February 1, 2011
The premise is right out of Marketing 101: Sell ‘em the sizzle. And absolutely nothing, at an auto show, spells or sells sizzle like M-A-S-E-R-A-T-I or B-U-G-A-T-T-I. The fact that many auto show goers couldn’t describe a Maserati if their pasta depended on it is beside the point; it’s an unobtainable exotic, and if the St. Louis auto show organizers – partnering with St. Louis Motorsports – are going to bring it, the least we can do is stand in line and take a look.
Make that, to be sure, a long line. On the show’s Friday night, we got in what we thought was the back of the line, only to be told that we weren’t even close to the back. Knowing we’d be returning to the show early on Saturday we punted, but not without a degree of admiration for those that remained steadfast to their goals – to finally figure out what a Maserati looks like.
Saturday in St. Louis dawned crisp and clear, a midwinter break in what has been a sea of snow. The show’s Million Dollar Mile is, of course, weather-protected; the America’s Center roof keeps the elements out, while an exhibit-specific draping keeps – presumably – the riff-raff out. We enter prior to the show’s official opening.
As if waiting for us, is a lineup including Bentley’s Continental convertible and Flying Spur; Aston’s Vantage and 4-door Rapide; Maserati’s Quattroporte and Gran Turismo (roll your ‘r’) convertible; the Lotus Evora in both red and what-was-the-other-color?; two (count ‘em, two) Lamborghini Gallardo Spyders; and Rolls-Royce in the guise of both Phantom Drophead and Ghost. St. Louis Motorsport’s David Humphrey is affable, and doesn’t seem to mind the absence – on our part – of an ascot or drop-dead-gorgeous companion.
Occupying center stage is the King of the Automotive Hill, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport. And if you think the moniker is long, try writing the check: $2,500,000. To the Veyron’s credit, it’s absolutely stunning in the metal, and was the one car immediately recalled by my shuttle driver coming in from the airport. Of course, in mentioning its window sticker and top speed, he called it a Bentley.
Rich Wiese and wife Elizabeth were suitably impressed; in point of fact, “pleasantly surprised by the Veyron.” And abhorred – by now it was lunchtime on Saturday – by the crowd management. Over the weekend the line for the Million Dollar Mile was – apparently – a mile. When asked what he’d take from the show – Rich drives BMW’s M3 during the week and a Ford-powered Spec Racer on weekends – he suggested Veyron. And when asked to choose something with a window under seven figures, he volunteered (with no hesitation) the Aston Martin Rapide. I, for one, am betting Rich and his wife Elizabeth get one.
DAVID BOLDT began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journalism in 1993. David has written for a variety of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.