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Show stoppers

The Royal Adelaide Showground at Wayville has been teeming with people wanting to get a glimpse of their dream cars and those researching the vehicles they have a genuine chance to own.

Motor show director Ian Digby says the crowds are up by about 10 per cent on 2005 figures and could continue towards a record level – testament to the interest in the auto industry of the South Australian public. "If we were to sustain the increase over five days, we would get a record," he says. "Over 65 per cent of our crowd comes in on the weekend and, even with the weather, the response has been good – and the weather forecast is improving."

The crowds have been given plenty of treats, among the most significant for the SA automotive industry being the birth of a new, small-scale, local car maker.

SC Cars, of Mt Barker, had to work night and day in the fortnight leading up to the Adelaide Motor Show in order to get its first prototype MGB-bodied, V8-powered sports car on the stand.

But SC boss Graham Crowley says the hard work has definitely proved worthwhile.

"The interest has been very strong. We've got around a dozen quality leads and one who's pretty close to buying one," he says.

"They love the British styling and the Japanese running gear. It's all been positive – we couldn't have asked for a better start."

Mr Crowley hopes about 12 of the specialised MGBs will be built in the small car factory at Mt Barker each year and he has a vision that, one day, a single make race series will be held using the cars.

Priced from about $65,000, the car has the body of a 1970 MGB MkII, with a four-litre, 32-valve DOHC Toyota/Lexus V8 engine as its heart.

It produces a massive – considering its weight of just 881kg – 260kW of power and can do a 0-400m drag in 10.5 seconds, while having an estimated top speed of 250km/h. Mr Crowley says the SC will rival Ferrari's 430 and motor show goers have at least been able to make that judgment based on appearance alone and not performance, with a F430 on show at Wayville.

Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the aristocratic Bentley Azure were always going to be the "drool-producers" of the show – the cars which prompt longing stares and conversations which start with "When I win the lottery".

The new Bentley Azure is one of the most expensive cars – at a starting price of $649,000 – but Bentley sales have improved in recent years.

Bentley PR manager for South-East Asia and Australasia James Barclay says the Azure is the company's new pinnacle product.

"We're developing the products we want, including the new Azure – which is a pinnacle product – to give us a complete range," he says.

Mr Barclay says the Bentley brand had benefited greatly from investment by the VW Group and it was showing in the results: "Globally we did 1017 cars in 2003, in 2004 we went to around 6500 cars with the GT and some Arnage, last year we went to around 8500 cars, it's positive times for us."

The car is entirely hand-built – each one takes more than 600 man hours to build, including the 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8, which bears the name of the engine technician who assembled it.

But it has been some Australian-made products that have been capturing the most attention, namely the FJ-inspired Holden hot rod, the Efijy, and the backyard-built super sports car, the Redback Spyder. Holden stand manager Ray Purrington says: "It's been great, like it's been since we launched the Efijy in Sydney. There must have been thousands of pics taken of this car by now. It's a car that people respond to."

The Efijy is expected to carry the Australian flag in Motor City, Detroit, later this year when it takes part in the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise, America's largest annual celebration of hot rods and custom cars.

A Redback Spyder is already in the U.S. where its maker, Nick Tomkinson, is hopeful the concept will get the support needed to produce the car in small numbers for the public to buy at a cool $250,000.

"It's been overwhelmingly positive. Adelaide has embraced the car. The crowd really knows their stuff. We've got one guy really interested in buying one. It's all good," he says.

CarsGuide team
The CarsGuide team of car experts is made up of a diverse array of journalists, with combined experience that well and truly exceeds a century.  We live with the cars we test, weaving them into our family lives to highlight any strenghts and weaknesses to help you make the right choice when buying a new or used car.  We also specialise in adventure to help you get off the beaten track and into the great outdoors, along with utes and commercial vehicles, performance cars and motorsport to cover all ends of the automotive spectrum.  Tune in for our weekly podcast to get to know the personalities behind the team, or click on a byline to learn more about any of our authors. 
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