The Los Angeles motor show has rivalled Detroit for new metal and wild imagination in recent years, though 2006 has proved disappointing on the fresh metal count.
But not wild imagination, however. VW, of all manufacturers, has delivered on that count with its three-wheeler GX3 – the odd wheel is at the rear, you’ll be relieved to hear – a two-seat, roofless, screenless and doorless sportster inspired by Ducati bikes, Lotuses, the Ariel Atom and maybe some other things besides.
Wilder still than its existence – the GX3 looked utterly out of place on the VW stand, even with a Golf GTi lurking nearby – is that the company may well build it. It would be a car for the mild climate of California only, but it could be built in the few thousands, probably in the US, for around £10,000 apiece. The idea is to build some cars specifically for the States, where VW was once dominant with the Beetle, but has often struggled since the bug’s demise.
If you wanted more mad stuff you needed to look to the customisers. Chrysler displayed endless tricked versions of the Charger and 300C, best of which was an ultra-bling but strangely appealing 300C labelled Royale, complete with black and white two-tone paint a la Bugatti of the same name, massive chrome wheels and whitewall tyres. It sounds dire, but looked amazingly cool.
Over at Ford was the Saleen Thunder, a 450bhp twin-screw supercharger version of its best-selling F-150 pick-up truck, and even Mercedes showed a customised R-class with Rolling Stones branding (what is it with German car companies and past-it British supergroups?) that fortunately, was a one-off created as a prize. Soemtimes you wonder whether the Mercedes taste police are skiving.