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Behind the scenes of the 2016 Paris motor show

A Lamborghini Countach? That's just the start of the hidden gems we found backstage at the 2016 Paris motor show.

Beyond the concept cars and unveilings of some of the world’s most significant new models, the 2016 Paris motor show hid a treasure trove of other interesting vehicles from the past and present.

International motor show press days are usually all about the day-long procession of press conferences, where the world’s motoring media schlep from stand to stand like a slow-moving Under-6 soccer team.

But there’s always plenty more going on, with older concepts and race cars often found on the edges of big stands, smaller car brands, component and service suppliers, along with classic car auction houses and the like hidden around the back of the big halls.  Here are some of the highlights we spotted this year.

This Audi R18 WEC racer came third in the 2016 Le Mans 24hr. This Audi R18 WEC racer came third in the 2016 Le Mans 24hr.

#8 2016 Audi R18 WEC racer

The second-generation Audi Q5 and RS3 sedan were the headline acts on Audi’s stand, but just metres away was the #8 2016 Audi R18 Audi Sport Team Joest World Endurance Championship race car of Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval, Oliver Jarvis that came third in this year’s Le Mans 24hr. These LMP1 cars look impressive in pictures and on television, buy they truly look other-worldly when parked next to regular road cars.

Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb drove this Porsche 919 to victory in the 2016 Le Mans 24hr. Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb drove this Porsche 919 to victory in the 2016 Le Mans 24hr.

2016 Le Mans 24hr-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid WEC racer

Opposite Audi but tucked around the corner at the very edge of the Porsche stand, was the 2016 Le Mans 24hr-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid WEC racer of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb. You’d be doing well to get near any of these LMP1 cars at a race event, but to be able to stand inches from two of them within such close proximity was a real treat.

Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy drove this Porsche 919 to victory in the 2015 Le Mans 24hr. Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy drove this Porsche 919 to victory in the 2015 Le Mans 24hr.

2015 Le Mans 24hr-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid WEC racer

The Paris LMP1 story didn’t end with the Porsche stand either. Out the back of one of the more trade-oriented pavilions was the official Le Mans 24hr stand, with the 2015-winning Porsche 919 of Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy –still resplendent in race grime.

  • The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept proves that beautiful design is just a big red coupe away. The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept proves that beautiful design is just a big red coupe away.
  • The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept proves that beautiful design is just a big red coupe away. The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept proves that beautiful design is just a big red coupe away.
  • The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept proves that beautiful design is just a big red coupe away. The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept proves that beautiful design is just a big red coupe away.

Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept from Pebble Beach

Perched cleverly right next to the café on Mercedes’ giant stand was the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept from Pebble Beach. This is one seriously stunning concept, and an excellent case study for elegant design in general. Just when the luxury car world seems to be shifting towards blingy SUVs with more chrome than Google, Mercedes hits us with the Maybach 6 that somehow balances modern details with art deco poster-like grace. Fingers crossed we’ll see it at Motorclassica in Melbourne next month.

This BMW X5 Security is ready to defend against the forces of evil. This BMW X5 Security is ready to defend against the forces of evil.

BMW X5 Security

The huge BMW stand’s centrepiece was the surprisingly appealing X2 SUV coupe concept, but parked just outside was an armoured X5 similar to the ones used by the AFP to shuffle and protect local dignitaries. These X5 Security models are brilliantly disguised, with even the usual black-framed bulletproof glass hallmark difficult to spot on this example. Someone has done their best to hide flashing lights beneath the kidney grille, but these are actually what twigged our attention in the first place. We just wonder which of BMW’s attending VIPs it was waiting for.

  • Toyota used this C-HR to prove the reliability of its new 1.2-litre turbo engine. Toyota used this C-HR to prove the reliability of its new 1.2-litre turbo engine.
  • Who said Toyotas were boring? The 2017 Yaris WRC looks ready to take on VW, Hyundai and Citroen. Who said Toyotas were boring? The 2017 Yaris WRC looks ready to take on VW, Hyundai and Citroen.

Gazoo Toyota C-HR N24 racer and 2017 Yaris WRC

Seeing the new Yaris World Rally Car on the Toyota stand was no real surprise, but the Gazoo Toyota C-HR production racer from this year’s Nurburgring 24hr added some real cred to the C-HR baby SUV road car’s public debut.

