Concept Cars the Stars of L.A. Auto Show

ByNick Hazell

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 30, 2006 — -- There were Ferraris, Lamborghinis and even a million dollar Bugatti, but no one really seemed to care.

At the L.A. Auto Show, all eyes were on Ford.

Hundreds of reporters and camera crews gathered around the low-slung shape that was hidden under a dour gray sheet. Just before noon, the sheet was stripped off and the grayness disappeared to be replaced by the incandescent orange glow of the Giugiaro Mustang.

"It's a Mustang in a designer suit," said Italian auto designer Fabrizio Giugiaro of the supercharged concept car. "We wanted it to be trendy but not forget that the Mustang is an American icon."

That being said, the moment the scissor doors began their motorized ascent to reveal a brown and white cowhide interior it was obvious that Giugiaro's Italian influence could be felt all over the car. Two years in the making ensured that this wasn't going to be any old Ford.

Not everyone was impressed, though.

"I was expecting more than a Mustang, given all the attention," said one motoring reporter who preferred not to be identified. "When the sheet came off, I'm sure I could detect a bit of a groan from the crowd."

Fans of the Batmobile most likely wouldn't be groaning if they came within the near vicinity of the Mercedes stand. Standing in all its space-aged pride is the Maybach Excelero Vision.

At 19 feet long and weighing just under 6,000 pounds, it somehow manages to have room for just two passengers. They can console themselves with the fact they are riding in vehicle that is not only capable of 218 mph, but also redefines the term exclusive.

"It's a one off and this is the only example in the world," Bob Thormas of Maybach, the most posh division of Mercedes, told ABC News. "We can't tell you how much it cost and it is certainly not for sale."

Toyota joined in the torment by presenting the Tundra TDR, a glitzy pickup that yet again no one could actually buy. Concept cars are a main attraction at auto shows, and their unattainability does nothing to diminish their popularity.

"Concept cars give people ideas and show them how their car could look with the right modifications," vehicle specialist Trevor Richardson said. "You only have to look at the crowds around them to see the public responds to them."

Thankully, some concepts become regular production models. Dodge revealed a modern-day version of the classic 1970 Challenger. It is powered by a Hemi V8 and expected to be available to U.S. customers as early as next year.

"The word is that Dodge is going to make this one," said Phil White of "At around $29,000, it should be quite some car."

One notable absentee from the show was the Aston Martin DB9 S, which features in a spectacular crash scene in the latest Bond flick, "Casino Royale."

Budding James Bonds will be disappointed to learn that Aston has "no plans" to add to the five examples built especially for the movie. The closest they can get is the regular DB9. However, since the car has a list price of around $165,000, living the life of a Bond villain maybe the only way to afford one.

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