Pre-View of the Earls Court Exhibition
In preparing a pre-view of the Earls Court Motor Exhibition, it became evident that this year’s Show would see a development of two main trends — cars of increasingly greater speed and cars of decreasing purchase cost. Obviously, whatever the personal position is, the former is the trend of greatest interest to Motor Sport readers.
This year’s Show was rendered especially interesting by reason of the large number of entirely new models which were present to greet the buyer’s market.
The Editor and the Continental Correspondent. going round the Stands on Press pre-view day, decided that the open and high performance cars which are combined in the term “sports car” could be roughly classified into Roadsters, Sports Cars, Gran Turismo and Sports/Racing cars, with perhaps an additional category of cars intended for high speed snob-travel.
A real sports caur is no longer a machine able to reach 100 m.p.h., whatever may have been the position a year or so ago — today 110 m.p.h. must be in sight for it to claim to be a fast car. Nevertheless, open two-seaters of compact proportions and good handling properties must still come in this category even though their maximum speed is around the 90 m.p.h. figure. Roadsters merely encompass the ideal of lots of fresh air, in many cases without the speed.
A very fine family of Gran Turismo fast closed cars is now with us, and it is especially pleasing that many of the cars in this category are British.
A sports/racing car is an open car which has proved its worth in this stern form of competition.
Our observations, then, put as Roadsters the Sunbeam Alpine, resplendent in white on a raised dais, the Singers, of which the export only S.M. models included a glass-fibre four-seater with bonnet hinged at the front and the smaller pre-war style car, the new Daimler Conquest, the Allard K3, shown in compact, three-abreast-seater form with Hobbs automatic transmission having a pre-selector over-ride, the XK120 Jaguar drophead coupe, the ugly but fast DB Panhard Junior two-seater, and a Bristol 404 with Abbott dropheadl coupe body, This latter must have been delicate, because when we laid a clean finger on it we were shooed away.
The sport cars comprise Morgan Plus Four, TF M.G. Midget, Austin-Healey 100, A.C. Ace, Jaguar XK120, Allard Palm Beach, Triumph TR2 and Jupiter R4. We now began to notice a very desirable tendeney to introduce centre-lock wire wheels on sports cars, a particularly happy discovery after the sad methods of is wheel-fixing seen at the Paris Salon. Such wheels are an optional extra on the M.G. Midget, one car so equipped being on the Stand, and are used on the Allard, Frazer-Nash, Austin-Healey, new Alvis saloon, A.C. Ace, TR2 Triumph sports, 1900C Alfa-Romeo, DB2/4 Aston Martin, etc., while Jaguar lists them as an optional extra.
Reverting to the sports cars, most of the Morgan Plus Fours and the Show chassis have a new frontall aspect, the radiator grille inclined and extending downwards and the head-lamps partly faired into the wings. This certainly hides the front suspension and fron, the viewpoint of “out of sight out of mind” may be a wise move, but otherwise the new appearanee has little to recommend it. We had hoped the Morgan would have retained the individuality of its former lines and not have made this timid excursion into realm of “the new look.” The chassis is unchanged, except for a stronger track-rod.
The Tojeiro chassis has been adopted by A.C. to make an exciting and good-looking sports two-seater, using the well-known 2-litre A.C. Six power unit. The performance should be decidedly interesting, the appearance earns high marks, but the price is also high. One feels that the special-builder, using the same components, could save a lot of money here.
The Jupiter R4 i is excitingly short and compact, its body rather rotund and made partly of plastic.
We pass now to the very desirable Gran Turisino class. These we set down as DB2/4 Aston Martin, 1,900C Alfa-Romeo, Bristol 404, 2½-litre Lancia Aurelia, Pegaso 102 BS, Frazer-Nash Le Mans coupe, Porsche and Jensen 541.
The Jensen 541 is perhaps the outstanding new car of the whole Show. This red two-door four-seater coupe with really beautiful lines and finish, somewhat like the 8V Fiat coupe, should, with 4-litre Austin Princess engine, be capable of 120 m.p.h. It pulls a 3.3 to 1 top gear ratio, but an optional overdrive gives a top gear as high as 2.68 to 1, when fuel consumption can be as low as 27 m.p.g. A cable-controlled aerofoil flap fills the cooling aperture, so that air flow through the radiator can be varied by the driver, and the chassis is entirely new, of shorter wheelbase than the Interceptor, being 8 ft. 9 in. The makers, who claim to build more of their car than any other manufacturer, honestly stated that to keep the price low — it is £1,250 basic — only essentials are included as standard equipment. Even so, this Jensen 541 is one of the most satisfactory British high-performance cars we have seen for a long time. It makes the Jensen Interceptors look like staid old gentlemen. The 541 has only exposed side-lamps to break its sleek lines.
