I WENT THE SHOW
IN WHICH OUR CONTRIBUTOR SUMS UP THE OLYMPIA MOTOR EXHIBITION.
AsI arrived at the turnstiles of Olympia for my annual ” snoop ” round the Motor Show I tried to imagine what it must feel like to visit the show with the definite purpose of buying a car for say, 21,000. I suppose there are people who are in this enviable position. Personally my hopes of ever attaining this state are rather dependent on a certain business ” deal ” which takes place in Ireland every few months, but as the chances of my ever drawing a ticket are, to say the least, remote, I have to confine myself to the cheaper parts of Great Portland Street, Euston Road and the second-hand car dealers of the suburbs 1 But when I walked through the doors into the glare of lights, haze of cigarette smoke, and chatter of thousands of voices, these thoughts were instantly intensified
by that sensation,” shall I call it, engendered by the sight of a 100% 100 m.p.h. sports car, to wit, the red and black 2.3 litre double camshaft Bugatti. This was a good start, and I gloated over the machine for some time. Mechanically, of course, the car is faultless, for is it not merely a de-tuned edition of the famous 2.3 racing car ? But those mudguards ! With all due respect to the excellence of certain Transatlantic automobiles I feel that their wings are not really in keeping with such a ” pur sang” sports car as the Bugatti.
This slight flaw in the object of my admiration allowed my attention to wander a few feet away, and there I beheld the Colossus of Cars, the Bugatti Royal, or more familiarly the “Golden Bug.” Looming above the surrounding exhibits, the great yellow and black saloon was surrounded by a crowd of pigmy spectators who gazed with stupefaction at the polished 8-cylinder engine, revealed by its Open bonnet, and who echoed in a devout whisper “77.4 R.A.C. Rating . . . 90 m.p.h. in second gear . . . 13 litres . . . 26,500 ! ” Now at previous shows, when sports cars in the Main Hall have been few and far between, I have sufficiently maintained my poise among the dazzling array of touring cars and saloons to work steadily up and down each aisle, and to carry out an orderly plan of campaign. But
this year it seemed to my astonished eyes that there was a sports model on nearly every stand and I quickly became bewildered, drifting haphazardly from stand to stand.
Pride of place at the Entrance Gates was shared with the Bugatti stand by the Derby cars shown on the stand of Morgan Hastings, Ltd. Although these interesting front-wheel drive sports cars are officially described as being of French origin, they are in actual fact largely of English manufacture, for they are powered by a Meadows 14-litre o.h.v. engine. The chassis was an interesting exhibit, the frame members being very close together, and with its independent springing front and rear, should hold the road very well. And then I remembered that that famous motor sportsman, Douglas Hawkes now controls the destiny of the Derby concern in France, and I regarded the neat green four-seater sports car with a covetous eye.
Almost next door to the Derbys was a newcomer to the sports car field, the Essex Terraplane, and a promising looking job it was. I was told that the closed models, with a low back axle ratio, can do a genuine 71 m.p.h., so that the white open sports model by Windover ought to be able to produce a really good turn of speed. I tried the driving position, and found it good. And all for £275! The Isotta Praschini stand is always a “
high-spot” of the Show, and the three immense Italian saloons were very impressive. Italy was also represented on an adjoining stand by Fiat, but the new 20/60 twin-carburettor open sports car was not on view, although there was a new sports saloon finished in green on the same chassis.
Passing the Stutz stand I noticed that these famous American cars, although labelled “8 cylinder,” had a neat monogram ‘ 16’ on a tie-bar between the headlamps. Enquiry as to the meaning of this apparent anomaly resulted in the answer ” 16 valves.” Well, well! My progress then became completely blocked, for the next stand was M.G.’s, and the new models of the Midget, Magna and Magnette were attracting great attention. After a time I managed to get
near the Magnette chassis, and there beheld two very famous racing drivers examining the exhibit with great interest. I wondered whether this was an omen of great deeds to come next season ! The Magnette is certainly an interesting job, and I was particularly intrigued with the unorthodox steering gear, the motorcycle type change-speed lever of the Wilson gear box, and the massive brake drums. Incidentally the show finish of the chassis was perfect, with its white, green and red paint. There was almost an equal crowd round the new J.2 Midget, and once again I admired the lines of the little red 2-seater, which should be one of the most popular sports cars next season.
I have always had a great admiration for the O.M. and the apple of my eye this year was a very neat black ” blown ” 2-seater, with unusual glass side-curtains.
Surely no chassis is more consistently fitted with beautiful special coachwork than the Straight 8 Delage. All the exhibits were superb this year, but the palm went to the blue and silver coupe by Joseph Figoni on the 100 m.p.h. sports chassis. For sheer beauty of line this car would be hard to beat.
