Every now and again, when the covers are pulled off a car in front of the anxious eyes of the automotive public, it not only reveals something exceptional, but it also relieves the weight of anticipation from people’s shoulders. It is a cue for the oxygen to be sucked out of the room as everybody gasps in unison; it is a starting pistol in a race to see which motoring blogger can concoct the best tortured metaphor. This is the effect only the largest motor show unveilings reap, and in this blog, I aim to list 9 of the biggest reveals ever.
Before we launch ourselves into that however, we must first establish some provisos. For a start, I’m only including cars that were revealed for the first time at large public motor shows and car events - but not private gatherings, which means the Aston Martin Valkyrie won’t be featuring in this list. Also, concepts will only be included on the condition that they aren’t all that far removed from the production cars they go on to spawn. And finally, it’s worth me mentioning that I’ll be taking into consideration the amount of anticipation prior to a car’s unveiling, as well as the overall impact the car had afterwards. So then, in no particular order, let’s get on with the show...
Aston Martin DB11 - Geneva 2016
The DB11 saw a number of important debuts for Aston Martin. For a start, it was the first Aston to bravely move away from their now defunct design language, showing the world the company’s new direction for the years ahead. Also, it showed the company committing to a turbocharged future away from the delicious naturally aspirated days of old. When you consider everything that Aston was, everything that it is now, and the fact that the DB11 was the car that commenced the transition, you understand just how enormous the unveiling was.
Ford GT - Detroit 2015
The anticipation surrounding the reveal of the new Ford GT was off the charts, predominantly because Ford were attempting to create what has to be the most un-American American car in all of automotive history. Gone was the supercharged V8 of old and in was a new Twin-Turbo V6; out was the stick and 3 pedals and in was a double-clutch gearbox. There was real downforce, with chasms channeled into the body to help manipulate the air in the most grip-producing way possible. It was an American supercar that didn’t rely on brute force to overwhelm the Europeans, and for that, it’s worth a mention.
BMW M5 (E28) - Amsterdam 1985
The car credited with giving birth to the entire super-saloon genre - and it all began amongst the second-hand joint smoke of Amsterdam in 1985. With 286bhp from a 3.5L Straight-6, people today will have no understanding of just how big of a deal the M5 was back in the mid-80’s. The E28 M5 used the same engine as the M1 - a supercar originally designed by Lamborghini to beat the Porsche 911 on the race track. To put that in today’s language, imagine an F90 M5 using the 6.5L 759bhp NA V12 from the Aventador SVJ. Yes - it really was that good.
Pagani Zonda - Geneva 1999
One glorious day in Switzerland, the legend of the Pagani Zonda gasped its first breath. A masterpiece that we seem to appreciate so much more in retrospect, the Zonda is the celebration of what happens when an engineer that Lamborghini refused to listen to is finally allowed to let his wildest dreams be encapsulated in a car. From its origins with 388bhp, to its 800bhp pinnacle, the Zonda lived a long and prosperous life. It is a car with the power to not only keep a person pinned back in their seat, but also create countless car enthusiasts. Little did we know back in 1999 just what a phenomenal success Pagani would be.
Aston Martin One-77 - Paris 2008/Geneva 2009
With Aston making no officially announcement beforehand regarding their One-77 hypercar, anticipation came in the form of press rumours. The confirmation of the car’s existence came at Paris in 2008, with Aston merely teasing a quarter of its aesthetics from behind a Savile Row “suit” - like a lady’s leg around a shower curtain. We had to wait until Geneva 2009 to see the One-77’s production styling, separate to its chassis and engine. If you ask me, the nature of its overall reveal, along with what the One-77 represented, makes it worthy of a place in this list.
Porsche 918 - Geneva 2010/Frankfurt 2013
Debuting in concept form at Geneva 2010, the Porsche 918 outlined the future of the hypercar by utilising a hybrid powertrain. Three years later in Frankfurt, it was revealed in production spec for the first time. Back then, there was something about it that made people question the requirement for hybrid technology in a hypercar. Many people - including Chris Harris - were quoted on record saying they didn’t understand why Porsche had gone to such great lengths to ensure the car was so light, only to fill it up with half a tonne of electric motors. Then, the cynics drove it - and their doubts evaporated. More than any of the holy trinity, the 918 dedicated itself to showcasing where the performance car is heading, and for that, I hold it as the biggest and most significant unveiling of the three.
Mercedes-AMG Project One - Frankfurt 2017
Whether you want to call it the Project One, or simply the One, the sense of anticipation in the air prior to this car’s unveiling was as palpable as water in the ocean. Before the world’s eyes actually got to see the car’s aesthetics, the reason of its significance was already well documented. For this was a hypercar aiming to use a mildly modified engine from Lewis Hamilton’s world championship winning Formula 1 car. Augmented by hybridity, it’s believed - but not yet confirmed - that the Project One will produce well over 1000bhp, and will have a power-to-weight ratio of around 1000bhp-per-tonne.
Jaguar E-Type - Geneva 1961
The story behind the E-Type’s arrival at Geneva has to be one of the greatest in motor show history. The night before the show, the automotive press were awaiting the reveal of something spectacular. Realising the expectation surrounding the E-Type, Jaguar founder William Lyons ordered a second car to be delivered to the motor show. The problem was, the car was in Coventry, and the motor show was in Switzerland. With just 13 hours before the grand unveiling, Jaguar test driving legend Norman Dewis jumped in an E-Type, and drove through the night to the Palexpo. After 750 miles, with just 10 minutes to go until the scheduled reveal, Norman arrived in Geneva. And the legend of what many deem to be the most beautiful car in all of history was born.
Bugatti Chiron - Geneva 2016
Finally, I couldn’t finish this list without mentioning the Bugatti Chiron. For this car - the Veyron’s long awaited and considered-impossible successor - the anticipation-factor reached near infinite levels. It all started the year before when Bugatti revealed the Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse La Finale at the 2015 Geneva show, closing the Veyron’s chapter in the automotive history books. Then, in the September of 2015, Bugatti threw the covers off the Vision Gran Turismo at Frankfurt, outlining a design language that would feature on the Chiron. Then, come the turn of the new year, Bugatti announced they’d unveil the Chiron at Geneva. The moment it arrived, the world went crazy at its power, performance, and quality. And the rest, as they say, was history.
But now I want to ask you guys: what do you think is the biggest motor show unveiling of all time? Let me know in the comments.
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