I am writing this in Bangkok from where I am leading a convoy of Mahindra Adventure cars all the way home – to Guwahati to be precise. This will be the second leg of Mahindra Adventure IMT (India, Myanmar, Thailand) expedition and will cover roughly 3500km through some stunning and hitherto forbidden terrain. But that is another story for another column. But what do you do if you are an incorrigible auto nut and ex-motoring scribe when you got a day to kill before action begins? Visit the local motor show of course. That is exactly what I did and boy, what a splendid day it turned out to be.
For an automotive market of just over 2 million units with 50 per cent share held by pick-up trucks, the Motor Expo didn’t promise much. But what those numbers hide is the fact that the automotive culture is very strong in this part of the world. And this means a vibrant aftermarket where everything from Honda Jazzes to rare NSXs are slammed and slicked, modded pick-up trucks are worshipped and kinky step-throughs are raced. And this fervor and enthusiasm is evident the moment you step into the Impact Arena.
The show was compact unlike the tiring sprawl that our Auto Expo is and that meant spending time with cars and bikes at a leisurely pace – ogling, photographing and even sizing out. There was something for every one – merchandise, accessories and a neat bunch of classic cars even. There was a separate parking for those who came riding their exotic machines and I had to literally pull myself out of this area and enter the real event.
Inside, I was greeted by some Japanese exotics (being a right-hand drive country helps). There were a host of GTRs from different eras, a beautiful NSX with a F1-esque intake scoop and a 350 in pimped-up pink glory. There were at least three variations of custom Jazzes and I spent quality time with them since back home my wife drives one and she has been on my case to do ‘something’ with it. Trust me, a carbonfibre finished hood (Rs 24,000) a splash of graphics (Rs 10,000) and an aftermarket end-can (Rs 8,000) can do wonders on the new Jazz. Slammed mini-vans are an acquired taste and these have its origins in Japan and I could see that they are making big inroads into Thailand. Then there were pick-up trucks of all kinds – raised, riding on 37-inch rubber and adorned with graphics that could make you stand on your tracks.
Sure there were displays of new metal by established car makers too (huge displays by BMW and Mercedes-Benz stood out, the normal suspects from Japan) and what was highly notable was they were not really focusing on eco-battery mobiles. This show catered to what is real, what you can touch and feel and drive off showrooms. And that I thought, made this an honest show. And yes, MG, which is setting up shop in India had a massive display for their SUVs and small cars – nothing awe-inspiring and I thought the Chinese owner was not bothered about the sports car heritage of the MG brand. Heck, they could have called this line up anything they wanted to if they were not keen on the MG lineage.
On the motorcycle front, I got to see the new BMW 310 GS for the first time and I had to try it out for size. This is a very important motorcycle for me – it has got the suspension and looks in a package that I can handle and I could probably end up buying one. The only suspicion is whether the motor is a tad too small for my liking. Also available were two custom takes on the 310 GS and they looked the part too.
Royal Enfield is doing rather well in Thailand and their display included an achingly desirable bobber variation.
I paid my tribute to a glorious Ferrari 308 in the classic car section for a whole minute before splurging some money on Lamborghini merchandise (70 per cent off!!) before reluctantly leaving the show. It is time for me to pack the bags and I will tell you more about my drive soon.