The new Crossley sports 2-seater struck me as being a very well finished little car, with a quite unusual amount of room for the driver and passenger. And it looked as though it would hold the road well. On the Lancia stand, as always. I found plenty of material for admiration and thoughts of “if I had a 21,000 to spend on a car.” Possibly the most striking exhibit was the open sports body by Viotti on an ” Astura ” chassis, the lines of which were reminiscent of the new nat. The car was finished in cream and myrtle green. The little 11.9 h.p . car which made its debut at the Paris show then drew my attention, and I was very impressed with its solid construction, the whole of the saloon body frame, including the roof, being integral with the chassis. Incidentally what a wonderful amount of body room the” V ” 4 cylinder engine allows 1 A very pretty car was the coupe by James Young of Bromley on the 4-cylinder ” Artena ” chassis, finished in blue and grey. Finally the
magnificent brown ” Dilambda ” saloon, capable of a silent 90 m.p.h., sent me from the stand with feelings of acute covetousness.
In these days of new fashions in sports coachwork, with louvred valances of curiously shaped mudguards, ingenious disappearing hoods, and what not, I was greatly refreshed by the plain dignity .of the 38/250 h.p. Merced, s-Benz ” S.S.” open touring car. Built in the established tradition of ” open touring” cars this great car finished in cream with black wings and red upholstery, seemed to me to be an epitome of all that one associates with really long-distance touring. The normally shaped mudguards were gracefully swept back without any attempt to attract attention by a ” difference ” which sometimes amounts to grotesqueness. The rear quarters of the car were shaped in the customary fashion, while the hood was encased in a red leather envelope to match the tonneau cover. The whole car portrayed normality, but let anyone challenge it on the road—Oh boy ! Stripped chassis always attract a big crowd, but when the exhibit is such a famous competition car as the Talbot ” 105,” inspection becomes a matter of patience and neck-stretching. The new ” accelerating” self-changing gear box is very interesting, and I noticed that every precaution to ensure ideal road holding has been made by fitting Andre friction shock absorbers in addition to the new dash controlled Luvax hydraulics. The chassis was beautifully finished, all the bright parts being hand-turned, and I noticed that the paint used was that grey ” sparkling” variety which used to be quite popular six or seven years ago and is evidently returning to favour. One of the most remarkable value-for-money
exhibits in the Show, I thought, was the green ” 95 ” coachbuilt saloon, which sells at £595. Next door was the Alvis stand, which seemed to have more cars on it than any other in the Show. Probably the most attractive were the two” Speed Twenty” cars, open 4-seater and sports saloon, finished in grey and red, both of them thoroughbreds from stem to stern. The new ” Firefly ” was a good looking job, too, and the blue saloon had much more room in it than one generally associates with a
car. The Alvis people have always been exponents of the 4-cylinder engine, and this new ” Firefly ” with all the experience derived from the old ” 12/50″ and the later 12/60 models, should provide a 100% sound performance.
The centre of attraction on the Alfa Romeo stand was the 8-cylinder 2.3 litre chassis, the type which has proved so successful during the past two seasons. The 4 litre model is no more, and the rest of the exhibits were 1,750 c.c. Gran Sports and Gran Turismo cars. Another twin overhead camshaft car was to be seen on the next stand, namely the new 12/100 h.p. sports chassis. This interesting newcomer to the ranks of competitive British sports cars looked very promising, and although the chassis is of very generous proportions the weight has been cut down as far as possible by drilling. The Powerplus supercharger is
driven direct off the front end of the crankshaft. I heard a rumour that the car will make its debut in next year’s 1,000 Miles Race—everyone will wish it the best of luck. Incidentally this self
changing gear idea has taken root to an incredible degree this year, and the 12/100 h.p. Invicta is fitted with a Wilson gearbox.
Additions to the 1k-litre class, which used to be so popular at one time, are to be greatly welcomed, and with the Aston Martin attracting a lot of attention next door, I had visions of a revival of 1k-litre racing in the manner of the good old 200 Miles Race days. The ” Le Mans” 4-seater, I thought, was quite one of the best looking cars in the Show, possessing that undefinable air of craftsmanship which always characterises cars of racing experience.
Then a glimpse of a smart red fourseater sports model caught my eye, and I discovered yet another new sports car in the 10 h.p. Lanchester with a body by Arthur Mulliner. The car looked very smart, with its cut-away sides, and is of course remarkable for being the smallest car on the market fitted with a fluid flywheel, and incidentally the first sports car to be so equipped. I was very interested in the sectional models of the fluid flywheel and self-changing gear-box on the Lanchester stand. Front wheel drive still has one exponent in England in the 9 h.p. B.S.A., which was exhibited as a very smart green sports car at £160, with plenty of room in it for four people. This part of the Main Hall literally had a sports car on every stand, for next to the B.S.A. exhibits were the
all-blue Rileys, which in turn were cheek by jowl with Singers and Triumphs. The new Singer ‘ 9 ‘ sports model was a very smart little car, finished in cream and green, and after its successful performance in the Alpine Trial should be fit for any amount of hard work. The car is not merely a sports car in appearance alone, for I noticed that considerable modifications have been made to the engine and chassis.
The Triumph “Southern Cross” is an established favourite, and with its increased horse power should prove popular with those who want a car which is really strongly constructed. The sports coupe is a most attractive job.
