Sports and High-Performance Cars at Earls Court
The Agent and the Engineer
Were walking hand in hand;
They wept like anything to see
The cars on every stand.
"if all but OURS were cleared away."
They said, "it WOULD be grand.'' *
A.C. Stand No. 130
The A.C. exhibits will comprise the Ace and Aceca models, the A.C. saloon not being on the stand. These cars have the Tojeiro-like chassis of tubular-ladder type, providing all-round independent suspension, installed in which is the light-alloy, wet-liner 2-litre six-cylinder engine which, having been introduced in 1919 and reaching its peak of development circa 1938, can be described as well-tried. For 1956 it comes with larger shell-type main bearings, a re-positioned oil intake to obviate bearing failure on "one-handed" race circuits, and, so far as the chassis is concerned, the gear-change has been improved and the brake back-plates strengthened. Overriders for the bumpers, a Fram oil filter and Michelin "X" tyres are now standard on the Ace, the price of which rises by £85.
The Aceca coupé has been improved by increasing the headroom, and deadening sound by mounting the final-drive unit on rubber, introducing a plastic bulkhead between engine and occupants — as described and illustrated in Motor Sport last March — and relocating the fuel pump outside the body. Bumpers, demister and heater are now standard on the Aceca, the price of which has risen by £160, to £1,375 basic.
Allard Stand No 131
The medium-sized Palm Beach sports model is abandoned and Allard offers only large-engined cars for 1956. At Earls Court the all-enveloping sports/racing two-seater J2R with 270-b.h.p. 5.4-litre V8 Cadillac engine, a Monte Carlo two-door saloon and a Safari estate car will be exhibited. All these Allarde have coil-spring swing-axle i.f.s. and de Dion rear suspension, their chassis being assembled largely from Ford components so that they can be adapted to take various engines to choice, the latest to be offered being a Jaguar XK unit with four-speed gearbox. Motor Sport published a road-test of the de Dion Allard in December, 1946. The basic price of the Cadillac J2R is £1,722.
Alfa-Romeo Stand No. 121
One of the cars you must see before you take the turnstiles in reverse is the open model or Spider version of the Giulietta Sprint. Using an engine of only 1,290 c.c., a twin o.h. camshaft four-cylinder, this car possesses performance which many of up to 2 litres capacity might envy, and the lines of the new open version are very pretty indeed. The Giulietta saloon is likely to appear as well, a car which exceeds 100 m.p.h. in spite of a capacity of only 1,290 c.c.
Alvis Stand No. 128
The Alvis TC21-100 saloon, with Grey Lady engine developing 104 b.h.p. from its 3 litres at the modest crankshaft speed of 4,000 r.p.m., is capable of just about 100 m.p.h., while offering the traditional style, quality and smoothness for which Alvis cars are famous. This model will be continued for 1956, and the new Graber Gran Turismo coupé (Swiss), which created such a good impression at the Paris Salon, will be shown at Earls Court.
Aston Martin Stand No. 132
One of the most interesting and technically-exciting post-war British high-performance cars was the Aston Martin DB2, road-tested by Motor Sport in June, 1942. From this six-cylinder 2½-litre twin o.h. camshaft car has been developed the present 3-litre 2/4-seater DB2/4 saloon, to which has been added by the David Brown Company a new hard-top version. The sports/racing DB3S will be a centre of attraction, these Aston Martins having gained some notable racing successes this season. The basic price of the DB3S in production form is £2,600.
Austin-Healey Stand No. 149
Donald Healey's sports car, powered with the old Austin A90 four-cylinder engine and three-speed gearbox, and built by B.M.C., has gained many friends. It offers effortless performance from 2½ litres and a maximum speed in the region of 100 m.p.h., easily increased by the fitting of a range of modifications introduced for the purpose by the Healey Company. This modified version, the 100M, has h.c. pistons increasing the compression ratio from 7.5 to 1 to 8.1 to 1, high-lift camshaft, special inlet manifolds with carburetters, steel-faced gasket and special ignition timing. An anti-roll bar and special front shock-absorbers are used, together with strapped down louvred bonnet and two-tone finish. The Austin-Healey 100 costs £750 basic, the 100M £855 and the export-only 100S, with four-speed gearbox, disc brakes and alloy body, etc., £1,125.
Bentley Stand No. 126
This fine Rolls-Royce-built British car provides a speed of over 100 m.p.h. and acceleration to match in traditional silence and comfort, in normal S-series form. All models now use a 4.9-litre i.o.e. six-cylinder engine, R.-R. mechanical-servo brakes and, significantly, automatic transmission. The Park Ward drophead coupé has a lightweight body weighing 4½ cwt. less than the former fixed-head coupé and the H. J. Mulliner sports saloon is of low-drag outline, with the rear mudguards acting as high-speed stabilising fins.
Besides these S-series models the Continental 115-m.p.h. version is lighter than previous editions and has a six-port instead of the four-port cylinder head.
