish backside. Bear in mind, this is a really good compliment (though I’m sure the designer wouldn’t like it much).
They had a « classic cars » exhibition. Among some of the cars there, featuring a lovely Jaguar D-Type which, by the looks of it, is a regular at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I couldn’t help but think of my insane ride in the D-type at the speed ring of Linas-Monthléry, a mythical experience. Ever since that day, I’ve grown fonder of the D-Type. Another great car from the past: the Porsche 917 with the Salzburg livery, brought by Porsche museum. I’ve always loved this livery, and it felt in phase with the whole looks of the expo. However, I believe the one that actually won LeMans is in an « untouched state » (which means dirty car). Nevertheless, always a thrill to see a 917, which is a car that gets rarer and rarer to see at events. Especially driving around (can anyone say 74MM??)!
There were also some of the flagship cars of french luxury from pre-war / after-war era: the Avions Voisin. The specific detail of Avions Voisin is, as you might’ve guessed it, its very famous « wings ». Rolls Royce has the Spirit of Ecstasy, Avions Voisin has the wings of liberty (nah, just kidding, I’m not even sure if they do have a name. But they probably do). This specific car pictures is a 1935 Avions Voisin C28 Aérosport. I particularily like the fact that half of the roof is open, Landaulet style. Though it doesn’t seem to be retractable, so I would heavily discourage driving it with a bad weather!
All the way in the back were two very interesting models. The Alfa Romeo « Vola Concept » and the Fioravanti F100 R Concept. Both cars were designed by Mr. Fioravanti. The name should at least ring some sort of bell (and please, don’t tell me it reminds you of « Fornasari »)! He is the man responsible for the amazing design of the Ferrari 288 GTO. I guess I know who to thank for the pointy Doberman’s ears, now. He was being interviewed pretty much all the time, so it was quite pointless to try and go to talk to him, sadly. I’m not one to disturb. Back to his concepts: they’re both very cool and reminiscent of a certain period, it feels. It felt very 70s / 80s to me. From the wheels to the interior. That being said, the F100 R screamed « LaFerrari » at some points, especially the black-lining on the back. When I saw that, I instantly said « Hey, I know this ». Thing is… The concept is from the year 1998! Interesting.
The Renault Trezor was also there. After seeing it at the Paris Motor Show, and not really being able to approach it despite the press days (there was a huge protection around it), it seemed we finally had more freedom here. Indeed, I finally got to see the interior of this electric car, head-turner and much-appreciated online, without a doubt. And the wait was worth it, because it’s absolutely pristine: it looked like velvet floors, terrific high-tech, minimalism at its peak. It’s funny how every interior in concept car is so minimalistic, I wonder why. I guess it pleases the crowds? Either way, it’s also quite sad to know that the TreZor will probably never see the light of day, like most concept cars. It’s such a shame, because the french are some of the best when it comes to concept cars (patriotism aside, it’s true!). But hey, whatcha gonna do. All we know is that it will 100% serve for the cars of the future.
It was also a moment to take a look at various other concepts, like the Jaguar i-Pace, which will probably rival the Tesla Model X over time. It’s an absolute beauty, I’ll have to admit: just like the F-pace before it, this electric SUV is a pure marvel of design that instantly clicked with me. Too bad there were too many journalists filming it / interviewing it during this press morning, which didn’t give me a lot of time to show the car / details of the car. Oh well, we’ll have more opportunities in the future!
All in all, I have to admit this year’s Festival Automobile International was a tad disappointing. I’m not saying it wasn’t good. The show itself was awesome, the black & red carpet was incredible and really put the cars in value (also, helped a lot with photos). BUT, I felt there were less cars than last time. Or, to phrase it differently and more subjectively, there were less cars that interested me as last time. I mean, look at last year’s edition: Bugatti Vision GT, BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R, Mazda RX-Vision, Porsche Mission-E… it was an orgy of great cars for me! I was left a little hungry this time.
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