THE PARIS SHOW
Reviewed for “Motor Sport” by David Scott-Moncrieff
IDON’T know whether to throw my hat in the air for joy at the almost complete victory of the Britishbuilt car, or weep for the decline of France, the cradle of the motor industry. Value for value the British ears win all along the line, with only one or two exceptions. The most notable of these exceptions is the ease of the Man with 1025 to spend. He could buy either a Humber Hawk, a Singer 1,500. or a six-cylinder, front-drive Citron. Well, as the late Sid Walker used to say, what would you do, chums ? Eight at the bottom of the stale there is the ultimate in austerity motoring the deux chevoto Citrian, priced at £235, and I doubt whether the fact that it is just twelve pounds cheaper than the Ford Anglia justifies that much austerity. At £251 there is aciever little minicar, the Rovin, a sort of four-wheel Bond. Above that the British ears sweep the board. There is no comparison at £320 between the Morris Minor and the baby Renault either for room, comfort, finish or performance. Higher up the price scale, for t he £500 you would pay for a little DynaPanhard the same money would buy an Austin A70, and for sixty pounds less I here is the choice of a Vauxhall Velox or Morris Oxford among others.
And so it goes on right up into the luxury class, the Most expensive being the Delahaye at £2,777 as against the Bentley at £2,595. This takes a bit of thinking altont, but I believe most people would agree with me that although the Delithaye is a little faster, the Bentley wins on points when considered from all tingles. With the devaluation of European currencies against the dollar, American cars don’t get much of a look in. The Chevrolet, for instance, one of the cheapest, priced at £1.725, has to compete with the Humber Pullman and Austin Princess, both over three hundred pounds cheaper. While among the higher priced bubboids the Chrysler at £3,250 can hardly be compared to that paragon of par song the straight-eight Daimler at the same price. And although I have the warmest affection, engendered by many years’ use, for Lincoln cars, I cannot say truthfully that in the most unlikely event of me having four thousand pounds to spend I should buy a Lincoln Cosmopolitan when a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith costs Only £3,900 I
The Czechs are exhibiting three ears, a Minor, a Skodu and a Tatraplan. The first two are good, strong, thoroughly reliable little cars. but priced at £400 and £492 respectively are hopelessly outclassed on all points by British cars in the. same price range. The rearengined Tatraplan at £080 is rather !tett er value. German competition, if they drop their prices a bit., would be pretty serums, particularly MereCdCs. The model 170, costing just under £1,000 with diesel engine and just Over with petrol, is one of
the best built, best sprung and best finished ears of this day and age. My personal opinion is that if they could see their way to give it a bit more power and reduce the price they could knock a horrid hole in our world markets. Porsche is also showing an extretnel?,, pleasant little car on a Volkswagen base. I drove one in Austria. But to ask £1,000 for it. with the Jaguar XI: 120 priced at 1’988 is sheer lunacy. Opel are in production again, slightly better finished titan pre-war, but rat her over priced. Hansa, a jolly good German car, not. much known in England, has made a come-back with tl le Borgward. I have not had I he pleasure of trying one. It looks an attractive car, but not I think to be compared very seriously with the Rover 75 in the slime price range.
The Italians have priced themselves right out of the market, starting with the ordinary FIAT 500 at, £625. And I feel that any but the very richest boys would think extremely seriously before spending exactly three times the price of an X K 120 on a Cisitalia. Even the unsupereharged Alfa, although admittedly a charmer, costs nearly four thousand pounds. But there was one car at the Paris Show for which most readers of Marini SPORT would certainly be prepared to do a swift soul swap with Satan. Tina is the Ferrari. No prices were quoted, although they were understood to be pretty fierce. But. if I were given the free choice of any car in the world that is what I would have. Now let us examine the French exhibits in detail. We started off with a sad disappointment. There had been rumours that. Ilispano-Suiza were going to make a come-back in the automobile market. this
year. And, sure enough, as my wife and I came in at the door almost the first thing that caught our eyes was, under the refreshment balcony, a board announcing ” Hispano-Suiza.” We rushed across the crowded salon, only to find a little booth showing three Hercules Diesel engines made under licence. But I do wish that they had not put. up Guynemer’s flying stork; it made me want to cry. Bugalti were not exhibiting. There is a more than sporting chance Of a come
I ‘tick, but it will be a It hard climb. and the lawsuit at present going on between the children of Ettore Bug:Lars first. wife and those of his second isn’t helping matters. A lot of people are hoping that they will not. make 1.1w grade. as the market for French luxury sporting cars is a small one. Let’s look at the figures. Delahaye, who have now bought up Dclage, have an annual total output for both ears of 550. Talbot. and others bring it up to barely a thousand. So even a hundred cars a year coining out of MolSheiin would cause quite a few headaches. Many more of the old names were absent, or, as Rochet-Schneider and de Dion-Bouton and Berliet, present only as the exhibitors of trucks and ‘bus cluissis. Even to-day the real glory of the Paris Show lies in the individual coaohwork exhibits. They are quite breathtakingly lovely, but the prices arc just staggering, three and four thousand pounds for bodywork alone. My wife, drooling down her pretty chops with envy at the ” dCcapotables by Sattoutchik, Franay and Chap roil, said, “I can’t. think where the Aga Khan puts them all.” But there must be plenty of other people in the’
Aga’s income bracket for although, as I write this, the show is only a few days old, almost every car with special coachwork is already sold !
