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When it rains in Monaco it rains big time and this is what it did on day one of the 2009 Top Marques Show. No wonder the streets are so nice and clean. Next time we’ll bring our own umbrella though. If you can find a shop that sells one be prepared for a nasty shock to the wallet. Let’s just say that walking out of the store we thought we had just bought a piece of the Principality. Anyway you don’t go to Monaco looking for bargains and even in the rain the place looks damn fine.

So on to the show. The Top Marques Show is not your typical car show. It is not mainstream so you won’t find the latest family hatch from Volksfiafortoyoseat. It is a small, compact event held in the splendid Grimaldi Forum that perches on the edge of the Med – it is probably the nicest place in the world to run a car show.

At this show you will find the different, the extreme and of the course the expensive. This is a show for the financially well-endowed. But it is accessible. No queues, barriers or special invites. All the cars are touchable and unlocked. You can even take a test drive in a Gumpert Apollo or a Koenigsegg for goodness sake!

The representatives on the stands were helpful and friendly in the main and on many occasion we were shaking hands with the actual owner of the company. How often does that happen at Excel or NEC? This is a show for the extraordinary.

Yes, you could see the latest from Bentley, Porsche, Aston, Jaguar and Lamborghini but they looked a tad ordinary compared to the likes of Fisker for example.

Now this is a company that knows how to design a good-looking car. The Fisker Karma is truly beautiful and little wonder since Mr Henrik Fisker’s design portfolio includes the likes of the AM Vantage, DB9 and BMW Z8. There were two Fiskers on show. A silver four-door saloon and a metallic red coupe cabriolet. Hybrids and the inevitable ‘green’ theme were ever-present at the show and the Fisker cars are leading the way with their ‘Q-Drive’ technology.

RUF took the green theme quite literally by painting a 911 Targa in well, green. But it was a horrible, flat green – a sort of plant-like green that hammered home that this Porker with its hybrid technology made it er, green.  Oh and they’ve called it the ‘Greenster’.

On the subject of colour it seems that black is the new black. Matt or Satin black that is. Mansory were showing off a Bentley GT that looked like it would shoot you if you stared at it too long. Very mean and moody. Gemballa joined the black suits with their Avalanche GTR Roadster and their upcoming Cayenne-based Tornado GTR with 700 bhp! Just to show that they can paint cars in another colour their Mirage GT looked resplendent in a nice satin-finish white.

Carbon-fibre was much in evidence too. The totally insane Pagani Zonda R looked stunning dressed in CF and strangely it looked like a different car from the ‘normal’ painted versions. Joining the ‘Fast and Furious’ corner was the KTM X-Bow, Gumpert Apollo Speed and PPI R8 Razor. All offering large performance and large price tags.

Met a nice chap called Ronn Maxwell who just happened to own a company called the Ronn Motor Company. He had come all the way over from Austin, Texas to show off his carbon-fibre Scorpion which is a 200mph hydrogen-assisted supercar capable of 40 miles per gallon. The powerplant is a 3.5 litre V6 which in twin-turbo form can deliver up to 450bhp. Almost seems to good to be true but Ronn takes his eco-mission very seriously. The car’s styling makes you stop in your tracks and if this is the alternative to plug-in electric transport, then bring on the Scorpion!  

Bespoke is what you want if you have money these days. Why buy a standard factory offering and suffer those plasticky air vents for instance? How about having them forged out of aluminium? You could even add some diamonds to the instrument bezels. Have your girlfriend’s name embroidered onto the headrests. You name it you can get it – at a price of course.

Prindiville is a UK-based company that can design anything out of almost anything. Whether it be a custom sports exhaust, carbon-fibre re-panelling or a snazzy new interior these boys can create it for you. Their stand featured a modifed Murcielago as a showcase for some of their creativity – the car reminded us of the Reventon. The quality of their workmanship is truly impressive and according to owner Alex Prindiville the company is a blend of cutting-edge design resources and ‘men in brown overalls’. Nice to know that some companies are keeping traditional skills alive in this industry. 

On the subject of modifed cars and looking a little out of place was the Z Cars Mini. The car on display featured a Civic Type R engine mounted in the rear offering 280 bhp and more laughs than room full of Dame Ednas. The video on the stand showed the cheeky Mini reeling in some pretty exotic stuff on the track and Z-Cars can even produce a version that will do 0-60 in 2.6 seconds. Yikes! Costing from around £30k upwards these Minis were undoubtedly the performance bargain of the show!  

And so came the time to leave but before doing so we had a chance to take a Wiesmann MF3 for a spin around Monaco.  They just handed over the keys, waved goodbye and we went looking for tunnels (which is actually quite easy in Monaco). The MF3 is fitted with the six-cylinder M3 Evo engine and it sounds delicious. Their designs seem to echo those British sportscars of the 60’s and you couldn’t help feeling that this car was a modern-day Austin Healey both in looks and character. The good news is that the company is now able to produce right-hand-drive versions and at the show was an right-handed example of the MF4 GT. The build-quality of these cars is exemplary and they deserve to do well.

The sun finally shone in Monaco and sadly we returned to the rain back in Blighty. The Top Marques show is inspiring and offers a real antidote to all those who fear for the end of cars for the enthusiast. We will be back next year for sure but this time we’ll pack a brolly just in case.

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