Follow the money
Judging by the Australian International Motor Show (where I was from 7ish to 9ish on Thor's Day), it's no longer adequate for a manufacturer's stand to feature new models of the automotive and female varieties, video walls and technical cutaways, a concept car (eg. the Forester S-Edition) to whet the collective appetite, and maybe posters or balloons for the kiddies.
To compete with the rest of the vroom-vroom world now requires a "green" machine (such as the VW Golf BlueMotion, which can do Sydney to Adelaide on a single tank) and some kind of interactive entertainment. Ford had virtual cricket, human towing, slot cars and a 3D theatre. Other stands were equipped with Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii consoles offering racing (Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Toyota), soccer (Hyundai) and tennis (Kia, MyPlates?).
While it was encouraging to see more big companies looking forward - via 100% electric engines (the Nissan LEAF), solar roof panels, heat-absorbing windows, power-generating front fans and recyclable materials - to an environmentally sustainable future, there were also a couple of nostalgic glances o'er the shoulder. Mitsubishi dusted off a 1981 GH Sigma GLX Peter Wherrett Special (DQ woulda been drooling), while Isuzu celebrated its 1963-72 Wasp utility.
For me, the star of the show, outshining the stealthy matt-black Mercedes-Benz Gullwing SLS AMG; the one-of-a-kind Porsche 911 GT1 (street version); and the XKR Special Edition from my fave marque, Jaguar; was the Lexus LFA, which is surely the nearest we've gotten to the Platonic form of the sports car.
Inevitably, not everyone was there for the autos. There were a group of blokes with gym bags (straight from training?) whose raison d'etre was evidently getting snapped with as many promo honeys as possible. I also witnessed a silly bugger climb into the boot of an Audi A5 Cabriolet. He didn't appear worried when his mates shut him in there - perhaps he'd done it before. Then there was a popular diversion involving the "incorrect use of signals", to put it in driving instructor terms, whereby a joker sounds a vehicle's horn repeatedly then nicks off, laughing.
Random observations... It amuses me that there are officially two top speeds for the Maserati Gran Cabrio, depending if the roof is open or closed. The Skoda Yeti is the best name for a 4WD ever. Toyota's FJ Cruiser is very distinctive, not necessarily in a good way - resembling as it does a toy Hummer. The candy-apple Camaro on the Meguiar's display was almost edible. Peugeot is 200 years old?!
Lastly, a recommendation. Being in Darling Harbour gave me the opportunity to try Indian restaurant Zaaffran. Oh, boy. After one meal, I already prefer it to Darbar in Glebe and Randwick's Bombay Bloombers. They really get the balance right between spicy deliciousness and Scoville units. Fine wine selection. Take a gander - http://bit.ly/chgZAc
Listening: "Gretchen Goes To Nebraska" (1989) by King's X. Reminds me of when AW went to Tighes Hill.