I should. however, like to hand a very black mark indeed to Messrs. Foga et Varnet who have completely ruined two otherwise extremely pleasant bodies by the addition of dummy ratholes, in the American manner, to the front wings. It is probable that, looking back in a I’m years time, we shall class these loathsome appendages with false hood irons, cloche hats and late Victorian furniture. Among tire Illedill.111 priced Erencl) exhibits, outstanding value is the Citroen priced at £424 the four-cylinder, with the six-cylinder at £625. It is rumoured that Citroen have a most successful direct injection car all ready to go into production, but, as they have at, the moment. a full order book for the next couple of years they are holding their hand. Then there is the little I fyrutPanhard at prices ranging from t441 to
• £.523. This is such an interesting and revolutionary machine that I propose to devote an entire article to it at a future date. The Peugeot. at S:428 to £560 is comparable perhaps to our own Austin Cars, for the sort of man who has owned a Peugeot never buys another make, not for reasons of glamour or speed but because it. never, under any eiwurnstanees, lets him down. Simea. which we know better in its basic FIAT form, costs nearly i:500 at its simplest. There is a perfect little love of a Simea drophead coup6, but t he price of almost. a thousand pounds does seem a bit over tit? odds. Above nine hundred pounds one gets on to the cheapest ranges of Salnison and Hot elikiss eget her wit ii tire Ford Vedet t e. This last seen is little more than t I tr 22-h.p. V8 Ford which we built at Dagenham in the mid nineteen-thirties. with. some modifications and restyled coaeliwork. I have always felt that although Hotchkiss ItaNT never been a particularly cheap car no one has ever grudged the rather high price because of the superlative quality of the material and workmanship. I think that it would be fair to say the same to-day in 1050. But they have just brought out a new model, which judging from the preII ot ype promises to be quite something. This is the Hotehkiss Gregoire 2-litre
flat-four, priced at t1,200, but not in production till well on into next. year. There is also a Grand Sport, built with particular regard to long-distance rallies, for which neither price nor production date are given. So favourable was the impression treated by the Gregoire! that Hotchkiss have had to close their order book, for this particular model, for the Ii nt(‘ being. This brings us up to the over £1,300 class. This fairly Inuit eel production consists of Talbot and the DelaltayeDelage combine. St am lard coachwork ranges from the elicapest lielage at 21,400 to the De/al/aye Type /78 berithe
at £2,777 Above t his, special one-off bodies, mostly on these three chassis, run into such, astronomical figures that money is reduced to the Socialist medium of ” meaningless cyphers of pounds, shillings and pence ” bearing no relation at all to the more old-fashioned economists’ definition of ” coupons for work done.” But for finish and purity of line none of them do more than equal the Jaguar NE120 at about one seventh of the cost.. The French are the first to appreciate this and, although it is about as hard for a Frenclunan to get. hold of a foreign car as it is for an Englishman. the crowd round the Jaguar stand is so thick that it is quite impossible to approach it. I think Hurt it. is only fair to state the reason why both French cars and coaehwork are unable to compete with us for price. The French Government have vast social security schemes even inure wastefully administered Hum our own, which, even if they accomplish litt he else, provide er»ployment for thousand upon thousand of clerks and bureaucrats. The taxati(m to pay for this is applied direct to the actual processes of maimfacture, e.g., for every WO francs an employer pays to a w(irkman, he pays a furtlier forty-eight francs to the government. This and other emitributions and levies ensure extremely expensive motor cars both for home and export. Vhile deploring the extravagance and waste which makes our own purehase-tax necessary at all. I caninit but applaud the awl hod which it is applied. That is to say, permitting a manufacturer, without let or hin, trance. to build
as cheaply as he can, and then slapping on the whole in one colossal purchase tax for the home market. Whatever its faults, this system, unlike the French, does not hamstring our manufacturers in competition for world markets.
And that, I think, is a reasonably fair summing-up of the general trends of the thirty-seventh and certainly not the most exciting Exposition des Automobiles an Grand Palais. On our way out my wife observed, for the first time, the frontal aspect of’ the latest nuidel Studebaker. I could not possibly ask the Editor to print her comments. Horrified that some bystanders might understand English, I implored a little discretion. So the perverse creature repeated her remark rather louder and most accurately in Fre»Oi. How the girl acquired knowledge of all those extremely intimate anatomieal toms at an exclusive and extremely expensive finishing school I wouldn’t care tø haxiird.
And so, back to a rendef.vous with some of our marry Parisians friends and the sort of dinner that is nothing but it dim memory in our own island of frustration. The pale Parisian dawn was already gilding the black, irregular skyline when we could have been found still discussing la politique mondiale, les beaux. marbles Francais du dixhuiti,,me ‘deck, les courses en voltam de 1051, and, of course. those two essentials to all good French conversation, rammer et la cuisine s.’elcuse.