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Show ponies

It says everything about the ubiquity of such things that the authorities in Baghdad are holding one. What better way to present the image that all's well in this most dangerous of cities than to stick a bunch of cars on stands and charge admission?

The realisation that these things are becoming a bit of a yawn has not been lost on the organisers of the British International Motor Show, which has kicked off in London's Docklands.

It started with the most memorable pre-launch stunt in recent history, Opel's new Insignia being lowered by a massive crane from atop Tower Bridge. Cute as these things go, but counting for nothing if the show lacked stars and substance.

Unlike some other international motor shows, the Brit edition has plenty of both. There are 600 cars running the alphabetical gamut from Alfa Romeo to ZEV (that'd be Zero Emission Vehicles) worth some $100 million.

While Britain's biggest consumer exhibition comes close to being all things to all people, it's the 23 models making their debut that is the chief draw for the anticipated 550,000 punters.

The show-stealer is undoubtedly the Lotus Evora. The Norfolk marque's first all-new model in 12 years is a mid-engined 2+2 V6, intended to give Porsche something to think about, especially if _ as anticipated _ it combines the brand's trademark lightweight build (just 1350kg) with razor handling.

While the Evora represents a significant step forward for Lotus, Jaguar has looked to the past for the XK60, a captivating special edition of the current production coupe to commemorate the unveiling of legendary XK120 sporters in 1948.

Powered by the atmo version of the 4.2 V8, the Jag cops enhancements such as 20-inch Senta alloy wheels, alloy gear knob and selector-gate surround, new front spoiler, chrome-finished side vents and special tailpipe finishers. Which is nice.

Performance with an eco-conscience? Why not? Mercedes-Benz is showcasing its BlueTEC version of the stylish CLS. Reassuringly for the rev-hungry, there's a Brabus-built Bullit Black Arrow, their V12-engined C-Class.

The show's green tinge is evident in the Lightning Car Company's Lightning, a 100 per cent electric GT sports car, and Allied Vehicles' E7 electric taxi, whose lithium-ion batteries imbue the seven-seater with a range of 160km and top speed of 100km/h. Other green gambits include the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic with carbon dioxide emissions of less than 100g/km.

While the British blowout is not spoken of in the same breath as the biennial Frankfurt or Paris salons, the lesson for organisers of Australian events are salient.

Not least of these is making `events' singular _ just as we have too much government for 21 million people, there are too many annual shows. Oh, and staging it in a venue that's spacious and accessible isn't a bad idea, either.