Don Roy
April 1, 2007
Photos By: Courtesy of Manufacturers

Los Angeles Auto Show
Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA
December 1-10, 2006

The first Los Angeles Auto Show was held in 1907 and was smaller than many cruise-in events there these days. A total of 99 cars were gathered at Morley's Skating Rink in the City of Angels for the inaugural show. A lot has happened since then, but possibly the most significant was announced two years ago. At that time, it was decided to move the show date from early January to early December. For 25 years, the LA show had been living in the shadow of Detroit's version, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). With the two shows overlapping, major exhibitors and media were forced to divide their resources, with the inevitable result that the LA show never grew to international status.

"Changing the dates of the LA Auto Show is the single most dramatic development in the show's history," confirmed Andy Fuzesi, general manager of the LA Auto Show. "It's similar to when the Detroit show changed its name and dates, which was the beginning of its rise to international prominence that it now enjoys."

This year's event marked the first December version and the organizers were rewarded for their change of date. For the first time, the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA) placed the show on its global auto show calendar, confirming the LA Auto Show as an 'international' event. Relieved from having to struggle with resources and timing, auto manufacturers responded favorably by lining up 21 world debuts, seven concept car world debuts and 14 North American debuts. This is high currency for the show organizers, as these exclusive launches help bring more paying attendees to the event.

The Italian Job
Ford Motor Company was among the strong supporters, scheduling the introduction of the 2008 Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid at the show. However, without a doubt, the car that stole the show was introduced by Ford Group Vice President of Design and Chief Creative Officer, J Mays, along with Fabrizio Giugiaro, styling director of Italdesign - Giugiaro S.P.A. The Mustang by Giugiaro is a one-of-a-kind concept car, powered by Ford Racing technologies, and used by Italdesign as a design study and styling exercise. "When we saw the new Mustang, we knew two things: It was the best we'd seen since the original, and we had to get our hands on one," explained Fabrizio Giugiaro, styling director of Italdesign - Giugiaro S.P.A. "We still believe it's important to show the automotive world pure exercises in style that interpret key models reflecting the history and image of important brands."

Design aficionados and Mustang trivia collectors will recall that the senior Giugiaro, Giorgetto, created the 1965 Bertone Mustang. That car, which was unmistakably Italian in its interpretation, became the first European-styled car to make its international debut in America following the end of World War II. The offer to have both father and son working on a contemporary version set the hook when Ford was approached with the idea in early 2005. Visually, the concept appears more compact than the production car, due to a reduction of the rear overhang and the signature Giugiaro "trick" of tapering the angles on the car to the limit of its mechanical outlines. The Giugiaros added just over an inch to the front, gradually expanding the width by over 3 inches toward the rear. With its longer hood and the trunk barely visible, the car looks more like a fastback in side view.

Other features of the concept car include: a dramatic instrument panel that sweeps the width of the car; circular gauges that project from behind the steering wheel; dark brown horsehide-covered headrests with horse logo accents; and seat cushions and backrests elaborately upholstered in dark brown mottled horse hides. These were likely the most controversial aspect of the Giugiaro Mustang, with some viewers for and against the use of hides. A single curved glass panel that bridges the windshield and rear window, serves as the concept's roof. Produced by Solutia of Detroit, the panel uses a special construction that filters out 100 percent of UVA rays while providing panoramic views. The concept's dramatic doors are hinged at the base of the upright A-pillar and open vertically at the touch of a button. The tail lights are three separate elements as found on the 1964 Mustang - but reinterpreted into a more dramatic arrow shape that links to the louver panels that replace the rear side windows. The unique 20-inch rims are fitted with 275/40 tires on the front and larger 315/35 tires on the rear.

As those tires suggest, the Mustang by Giugiaro is more than just a tribute to Mustang design. It also is an exclamation of the car's heritage of performance. Cisco Codina, Ford group vice president, North America Marketing, Sales and Service said, of the car, "It's very exciting to have ItalDesign let their imagination run free with Mustang. The car is truly gorgeous and it remains very American."

Ford Racing improved on the standard 300-horsepower V8 engine from the production Mustang GT by adding an intercooled, twin-screw supercharger for the Giugiaro concept. Additional improvements include fuel injectors from the Ford GT and a unique engine calibration. Engine air intake is increased with a larger 95 mm mass air meter and a conical air filter. Exhaust performance was enhanced with new Ford Racing mufflers and an X-pipe. The powertrain upgrades deliver an estimated 500 horsepower, driven by 11 psi of boost from the Ford Racing supercharger. A high-efficiency Ford Racing aluminum radiator provides increased cooling capability to accompany the extra 200 horsepower provided under hood. Under the car, the FR500C-inspired chassis tuning is accomplished with a tailored Ford Racing Handling Pack. This package added new Dynamic-tuned dampers, lowering springs and anti-sway bars. The changes give the car a lower stance while sharpening handling response. The concept car rides approximately 1.5 inches lower than the production Mustang GT.

As future Mustang competitors prepare their cars for production in 2009 or so, the Giugiaro Mustang serves notice that Ford is not sitting content on their current or past Ponycar success. Certainly there were many other concept cars revealed during the LA Auto Show, but absolutely none were talked about as much in the general press as this car. Without a doubt, two guys from Italy stole the show - this time with a North American car.

The Auto Show circuit then moved to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show in early January - check out our coverage from that show in this very issue, the MM Staff hit every corner to bring you all the goods and gossip.