Sports/racing cars are represented only by a Targo Florio Frazer-Nash and the Pegaso open two-seater of the type which was recently timed at over 150 m.p.h.
Of the special cars at Earls Court, the Liege-Rome-Liege Lancia Aurelia arrived covered in the mire of battle and has a slightly lower roof-line than the bread-and-butter Aurelia Gran Turismo. The Le Mans winning Type C Jaguar has, on the contrary, been spit-and-polished since the Paris Salon and its rather pleasing permanent Trade numbers removed. It bore a plaque beneath a synthetic laurel wreath saying “Le Mans Victor, 1951. 1953,” which must have been of satisfaction to Stuttgart. Particularly pleasing was the purposeful Bristol 450 record-breaker, the more so because all the production Bristols are of the same engine size and obviously benefit from development of this competition coupe. The racing cars are nicely displayed on a shallow banking. On the pre-viev day the bore and stroke of the four-cylinder Turner engine in the Kieft had not been painted in. The Staride looks like a Kieft and the record-hreaking Cooper, painted since its fine run at Montlhery, might, we thought, have been labelled as such to guide the public who know it in its more usual form. Furthermore. the S.M.M.T. give its engine as a J.A.P., whereas a Norton is installed! The Connaught has a certain lever on the facia missing and the slot for it covered by a blanking plate — we wonder why?
John Cooper is in no way dismayed that Taruffi’s Taft had broken his Class 1 hour record and is planning to recapture it soon after Earls Court closes.
The Packard Pan-American is longer behind than in front, with a self-conscious vertical spare wheel, peeping from an old-fashioned wheel cover, sticking up behind the tail. The 830-c.c. flat-twin Dyna-Packhard 54 is a really large car for so small an engine and is said to be very fast – British small-car designers please copy. The Le Mans car is an attraction on this Stand.
The 2 c.v. Citroen is a delightful people’s car, intended to replace the horse and cart. It has an Exide battery, Ducellier coil and Michelin tyres, truly cosmopolitan.
The new B.M.W. 501 is one of the outstanding technical exhibits. It has a very wide chassis with massive tubular cross-members and square-tube side-members tapering in section at the rear. The torsion bars for the suspension are of enormous length and the suspension system is friction-free, by the use of needle-roller bearings throughout, so that the former B.M.W. one-shot system of chassis lubrication has been dispensed with. The handbrake has a compensated cable linkage, the unusual steering gear operates in a delightfully smooth, firm manner and hanging pedals are fitted. The sheen on the castings is worthy of the great B.M.W. concern, and the body is as wide as those on some American chassis, although it is of compact, sober outline. The former B.M.W. frontal appearance is retained. A 326 engine drives via a short coupling to a synchromesh gearbox laid on its side to reduce height, and the carburetter is completely boxed-in to ensure clean air through every orifice. With substantial body the weight is said to have been kept to a pre-conceived maximum of 25 cwt. Aldington nearly sold us one – this is a beautiful car in every way. – W.B.
The Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire has a very Gordini-like valve cover, with sunk plugs.
Daimler’s sports Conquest carries on a theme explored by Alvis some seasons ago.
The Austin A30 engine has neat handles all ready for lifting it out, if it wears out.
Alfa-Romeo show a 1900C family saloon of the type able to lap Montlhery at 114 m.p.h. without fuss – Gran Turismo!
If Rootes don’t want it we’d like the model Hillman Minx from their Stand!
The big scale model of a Surrey Rollalong caravan was jolly, too. It was complete even in tiny pewter tankards on the shelves.
The TF M.G. Midget has well-padded scuttle edges, but the A.C. Ace scorns such passing.
When you see pictures of Opening Day crowds pressing against the windows of elegant Daimlers to watch a girl within pour out a cocktail you may be seeing a picture taken on pre-view day with British workmen acting as “crowds.”
The Triumph TR2 Sports model has a spare behind the seats, but as the floor slopes forward it cannot accommodate passengers or much baggage – a case of standing-room only!
Don’t forget to examine the 2½-litre V8 Coventry Climax F.P.R. engine on Stand 30, ground floor, boat section. Intended for racing hydroplanes, it weighs 335 lb., is said to give about 250 b.h.p. at 8,500 r.p.m. and could be useful for next year’s Grand Prix cars, although it would be a tight fit in some of them.
The R4 Jupiter has an Osca look about it.