26 May 2004

Anyone who was worried that the revitalised Birmingham motor show would lack the glamour of the world's top car shows had their fears rebuked. The homegrown car makers had plenty to crow about and Birmingham was buzzing.

There were plenty of candidates for pick of the show but most observers reckon it went to Noble and its new M14 supercar. With a price tag of £74,995, 911 Turbo-style performance and an interior to match an Aston Martin, it's going to upset the supercar establishment. And if Lee Noble gets his way deliveries will start at the end of the year.

Rumours that TVR was going to unveil a mid-£20k budget roadster didn't come to fruition. But there was plenty of excitement surrounding the revised Tuscan and that there will be a convertible version for the first time.

MG Rover was playing its part, too, with the £82,995 MG SV-R the star of its stand, sitting alongside what will eventually become the company's hottest hatch, the ZR-X. Also on display was the new Rover 75 Limo, now sporting the same Audiesque grille as the 75 V8. Quirky aquatic vehicle maker Gibbs also previewed a new model to go alongside the Aquada. Called Hundinga and cheekily similar to the Hummer, it's designed as the ultimate off-road emergency vehicle, designed to match a top-notch mud plugger but travel at up to 35mph on water as well.

They're not world debuts but we'd be amazed if the all-new Land Rover Discovery, due to go on sale in September, and the Aston Martin DB9 weren't drawing huge crowds as they went before the British public for the first time. Jaguar was doing its bit too, with the long wheel-base XJ as the star of its show.

Over at parent company Ford's enormous stand there was the Fiesta ST150 and new hot diesel Mondeo, the ST TDCi ñ in among the Thunderbirds paraphernalia. The Blue Oval has supplied Lady Penelope's car for this summer's big blockbuster movie and while the half-hourly show was an excruciating embarrassment for the assembled hacks, the kids will love it.

It wasn't just British makers hogging the limelight either. The Renault Modus might not quite have had its world debut at Birminghham ñ it was shown for the first time at Madrid last week ñ but this mini-MPV wows with its thoughtful touches. Another practical exhibit was the Daewoo Lacetti estate, further proof that the Korean company is really going places with GM stewardship.

On top of that there were dozens of UK debuts, including the Mini Cabrio, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, new Audi A6, Peugeot 407, Vauxhall Tigra, Smart Forfour, facelifted Toyota Corolla and Maserati Quattroporte. Plus the chance to see this year's hottest concept cars, pick of which are the Hyundai HCD-8, beautiful Roll-Royce 100 EX and the Honda HSC, widely tipped to mirror the next NSX.

Much has been made of BMW and Alfa Romeo not appearing at the show, and Mercedes only offering us the SLR and Maybach. But what with all the exciting new models and the chance to witness Russ Swift's stunt driving with the new Mini Cabrio, visitors able to off-road 4x4s and drift Caterhams, they weren't really missed.

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