Not many car shows, let alone geographic locations, ring true to their "ultimate luxury" prowess like the Top Marques show held in Monaco every year. What's viewed by most of the living planet earth as the wealthy people's playground, Monaco is a principality that still holds its royalty in high regard as well as its inhabitants. Take one look at the main harbor and yachts larger than many middle class family homes fill the docks and overshadow local cafes.
Our hosts for the weekend, Vredestein Premium Styling, showed us around a world that many dream about and few actually live out. We hear that's a mere 1% of the world population that does enjoy the lavish environment Monaco has to offer. Nonetheless, it never hurts to pay a visit to the city where legends are born and dreams are coveted.
During our stay we attended opening day of the 10th annual Top Marques Monaco luxury showcase. The show not only features some of the best and most exclusive luxury vehicles on the planet but also hosts displays of yacht companies, watch makers, fashion boutiques, artists and even new technology gadgets that every millionaire should add to their collection.
While The Grimladi Forum is a modest size in comparison to many trade shows we are accustomed to, err... SEMA, it certainly doesn't lack in presence. While each manufacturer displays anywhere between one to five cars only, you can loose a sense of scale when entering the jam packed room. The glass ceiling and multitude of showroom lights gleam across exotic brands like Ferrari, McLaren, Pagani and Koenigsegg, all wanting for the attention of the media and prospective buyers. Each brand brings special edition models, exclusive packages, new product and even bigger price tags. Seems like a fitting place to unveil your new next generation supercar. We found several on display all vying to steal the spot light from halo hypercar the Veyron.
Tuning companies also showcase their latest line up additions including Hamann, Mansory, TechArt and ABT, each displaying some of their best work to date. Mansory decided to bring out their big guns with their exclusive carbon fiber aero dynamic kit for Ferrari's new F12 Berlinetta. While the look of surgical white and carbon fiber is always a winning combination in our book, Manory's F12 takes their carbon concept and pushes it into a realm of next gen storm trooper. Combine its new found looks with a performance package that boost the potent factory 740hp V12 engine to 775 with an ECU flash and free flowing exhaust system and you have a punch Darth Vader could be jealous of.
ABT develops some of the best tuning prodcuts for V.A.G. models the world has ever seen. While some we may never see here in the States, there are some we can certainly drool over. Take for example their RS5-R and R8 GTR models. Each is equipped with a hyper developed aerodymaic body kit, including a Le Mans inspired plexi-glass lightweight rear window panel. Not to mention a slight message in the engine compartment and exhaust system to get each cars respectable engine singing the right tune. The R8 GTR will be produced in a limited 25 examples and comes with a boost from 525hp to 620hp and weighs a 220 lb. lighter than showroom floor models.
Hamann unveiled a few new things during the show, including their chrome painted, not wrapped, M6 Coupe fitted not only with its unique widebody aero-kit but also its new Vredestein Ultrac Vorti R co-branded tires. Vredestien is dipping its toes into the waters of Ultra High Performance (UHP) tire pool. Their partnership with legendary design house, Giugiaro, and now with Hamann helps push the companies Premium Styling brand into the competitive world of luxury performance.
Koenigsegg took the opportunity to let their Agera S Hundra gleam in the limelight. Its meticulously hand laid body panels and even carbon wheels accented by gold engine turned graphics helped set a new standard in exotic car details and refinement. This had us drooling and ogling nearly all day. We kept begging for a ride but seeing as we were in a group of young adolescence asking for the same thing our chances were pretty slim.
Finding some time to pull our selves away from the lavish vehicles we have come to idolize we strolled through the halls of other exhibits during Top Marques. Everything from champagne bottle made from carbon fiber to iPod speaker docks fabricated from racing exhaust headers, there was something for everybody with money to burn.
Adding to the list of things you must own in this lifetime was a jet powered surfboard from the good people at JetSurf. Yes, a jet powered surfboard capable of speeds around 30mph on water while standing on it. The use of a two-stroke 86cc or 100cc engine can rocket you across any lake or body of water for nearly two hours.
Not too far from the JetSurf display was a hydraulic simulator company that promoted further investigation. What we discovered and as many of our oversea counterparts have already known is that Ellip6 is a simulator paradise in France that doubles as a restaurant and lounge while awaiting your turn at their hyper-advanced hydraulic simulators. You can experience racing in the F1 arena, a rally stage or even some combat helicopter missions.
Nearing the end of our day at Top Marques we were treated to a memorable experience. A drive in the new Hamann SLS Hawk Roadster along the famed Formula 1 race course. With a some luck from the racing gods we were granted a few wonderful sprints through the tunnel, around La Rasscase and down the front straight. Grabbing the attention of every pedestrian within earshot of the unique Hamann exhaust system.
Top Marques is a show that many dream about attending but would have to find themselves in a situation where telling your boss "I'm going to Monaco for a few days" would make perfect sense. While you search for your excuse we can only hope your said boss has a bit of the car enthusiast gene somewhere in his DNA. Or you can do what we did and said damn the consequences, this is Monaco and it's the one destination on the planet where friend will envy you but also adore you for taking the opportunity. Witnessing fairy tale luxury and opulence at its best is something left best told by the Brother's Grimm. For us, a few well placed supercars, some wine and sprint along one of the most historic street courses in the world put us in the mood for champagne and gasoline any time... just not together of course.