B.M.W. Stand No. 119
A.F.N. Ltd. will show three B.M.W. models, the 502 de luxe saloon with 2.6-litre V8 engine developing 100 b.h.p., a 3.2-litre V8 503 cabriolet, which has two carburetters, a different camshaft and other modifications, resulting in an output of 140 b.b.p., and a 507 sports/ roadster, which also uses the 140-b.h.p. 3.2-litre V8 engine, a unit instead of a separate five-speed gearbox, a proper gear-lever. This fine German sports car costs £2,200 in its own country, and knock-off wire wheels, aero-screen, locking differential, higher axle ratio, etc., are available.
Bristol Stand No. 170
The Bristol continues as a hand-built car, very fully equipped and appointed, and, we are glad to see, retaining the high-efficiency engine of only 2 litres capacity, with inclined o.h. valves actuated by cross-push-rods and special rockers, based on a pre-war B.M.W. design. For those not reluctant to use the beautiful Bristol gearbox, excellent performance is available from this 1,971-c.c. engine.
The Bristol 405, which is a full four-seater four-door saloon with very clean lines, overdrive fifth speed and rack-and-pinion steering, using the 105-b.h.p. Bristol 100E engine, will be shown. The Bristol 403 and the 404 Businessman's Express will not be continued.
Frazer-Nash Stand No. 119
One of Britain's outstanding sports cars, the Frazer-Nash, which is powered with warmed-up 2-litre Bristol power units, will this year be exhibited in Le Mans fixed-head coupé form. Motor Sport published a road-test of a modern Frazer-Nash in March, 1954.
Jaguar Stand No. 154
The Jaguar remains affectionately in the minds of sportsmen for its victory at Le Mans and its fine, if unsuccessful, effort in the T.T. The. range is a strong one, embracing the 170-m.p.h. sports/racing D-type, available to ordinary mortals, more or less, at an inclusive price of £3,663 4s. 2d. ("Can you lend me 4s. 2d., dad?"), the very-firmly-established XK140 cars using the same exceptionally smooth and reliable 3½-litre, twin o.h.c. six-cylinder engine, in open two-seater sports, drophead coupé and fixed-head coupé forms, and the saloon Mk. VII M version, now available with Borg-Warner automatic transmission.
Besides these Jaguars the new integral-construction 2.4-litre saloon, with 83 by 75.6-mm., six-cylinder, twin-o.h.c., twin Solex engine giving 112 b.b.p. at 5,750 coil-spring and wishbone i.f.s. ingeniously mounted on rubber, and a normal back axle sprung on full cantilever springs as found on dowagers' cars of the 1920s, located by two torque-arms and a transverse radius-rod, makes a visit to Stand 154 imperative. This new Jaguar is available in normal or special-equipment versions.
Jensen Stand No 140
The Jensen 541 with glass-fibre Gran Turismo-style saloon body, which was a sensation last year, will again be shown. It uses an unflurried 4-litre Austin Princess engine in conjunction with overdrive and is capable of 112 m.p.h. It will be backed-up by the usual Interceptor saloons and convertibles.
Lancia Stand No. 116
One of the Show's sensations will be the open version of the well-established Lancia Aurelia. This, the new Spider G.T. 2,500 two-seater, is capable of nearly 120 m.p.h., and it will be recalled that racing drivers Behra and Pedisa used it as personal transport at Monaco this year. Based on the Gran Turismo Lancia, the Spider has a wheelbase shorter by 7¾ in. and weighs 1¾ cwt. less. It uses the compact V6 78 by 85.5-mm. light-alloy engine, with single o.h. camshaft above an alloy head with inserted valve seats, a double-choke Weber carburetter, and develops 118 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m., with a safe maximum of 5,300 r.p.m. The wheelbase is 8 ft. in., the turning circle is only 32 ft. 9 in., and the usual Lancia coil-spring i.f.s. and excellent four-speed gearbox and clutch are used, while the body is by Pinin-Farina. The price is £2,997 7s. 6d., with p.t.
Also on the Stand will be a Gran Turismo 2,500 coupé with the same engine, a 2nd Series Aurelia saloon with 2,266-c.c., 87-b.h.p. V6 engine, which by reason of big price reductions now costs £2,196 19s. 2d. in this country, while the little 1,090-c.c. V4 Appia saloon, a luxury/economy car of considerable performance, will be shown, priced now at £1,771 19s. 2d. Cars for connoisseurs!
Mercedes-Benz Stand No. 114
The products of the great Daimler-Benz organisation will be a centre of attraction, especially as by the time these words appear Mercedes-Benz will probably have taken the 1955 Sports-Car Championship of the World.
The fastest normal, as distinct from sports/racing, car at the Show, the 300SL coupé with its gull-wing doors will interest many, and it is already appearing not infrequently in this country, in spite of its total price here being as high as £4,392 15s. 10d. It has the six-cylinder 3-litre petrol-injection engine lying on one side, the horsepower of which has been increased from 200 to 240. The maximum speed can be taken as from 135 to 165 m.p.h., depending on the axle ratio, road and driver employed. Motor Sport published details of a brief test of this model in November, 1954, Bob Walker's impressions of his own 300SL in August, 1955, and the Continental Correspondent's account of driving in one to the Arctic Circle last month.
