Zurich Auto Show 2021 – the classics ruled!

After a pause last year because of a certain virus, the Zurich Car Show was back during four days last week. By no means comparable to the far bigger Salon de l’Automobile in Geneva, the Zurich version still attracts auto enthusiasts from in and around the city, of which my son and I were part this year as well. I was very glad he was there to confirm that what I thought didn’t necessarily mean I’ve turned into a grumpy old man, namely that in a world where new cars increasingly look the same, it was nice to see how it was the classics that saved the day, not only for us! Here are a few general thoughts following the visit last Sunday.

1. Luxury goes mainstream: there was a time when a plush leather interior and high-quality plastics were reserved to premium brands, but technical and production developments have made sure that is no longer the case. From relatively budget cars and upwards, you can get basically any car with at least a fake leather dash, and an interior quality that was unthinkable just 5-6 years ago. That’s obviously great, but as I’ve mentioned previously, it does make life much tougher for the traditional luxury brands in terms of positioning.

An MB 560 SEL limo – now that was a backseat worth the name!

2. Luxury isn’t what it once was: along the lines of the above, it’s also noticeable that whereas mainstream brands have mvoed upwards quality-wise, traditional premium brands, at least in some cases, go the other way. The two most striking examples of this were on one hand Mercedes’ all-electric new EQS and on the other, the far more traditional Range Rover. The former has been hailed as a true electrical S-class, but either those who say so never entered its back seat or they’ve never been in an S-class. Hard plastics dominate the interior from the middle of the doors downwards, on the back side of the front seats as well as on the doorsills, and it’s quite all very far from S-class standard. Yes, it does have three huge screens upfront that look pretty cool, but then again it’s not all about screens. What Land Rover has done with the Range Rover is less clear to the eye but there’s no doubt that although looking identical, the last model of this generation (knowing the new generation has just been presented) feels cheaper than the same car from ive years ago.

The Manta makes a strong, electrified return!

3. Electricity is probably here to stay: I realize that’s not a bit revelation and neither is the fact that electrification was everywhere at this year’s show and will no doubt be so going forward as well. The point is more that although I’m a fan of the great potential of fuel cells and synthetic fuels but when you are at an auto show and realize practively every brand shows more than one electrical car, you have to ask yourself is so much has no been invested in electrification that there’s no way back. Most of these cars are moderately interesting, but it was great to see that electrification has now also reached the restomod cars (a concept we’ll come back to in the coming weeks), and the coolest electrical car was hands down…. an Opel Manta!

A perfect Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, one of many classics beauties!

4. The classics saved the day: except for Morgan and modern versions of classic cars that are still in production, the auto show has never been about classic cars. Until this year this, when a full floor had been reserved for classics coming both from Mercedes and Porsche’s own classical restoration departments, but also from some of the large, Swiss classic car garages. It was interesting to see how many people like us seemed to find this the most interesting part of the show, and most of these classics make you wish you had a far larger garage, far more time – and a far bigger wallet!

A perfect Countach in an unusual – but decent! – colour scheme