Volkswagen, Porsche, and Land Rover unveiled important new cars during the 2019 Frankfurt motor show.
These big-name debuts made headlines but they weren’t the only interesting cars displayed in the enormous convention centre. We’ve weaved our way through the press conferences to scope out the oddities and rarities of the Frankfurt show. Let's take a look:
San Yuan prototype
The Taiwanese prototyping company San Yuan developed and built this two-door coupe-crossover concept to showcase what it’s capable of. It’s not headed for production, and there’s little indication that it’s capable of moving under its own power, but its Hot Wheels-like design makes it more interesting to look at than many of the generic crossovers on the market.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class (first generation)
Presented at the 1997edition of the Frankfurt motor show, the first-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class (W168) made an unexpected comeback in 2019 as a safety demonstrator. It served as a warning to the new cars introduced during the event: in 2041, you might be upside down on a rollover simulator.
Volkswagen Bus press shuttle
The Frankfurt auto show is so big that carmakers deploy shuttles to transport journalists and executives from building to building. Most are cutting-edge electric cars, like the Audi E-Tron and the Mercedes-Benz EQC, so this psychedelic Volkswagen Bus stood out from the crowd. It promoted the part of the show dedicated to classic cars and the industry that keeps them on the road.
1959 Skoda Octavia
Skoda stood out as one of the only major automakers that brought a car from its collection of classics to the Frankfurt motor show. This better-than-new Octavia was built in 1959, the year production began. The model finally retired in 1971 but the nameplate returned in 1996 and it has been part of the Czech company’s range ever since. We applaud Skoda for celebrating the Octavia’s 60th birthday.
Evum Motors aCar
Rarely has a car worn such a fitting name. The Evum Motors aCar is, indeed, a car. More specifically, it’s a small, electric four-wheel drive truck developed for farm work and recreational use. It has a 43mph top speed so it won’t cause Ford to lose sleep as it develops the first electric F-150.
1956 Victoria Spatz
Bavarian Autowerke positioned the Victoria Spatz at the unlikely intersection of two trends that were prevalent during the 1950s. It’s a microcar, and it was developed to compete with the likes of the BMW Isetta and the Messerschmitt KR200. It’s also a two-seater roadster made with glassfibre, much like the considerably bigger and more powerful Chevrolet Corvette.
The Spatz offered 10.2 horsepower when it went on sale in 1956 but that figure had grown to 14 hp by the time production ended in 1958. 1588 units were sold until the microcar bubble burst and the sector collapsed.
Made in Holland, the Amphicruiser looks and sounds like a cross between a Toyota Land Cruiser and a boat. That’s exactly what it is. It picked up where the Amphicar left off by being certified for road and water use in Germany. It’s based on the Land Cruiser but it’s available with an electric powertrain.
Electric Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen turned to a third-party company named Retro Kaefer to include the original Beetle in its electrification strategy. Starting with an original shell, Retro Kaefer yanks the air-cooled, flat-four engine and replaces it with an electric motor that draws power from a battery pack installed under the floor.
Sourced from the series-produced e-up, the powertrain makes the Beetle much quicker than stock but the battery requires the fitment of body extensions that will rub purists the wrong way.
Wooden Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster
Replacing metal parts with wood components is a great way to prevent a Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster from rusting but we’re not sure it has a great effect on performance. This amazingly accurate replica of the emblematic Mercedes convertible was offered to show-goers with little explanation and listed at 30,000 euros (about £27,000), a fraction of the cost of a metal-bodied example in running condition.
Mini car hauler
Sir Alex Issigonis likely never imagined his brilliant creation as a six-wheeled car hauler with a Fiat-Abarth 500 on its back, yet there it is. Eagle-eyed Mini spotters will point out it’s a cocktail of various parts from the car’s unusually long production run.
1974 Bitter CD
Racing driver Erich Bitter put his last name on Germany’s answer to the De Tomaso Pantera in 1973. The Bitter CD was penned with the help of Opel’s in-house design team and its body was made by Stuttgart-based coachbuilder Baur. Bitter’s close ties with Opel gave him easy access to a 5.4-litre V8 engine sourced from the Diplomat B. 395 examples of the Bitter CD were made over a six-year period.
Opel Insignia Grand Sport Edition Bitter
Bitter no longer makes cars, but it still tunes them. It notably offers a more upmarket version of the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia. Available with four different engines ranging from 165 to 210bhp, Bitter’s take on the model adds a redesigned interior and a full body kit that give it a sportier look.
