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Vehicles at auto show in Geneva fuel fantasies

Deluxe cars from Ferrari, Bugatti, Rolls on display

GENEVA — Unsure if your head would fit in the newest Smart Roadster? Wondering what it would be like to chauffeur a Rolls Royce? Does the new Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale make you drool?

The Geneva Auto Show can answer such questions.

The Swiss exhibition, which opens to the public Thursday, is unique among the world's major car shows, taking place in a country with no major auto industry of its own.

Despite its comparatively small size, Geneva's car show will host 256 exhibitors from more than 30 countries, showing off some 900 makes and more than 70 world or European premieres in the passenger-car sector alone.

The show anticipates 700,000 visitors, including 300,000 from foreign countries.

For a brief time, even the most modest visitors can feel part of the rich and famous set.

When the show opens to the public, visitors will be allowed to sit in, squeeze, slouch against, survey and stroke about 95 percent of the cars on display.

A polite few will even be permitted a hands-on experience with some of the more elite makes.

"If they want to sit in the car or see the engine, some people will be allowed to do so," said Matteo Bonciani, Ferrari's director of communications and brand management. "This is, after all, a model show. We want to show our cars. But it will be in a very controlled, polite way, of course."

Some will be able to climb into the 400-horsepower 360 Challenge Stradale, worth 171,000 euros ($186,000), including tax.

Some, however, will definitely be hands-off.

The new Pagani Zonda Roadster, worth 481,500 euros ($525,000) excluding tax, is on loan by its German owner, and therefore "verboten." Only 17 were made last year.

"We'll need to protect it from bangs and scratches," said company spokeswoman Roberta Bicocchi.

Bugatti's limited-edition 1 million euro ($1.09 million) 16.4 Veyron will also be tough to approach. Only 300 will be made, and only potential buyers of the sleek 1,001-horsepower creations will be permitted a close gander.