Sunbeams have not made a sports car since the old 3-litre model, but this year they have come back with a “Speed Model.” I liked the look of it. The saloon on the stand was finished in two shades of blue, with an attractively curved rear panel. I understand that the car is designed for comfortable fast travel rather than a terrific maximum speed, and it should therefore be ideally suited to such events as the Monte Carlo Rally.
The Rover Speed Model, on the Meteor chassis, has put up some wonderful shows last season in the hands of R. J. Munday, and for 1933 the coachwork has been considerably improved, The car has a workmanlike appearance, and looked “the goods.” The Rover sporting activities have been enlarged this year by the new “Pilot Speed Model.” I had a chat with one of the experimental department staff who has been intimately concerned in the production of this car, and judging by the way in which it has stood up to its job in the course of its evolution, the normal model to be *marketed should be 100% reliable. The green and black sports saloon by Charlesworth was a very handsome car.
Before entering the New Hall to inspect the Coachwork section I decided that a pit stop for refuelling would be opportune, so with thoughts of “Great stuff, this Bass ! ” I fought my way through a welter of perspiring humanity to the Bar. Making myself heard with difficulty amid the babel of “The Rattletrap is the finest car on the market” and “You were thinking of buying a Tincan were you, sir ? Well let me tell you that in my
opinion the Tincan is-tripe, nothing more or less than tripe I ” I reverently offered up a prayer to the great Gambrinus and quaffed a foaming glass of the Elixir of Life. One of the most interesting stands in the Coachwork section was in the en trance to the New Hall, where the range of sports bodies made by Carbodies was exhibited. I had already admired the coachwork of the new J.2 Midget and the 12/90 h.p. Invicta, and on their own stand appeared the new 2-seater Magnette,
finished in dull green, with two fairings extending to the end of the tail behind the driver’s and passenger’s heads. Here, too, I saw an open 4-seater body on the Rover ” Pilot” speed model. Nearby was the stand of E. D. Abbott, Ltd., a firm whose products I have always
particularly admired. My fancy was taken by a very smart Lanchester ‘ 10’ open 4-seater.
In reverse ratio to the increase of sports models on the manufacturers stands in the Main Hall, the Coachwork section seemed to contain fewer sports bodies this year, being mostly confined to luxurious limousines. A feature of this section was the number of Superbly beautiful bodies mounted on the 100 m.p.h. Delage chassis, the low build of which lends itself admirably to the most graceful coachwork. My desire was torn between the cars shown by Freestone & Webb, Gurney Nutting, Henri Chapron, and Joseph MOW. All were a delight to the eye.
Patrick Motors were not exhibiting their well known ” Pendine ” Wolseley Hornet, but they showed instead a comfortable sports touring body on the Rover Speed Meteor chassis and an attractive 4-seater sports on the standard ” Little 12 ” chassis. I noticed several unusual features in the ” Demon ” M.G. Midget exhibited by the R.E.A.L. Carriage Works, including a very unusual slung seat mounting, which makes the whole seat easily detachable. The neat fairings on the scuttle and behind the driver’s and passenger’s heads give the car a most racing appearance. Finally, I made a brief tour (which was all that my now jellified legs would allow me) of the accessory sections in the
Annexe and Gallery.
Probably the most striking stand in this section was that of C. C. Wakefield clk Co., Ltd., the Castrol oil people. The whole design was one of great artistry, and combined a very interesting display of the Company’s products With an atmosphere of very modern decoration. The lighting was extraordinarily good. The Dunlop stand always interests me, for I have the greatest admiration for the manufacturers of tyres which can so satisfactorily withstand racing stresses. Incidentally on Stand 306, Jones Bros., of Westbourne Grove, I noticed the new Dunlopillo car seating. I dilly sat on some of this latex rubber upholstery, and it
was extraordinarily comfortable. The great thing is, of course, that it doesn’t need inflation. The display in the Gallery was positively overwhelming, and anyone keen on fully equipping his -car and garage with every possible device and gadget ever thought of to add to the pleasure of motoring, could have spent the whole week (to say noth
ing Of a small fortune) in wandering round the stands. Sports car equipment was there in plenty, and I was particulaHy struck by the specially constructed c a r
on Frank Ashby & Sons’ stand, which was equipped with all the Brooklands ‘ equipment marketed by this firm.
Edward Joy & Sons, Ltd„ had an interesting display of their new Sports Oil which is finding great favour just now, and I picked up some information on the vital subject of brake linings at the Ferodo stand. I have often marvelled at the way in which brake linings stand up to modern racing conditions, which call for constant deceleration from speeds of 130 m.p.h. The Ferodo people certainly know all about it, and the benefit to normal road users must be incalculable.
Musical horns like the Cicca, have always had a fascination for me, and I noticed a newcomer in the Trico-Claireon, which is ingeniously operated by vacuum, and has two notes, one for town use and one for the open road.
Then I saw the word “Exit,” and stumbled downstairs outside. The sooty air of Kensington was clear and sweet to the taste after the atmosphere of Olympia.