A race track isn’t usually the domain of any small SUV, but completing the world’s most gruelling 24 hour production car race suggests there may actually be some ‘sport’ in this Sport Utility Vehicle. It also says a lot about the durability of the C-HR’s new 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine.

  • The Suzuki Cervo provided some design inspiration for the new Ignis baby SUV. The Suzuki Cervo provided some design inspiration for the new Ignis baby SUV.
  • 2017 Suzuki Ignis on display at last week's Paris motor show. 2017 Suzuki Ignis on display at last week's Paris motor show.

Suzuki Cervo

The new Suzuki Ignis mini-SUV revealed at the show is a surprisingly edgy design, but we’ve always got time for obscure 70s Japanese design inspirations we’ve never heard of, like the Cervo, to appear alongside the fresh metal.

The Ignis’ distinctive C-pillar notches and headlights within its grille are clear genetic links with the Cervo, but the diminutive ancestor proved an excellent reminder of just how small ‘small’ once was.

  • The Peugeot 3008 DKR looks like it could drive up walls. The Peugeot 3008 DKR looks like it could drive up walls.
  • Seb Loeb's 2015 Rallycross 208. Seb Loeb's 2015 Rallycross 208.

Peugeot 3008 DKR racer and 208 Rallycross

The new 3008 mid-size SUV is striking enough as a road car, but the Dakar-spec 3008 desert racer also on show was hidden behind the Peugeot stand alongside the 208 Rallycross machine driven by Sebastian Loeb in 2015. The brand may not be racing in the WRC or at Le Mans these days, but they still make some pretty awesome competition machines.

Dakar-spec Peugeot 205 T16 rally car. Dakar-spec Peugeot 205 T16 rally car.

Peugeot 205 T16 Dakar

Speaking of Dakar Peugeots, hiding among the trade stalls was this 205 T16 desert racer. We’re not sure of its exact provenance, but the Esso signage suggests it’s not the 1987 or 1988 winning car.

  • Fiat Fullback. A thinly disguised Mitsubishi Triton for Italy. Fiat Fullback. A thinly disguised Mitsubishi Triton for Italy.
  • Riva Aquarama speedboat on the Fiat stand. Riva Aquarama speedboat on the Fiat stand.

Fiat

Taking up the most space on the Fiat stand was a gorgeous Riva Aquarama speed boat, brought in to celebrate the new Riva edition of the 500 hatch. We’ve lost count of how many Italian brands have been associated with special editions of the 500, but this is the first seagoing brand for sure.  Another surprise on the edge of the Fiat stand was the Fiat Fullback, a re-nosed and wheeled version of the Mitsubishi Triton ute. Full marks for the name, Fiat (pun unintended).  

  • A flat-bottomed Citroen DS scale model. Citroen built a full-scale version as well, which is on display in the Le Mans museum. Can you identify their purpose? A flat-bottomed Citroen DS scale model. Citroen built a full-scale version as well, which is on display in the Le Mans museum. Can you identify their purpose?
  • Scale models used to refine the shape of the Citroen DS during its development. Scale models used to refine the shape of the Citroen DS during its development.

Citroen DS

Citroen’s highlight was the frankly brilliant-looking C3 hatch, but the DS sub-brand’s dark and enclosed stand was playing their perpetual game of ‘how much more kudos can we squeeze out of the original DS?’ On hand were a bunch of scale models from the ‘Goddess’’ development in the early 50s, but none of the show’s five (by our count) full-scale examples were on the Citroen stand.

2016 Ferrari F12tdf on the Pirelli stand. 2016 Ferrari F12tdf on the Pirelli stand.

Ferrari F12tdf at the Pirelli stand

The Ferrari stand was awash with the LaFerrari Aperta and a bunch of conspicuously-stickered 70th anniversary models, but the Pirelli stand in one of the trade pavilions used an F12tdf as its centrepiece. Just 799 examples are built of the super-F12 that references the styling of the GTO cars from the 60s.  

Aston Martin DB11 on the Bridgestone stand. Aston Martin DB11 on the Bridgestone stand.

Aston Martin DB11 at the Bridgestone stand

Aston Martin may not have had an official presence at the 2016 Paris show, but it was great to see the new DB11 on the Bridgestone stand.

