Technically speaking, most sunny weekends in Vancouver are already a supercar show. The place is full of Ferraris, loaded with Lamborghinis, roiling with Rolls-Royces. In a glittering city of glass surfaces, everyone’s conscious of their reflections, and you never look better than when draped in carbon fibre and a howling V-12.
However, every fall for the past nine years, the Luxury and Supercar Weekend takes the legwork out of supercar spotting in this city. Incorporating an auction, displays from specialist garage builders, luxury product booths, a champagne garden and even a fashion show, it’s a place to both see and be seen.
This year, the clouds loom, both metaphorical and physical. Early September usually carries a trailing edge of summer on the West Coast, particularly poignant to those students now trudging back to school. This year's been quite different, like someone flipped a switch from “drought” to “deluge.”
The local market’s taken a bit of a soaking too, with perpetually skyrocketing real estate values having a breather and levelling off for a while. Further, the provincial NDP government has taken aim squarely at the luxury market by increasing the provincial sales tax from 10 to 15 per cent for vehicles costing $125,000-$149,000. Spend over $150,000 and the tax goes to 20 per cent, combining with GST for a total of 25 per cent.
With base price on something like a Lamborghini Huracan set at $223,500, that’s $55,875 in tax – eyebrow-raising enough to have monocles dropping into champagne glasses.
Even so, neither the weather nor financial fears inhibited the crowds from pouring into this year’s show. Everywhere, nattily-dressed people strutted through the gardens to admire the gleaming metalwork. If anything, perhaps, the pressure on the market has just squeezed the cream to the top.
“I’m not chasing used cars,” said Robert Rons, sales manager at Lamborghini Vancouver, “as we can currently get enough new product. But with the really special stuff, demand is still outstripping supply. We have nine allocations for the new Aventador SVJ, but double the number of people wanting to order it.”
Rons shrugged, standing in front of the new $3-million Bugatti Chiron, of which three are bound for Western Canada. “The tax hurt the market,” he said, “but we’re all only here for a short time. You can’t take it with you.”
Likewise, manufacturers are taking a look around at the global luxury market, and realizing that staying competitive means capturing some of that rarefied air. In previous years, BMW dealers have participated in the show, but this year the Bavarians came with full corporate backing.
BMW has pulled out of the Detroit auto show, along with Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Here, however, they saw fit to bring the not-yet-revealed cabriolet version of the new 8-series. Showgoers were led into a specially made booth – no cameras allowed – and had an opportunity to see and touch a car that BMW hasn’t brought to market yet.
It’s clearly smart marketing, as one couple left the showing and immediately went to look over the BMW X5 on display. Manufacturers have long been using events like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to debut concept cars, and we may soon see a shift in the industry away from major traditional car shows to more intimate events like this one.
Speaking of Pebble Beach, the most expensive car here was fresh from Monterey Car Week. Valued at somewhere near $30-million, this 1948 Porsche 356 is the very first Porsche to ever wear the badge. It’s unusual for something this rare to be displayed in Canada (Porsche showed the 356 in Toronto), but the Luxury and Supercar show could guarantee enough fan presence to convince Porsche to bring the car here.
The enthusiasm’s down to Craig Stowe, president and founder of the show. He also runs the Porsche Rally, an event that similarly pairs the joy of driving with the finer things in life. Along with the various supercars on display here, Stowe’s also assembled a platoon of Land Rovers to celebrate the marque’s 70th anniversary, and a squadron of air-cooled Porsches that’s like a little slice of California’s Luftgekuhlt show.
“It’s finding what people are passionate about,” Stowe said.
Show-goers certainly had plenty to enjoy between the Bentleys and the Rolls-Royces. A bartender shook up cocktails from a small-batch gin company. Freshly shucked oysters could be had on the half-shell. And, should your tastes be more beer than champagne, Steamworks brewing brought along their vintage Ford Econoline, which dispenses Pilsner right out the side.
You don’t really need to be in the supercar market to enjoy the event. Christian Babineau currently daily-drives a Golf R, but saw plenty to enjoy out on the lawns.
“The very first Porsche - where else would you see something like that outside of a museum?” Babineau said. “And I love the Huayra there. Just the amount of artistry that goes into making a Pagani is amazing.”
The Italian 750hp carbon-fibre confection on display here happened to be the rarer version specially created for Benny Caiola, one of Horatio Pagani’s earliest patrons. Officially, it’s the Pagani Huayra BC.
How perfectly fitting for a province that can’t seem to get enough of the supercar lifestyle.