The exciting thing about this year’s Exhibition is the element of increasing competition. The buyer’s market is returning, at all events amongst the high-priced models. The lower priced cars, on the other hand, are still about five years behind the orders placed for them in most cases. But on the day preceding the official opening most of the exhibits were on their stands—not all were revealed to the searching eyes of the Press, however, the M.G. models, for instance, hiding beneath black shrouds—and in general there was less last-minute bustle and fuss than usual, although you were still apt to fall over the “cleaning ladies” while gazing at “models” other than automotive about the Hall.
Every new model seemed to be in its place, except the “Palm Beach” Allard, on this day when the privileged are able to sum up the exhibits unhampered by the press of interested spectators.
This year racing cars are admitted to the S.M.M.T.’s exclusive portals and such a fine display they make that we imagine they will be at every Earls Court in future. Perhaps wisely, they are confined to British examples, and so we have a stand containing one each of Formula II Cooper-Bristol, H.W.M., Connaught, Alta (with wire wheels, not the spoked discs of Peter Whitehead’s car) and Frazer-Nash. Adjacent are the Cooper and Kieft of Formula III.
In addition, individual exhibitors are at last allowed to display historic cars. Jaguar show the ”100-m.p.h.-for-a-week” XK 120 coupe on a banking, this impressive car purposely uncleaned. Sunbeam-Talbot have the successful Alpine Rally “90,” bearing its Rallye Alpes plaques and navigator’s map-board. Aston-Martin show a versatile DB II bearing the number 600, as proudly borne in the Mille Miglia. M.G. have the ever-present Goldie Gardner Record Car, blushing under fresh achievements.
There are also the usual “stunt” attractions, like the centrally-suspended Riley chassis, the dolls of various countries round the “International” Hillman Minx, the special Pegaso chassis exhibit and the Austin Seven which slowly splits in half–but we wonder whether today’s buying public is not more concerned that its cars should stay in one piece!
Chassis are displayed by several manufacturers eager for the public to probe beyond their coachwork — Morgan, Jupiter, Alvis, Pegaso, Rover, etc.
There are some last-minute surprises. Triumph show their very compact new 20 T.S., a quite small sports two-seater with full-width body, semi-sunk headlamps (but exposed side lamps), having an under-2-litre version of the Vanguard engine and room literally for only two, for there is no flat shelf behind the bucket seats. The car exhibited is in white, like a bathroom fitting. In contrast, the new K3 Allard seats three or four persons abreast on its wide bench seat.
New too is the Healey Hundred, another very compact sports car, with an Austin A90 engine and Laycock de Normanville overdrive. It was not altogether a secret to us, because a Dutch motor-paper had the story some weeks before the Show opened, but the official catalogue has nothing about it. The windscreen is pivoted to lie almost flat or to be erect, as required—a refined version of the vertically sliding screen on the now obsolete Silverstone Healey. The Alvis-Healey is not on the stand.
A.C. have a new somewhat flat-sided five-seater drophead, in which the back side-windows pivot down into the body sides. To provide more room in the luggage locker, the fuel is carried in a 6-gallon tank in each front wing, fillers beneath little flush-fitting doors and a separate electric pump feeding from either tank (or both) as required.
Jaguar’s floodlit exhibit this year is a Mk. VII saloon. It meets competition from Armstrong Siddeley’s exciting new Sapphire and Humber’s completely revised Super Snipe. The basic price of these three commodious, high-performance saloons being £1,140, £1,110 and £1,045, respectively. Of the three, the Humber looks the loftiest.
The Continental exhibits are of great appeal to high-performance enthusiasts; Pegaso, Lancia with their Aurelia sports saloon, Alfa-Romeo with their saloon and the Fiat V8 coupe being exciting to behold if difficult to entice into English garages.
Frazer-Nash is another, like Healey, to use the Austin A90 engine, in their case in a car intended for rapid touring rather than competition work. And what a Mecca for enthusiasts Stand 159 is!
The coachbuilders seem to scorn sports cars, although Thrupp & Maberley show a Sunbeam-Talbot convertible. Very handsome are the “twin” two-colour Bentley saloons—sleek too—on the stand of James Young. Hooper again exhibit a star-spangled Daimler but this time the gold has turned to silver–or chrome. The technical term for the starry finish is “quatrefoil.”
Ford with the Anglia have the least-expensive car in the Show. The little Renault is seen in line with the Austin Seven which shows up the more flowing lines of the former to advantage.
Bentley and Rolls-Royce have adopted General Motors ” Hydramatic” automatic transmission as an extra. The all-cream “Continental” 115-m.p.h. Bentley is one of the truly fast cars at Earls Court. W.B.