Top Marques motor show turns on glitz in Monaco with Lykan, Lamborghini, Zenvo and more

Nick Hall takes a look around the big-money Top Marques motor show in Monaco.

Visitors peruse the Top Marques motor show in Monaco. Courtesy Nick Hall
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The Gulf does ostentatious glitz better than anywhere in the world and it’s hard to be impressed by, well, anywhere else if you’ve cruised through Dubai on a Saturday night. Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Rolls-Royces ... But even to our jaded eye, Top Marques Monaco is still a little bit special.

This year’s event, which ran for four days last month, was the 11th edition of a show that was initially conceived to bring together the customer lists of Ferrari and a private bank. It still follows that same ethos and most of the 40,000 visitors are invited guests. General entry tickets for the public cost Dh150 to keep out the sticker collectors, the Prince of Monaco opens the show and Horacio Pagani turns out to talk potential buyers around the Huayra hypercar. Top Marques Monaco is not just another car show – it’s a massive private viewing.

It also has a secret weapon: the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. There’s a live action element to Top Marques Monaco, labelled rather grandly as a “Test Drive” section, although in actual fact it’s more like the world’s most glamorous hitchhiking session.

Insurance issues mean that Zenvo, Maserati, Hamann Motorsport and more are reluctant to hand over the keys to their million-dirham creations. Instead, we’re consigned to the passenger seat of Hamann’s tuned Aventador that earns the nickname “The German Terrorist” from the local constabulary. They know that it’s illegal in this “export” spec; they also know where Hamann’s company man Uli Schwarz is at all times, and in which gear. Most of the time, it’s first.

That’s because the circuit isn’t closed, the ATP Masters tennis is on just down the road and traffic is heavy. There are just a couple of occasions to let loose the dogs of war, a short section through the harbour, which is a match for Dubai when it comes to sheer opulence, and the legendary tunnel.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel hammer through this at flat chat on race day, taking a near-imperceptible right-hand kink at full speed. Today, we can simply drop the windows, Schwarz drops two cogs and flattens the throttle as a liberated Lamborghini V12 seems to shake the tunnel walls. Moments like this make people buy irrational cars.

I bounce from the Hamann to the Zenvo, into the surprisingly popular Tesla. I even get a run in a Noble M600, which seems to have been with us for decades now.

Inside, there are rare treats, too. There’s the Twisted Performance Land Rover Defender, which comes with all the sound-deadening, luxury interior and new suspension that could make it a winner in the UAE. There’s a full arsenal of Mansory cars, including the gaudy Veyron and the Carbonado, the pure-carbon-fibre Aventador that is challenging, rather than beautiful, but comes with wrecking-ball impact.

Elsewhere, there are custom motorcycles with Dh100,000 price tags, a classic glass-roof Lamborghini Espada that first saw service as a Monaco Grand Prix parade car and now bears the prince’s signature on the dashboard – and there are Gulf representatives here, too.

W Motors knows the market for its Lykan Hypersport well and the tax haven that is Monaco is pretty much the only place that can stomach a Dh12-million bill for a car that wasn’t developed by Bugatti.

The companies are drawn to the money like moths to a flame and you could buy anything from a Klassen Mercedes Viano that has been turned into a Dh3m mobile boardroom, complete with bulletproof glass, to a Dh10m Hope diamond from Crystos. Because, well, why not?

Top Marques Monaco, like much of the Gulf, is all about the money. It’s good to know that we don’t have a total monopoly on ostentatious glitz.

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