Volkswagen Kombi on the Firestone stand. Volkswagen Kombi on the Firestone stand.

Firestone Kombi

Firestone eschewed the supercars of its rival tyre brands, instead choosing a Firestone-liveried split-window VW Kombi as its centrepiece. Cheers to that.

  • Tojeiro Jaguar Ecurie Ecosse racer. Tojeiro Jaguar Ecurie Ecosse racer.
  • Alpine A110 rally car. Alpine A110 rally car.
  • WTCC Honda Civic Art Car. WTCC Honda Civic Art Car.

Tojeiro Jaguar, Alpine A110 and WTCC Honda Civic

Another stand seeming to sell classic and modern race vehicles (their signage was in French) had what appears to be a genuine Tojeiro Jaguar Ecurie Ecosse racer, a rally-spec Alpine A110 and the World Touring Car Championship Honda Civic that won the 2016 Art Cars prize.

  • Ford GT that could be formerly of Clarkson ownership. Ford GT that could be formerly of Clarkson ownership.
  • Aston DB5 looking a million dollars, and worth it. Aston DB5 looking a million dollars, and worth it.

Exclusive Drive Ford GT and Aston Martin DB5

Exlusive Drive is an exotic car festival held in Le Mans each March, but their stand featured this Ford GT that could have been formerly owned by Jeremy Clarkson and this shaken but not stirred Aston Martin DB5. We were just happy to have a look.

  • Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary edition. Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary edition.
  • Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary edition. Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary edition.
  • 1965 Mk1 Lotus Elan. 1965 Mk1 Lotus Elan.
  • 1964 C1 Chevrolet Corvette. 1964 C1 Chevrolet Corvette.
  • 1931 Cadillac Fleetwood Drophead Coupe once owned by Liberace. 1931 Cadillac Fleetwood Drophead Coupe once owned by Liberace.
  • 1995 Porsche 993 911 RS. 1995 Porsche 993 911 RS.
  • 1988 E30 BMW M3. 1988 E30 BMW M3.
  • A Jollycar reincarnation of the classic Fiat 500 Jolly. We can't imagine it would be easy to register. A Jollycar reincarnation of the classic Fiat 500 Jolly. We can't imagine it would be easy to register.
  • 1965 Citroen DS21 M Cabriolet. 1965 Citroen DS21 M Cabriolet.
  • 1965 Citroen DS21 M Cabriolet. 1965 Citroen DS21 M Cabriolet.
  • 1955 Ford Thunderbird. 1955 Ford Thunderbird.
  • 1994 Porsche 964 911 Speedster. 1994 Porsche 964 911 Speedster.
  • 1976 Alpine 1600 SC. 1976 Alpine 1600 SC.
  • 1983 Renault 5 Turbo 2. 1983 Renault 5 Turbo 2.
  • 1983 Alfa Romeo "Disco Volante" replica. 1983 Alfa Romeo "Disco Volante" replica.
  • 1983 Alfa Romeo "Disco Volante" replica. 1983 Alfa Romeo "Disco Volante" replica.
  • 2002 Renault Clio V6 Phase 1. 2002 Renault Clio V6 Phase 1.
  • 1988 Ferrari Testarossa. 1988 Ferrari Testarossa.

Coys auction house displays

Coys had at least three stands full of classic exotica at the show. We’ll just let you sift through the gallery above. Try not to drool on your keyboard.

Dyson used this Mini Cooper to spruik vacuum cleaners. We weren't complaining. Dyson used this Mini Cooper to spruik vacuum cleaners. We weren't complaining.

Dyson vacuum cleaners Austin Mini Cooper

We’re not sure what link there is between bagless vacuum cleaners and original Minis, but we’re glad they had this very original-looking Austin Mini Cooper (non-S) on their stand.

  • Citroen DS police car. Citroen DS police car.
  • Simca police paddy wagon. Simca police paddy wagon.

French police car club

Proving you can probably find anything at an international motor show if you explore far enough was this little stand up the back of a trade pavilion. A bunch of passionate older chaps from a club whose official name we forgot to note were showing off an early Citroen DS police car and a Simca paddy wagon.  

Do you prefer concepts and new models or back room oddities? Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

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