Switzerland-based Microlino proudly claims its Isetta-inspired electric model is not a car. It’s the ideal mix between a motorcar and a bike, which also describes what BMW attempted to achieve by offering the original Isetta during the 1950s. Its top speed is limited to about 55mph and it’s capable of covering up to 124 miles on a single charge. It’s priced at 12,000 euros (nearly £11,000) so it’s positioned in the same price bracket as actual cars like the Fiat Panda.
Lamborghini hot rod tractor
Lamborghini tractors and hot rods exist on two opposite sides of the vehicle spectrum. The former is normally found in fields in Italy while the latter typically roams the streets of America. These two unlikely partners came together in Frankfurt to form a hot-rodded steampunk tractor. The end result is surprisingly attractive, though it looks like it’s happier racing down a drag strip than making bales of hay.
German motorhome manufacturer Vario Mobil found a big enough empty corner at the convention center to display two of its models. They’re big enough to feature a built-in garage that fits a roadster like the Mercedes-AMG GT. We’ve seen flats in London with less living space than a Vario Mobil. Customers are encouraged to work directly with the company to configure every aspect of their house on wheels, from the finish to the layout.
Rolls-Royce doesn’t yet make motorhomes, but this is close.
1987 Opel Corsa GT
The Corsa GT took Vauxhall sister company Opel into the entry-level hot hatch class when it made its debut in 1985. Erroneously labelled a 1982 model, this 1987 example benefitted from a full restoration between January and August 2019 so it looks like it rolled out of the factory days before the Frankfurt show. It’s the cleanest GT in existence; most were raced, tuned or otherwise driven into the ground.
The GT used a 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine that made 69bhp. It spun the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission and it could reach 105mph, a figure that motorists in the standard Corsa could only dream of.
Mini 60 Years Classic
The Mini turned 60 in 2019 so we expected to see an impressive display of classic models highlighting its long production run. Frankfurt evidently wasn’t the right place to celebrate. The only vintage model brought by the firm was this Harlequin-like example hidden on the top floor of its display.
German engineering firm EDAG built this six-wheeled, 22nd century-esque prototype to showcase its expertise. It’s presumably electric and the armada of cameras, sensors and radars suggests it’s capable of driving itself – at least in theory. It looks like it was beamed to Frankfurt from a Hollywood studio.
It’s a fully autonomous, networked robotic vehicle that, with various trailer and backpack modules, is designed to deliver goods around urban areas. Your future servant? Maybe.
For decades, Hongqi (a name that translates to red flag in Chinese) made the limousines used by Chinese heads of states. Global demand for big limousines is waning so the company aims to achieve relevance by reinventing itself as a purveyor of electrified luxury cars. The low-slung S9 concept shatters tradition with an electric powertrain and a design that, unlike most of its previous models, does not borrow a single styling cue from members of the Chrysler portfolio.
The S9’s powertrain consists of a mid-mounted, 4.0-litre V8 engine that works with an electric motor to deliver 1400bhp. We’re told this Chinese-built Chiron alternative will tentatively reach showrooms in 2020.
Though it’s a little BMW X7-like, Hongqi’s E115 concept stands a much better chance of letting the firm elbow its way onto the global stage than the S9. It seemingly ticks all of the boxes that define the SUV class in 2019, though technical specifications remain under wraps for the time being.
Herr Klopp is the German manager of English premier league football club Liverpool. Wildly popular with Liverpool fans and widely admired further afield for his humour as well as his management skills, he’s also a brand ambassador for Opel and its British sister firm Vauxhall – hence his presence in a Corsa at the show.
ZF’s glass cars
Germany’s ZF is one of the world leaders in car transmission systems. To properly highlight its role under the skin of so many modern cars it displayed this exquisite model at Frankfurt.
ZF fully expects to play a part in the automotive future – even in a world of shared mobility like in this lovely sculpture.
Sekisui Alveo’s car
You may not have heard of Sekisui Alveo, but it’s the European arm of Japanese chemicals and plastics giant Sekisui. So we can guess what this convertible supercar is made of. We don’t not like it.
Bosch IoT Shuttle
Germany’s Bosch is perhaps best known to the non-car world for its washing machines and other kitchen appliances. But it’s a massive player in automotive, supplying car makers with parts and systems to build their cars. This IoT (Internet of Things) Shuttle outlays a vision of autonomous urban transport.