Besides this exciting 300SL, from which the all-conquering 300SLR sports/racing model was developed, Mercedes-Benz will show for the first time in this country the new 190SL 1,897-c.c. two-seater sports convertible for which 112 m.p.h. and 26 m.p.g. is claimed from its 105-b.h.p. engine, and the new 300C 3-litre 100-m.p.h. saloon which has two-pedal automatic transmission. In addition, a 220A five-seater luxury saloon capable of 98 m.p.h. will be on view.
M.G. Stand No. 153
The new and long-awaited M.G. sports model, in the form of the Series MGA, will be shown on Stand No. 153. The new model is notable for a new chassis frame, a low-drag body, and the employment of a 68-b.h.p. 1½-litre push-rod o.h.v., 73 by 89-mm., four-cylinder, twin-carburetter engine. Front suspension is by coil-springs and wishbones, rear suspension by ½-elliptic springs, Armstrong damped, the chassis frame being formed of box-section side-members and a three-dimensional scuttle structure. The wheelbase is 7 ft. 10 in., the dry weight is 17½ cwt., the axle ratio is 4.3 to 1, and the car is 2½ in. lower in overall height than the TF M.G. Midget it supersedes. Priced at £595 basic, the new M.G. costs the same as a Morgan Plus Four, these two cars being the least-expensive British sports models apart from the Dellow and new 1,172-c.c. Morgan 4/4.
Morgan Stand No. 117
Morgan continues to offer the very fast and accelerative Plus Four, using a Triumph TR2 engine in a chassis which is typically a product of Malvern, backed by a new Ford Ten-engined Morgan 4/4, which is a praiseworthy attempt to offer a small-engined British sports model. It was Morgan's intention to produce a Ford Ten-engined version just after the war when the supply of Standard Ten engines as used in the popular 4/4 dried up, but the idea was abandoned in favour of using the 2,088-c.c. Vanguard engine in a slightly enlarged chassis, from which was developed the 2-litre twin-carburetter Plus Four 100-m.p.h. sports model, priced at only £595 basic, available also in four-seater and coupé form.
Morgan's ideas of chassis design and i.f.s., the latter not differing in principle from that used for their three-wheelers from 1909 onwards, may be crude, but no one who saw Peter Reece win the Oulton Park Standard Production Sports-Car Race in a Plus Four can doubt the truly excellent cornering stability conferred.
Now comes this Series II 4/4 two-seater with Ford Anglia power unit, available for as little as £638 12s. 6d. inclusive of p.t., and having the same handsome, semi-vintage lines as its big brother. Although only three forward speeds are provided in the Ford gearbox, a good performance should be available, as the 4/4 weighs only 12¾ cwt. dry and pulls a 4.4-to-1 axle ratio. 77 m.p.h. is claimed in standard form and no engine is so readily available as the Ford Ten for power increase by adoption of proprietary "mods." or hotting-up in the home workshop. A rather odd remote-control gear-lever depends from behind the dash. Girling brakes are used, and the wheelbase is 8 ft.
The Plus Four has been improved by using rubber-bushed rear spring shackles in place of the former trunnions, Armstrong shock-absorbers and ¼ in. wider front brake drums. The two spare wheels, alas, have given way to only one, this being neatly mounted at an angle on the tail. Experiences with a Morgan Plus Four after a year's ownership appeared in Motor Sport dated August, 1952.
Porsche Stand No. 151
The German Porsche is an enthusiast's car par excellence, remarkably compact, with lines both beautiful and aerodynamic, and a maximum speed of close on 100 m.p.h. in normal 1½-litre form, while it shares with the VW the distinct advantages of an air-cooled, rear-located engine and all-round independent suspension.
The Spyder sports/racing version will not be at Earls Court, where the exhibits will comprise a standard cabriolet, a Speedster, and the new Carrera fixed-head coupé. The Carrera has the twin o.h. camshaft roller-bearing engine of the Spyder, but set aft of the transmission and using a compression ratio of 8.7 to 1 instead of 9.5 to 1, so that it develops 100 instead of 110 b.h.p. at 6,200 r.p.m. This engine is now of 1,600 c.c. (82.5 by 74 mm. instead of 80 by 74 mm.) and qualifies for Gran Turismo racing. The cabriolet will also have the 1,600-c.c. engine.
The Porsche is well worth examining, for it possesses "static" as well as "performance" merits. Motor Sport has not been allowed to test a Porsche but we hope to include our Continental Correspondent's impressions of his 1,500 coupé in a future issue.
Sunbeam Stand No. 159
The entirely new Sunbeam Rapier saloon will be shown. This is, in effect, a "Gran Turismo" edition of the Hillman Minx. It uses the same "square" four-cylinder, 1,390-c.c., push-rod o.h.v. engine, and the wheelbase of the unitary chassis/body shell is 3 in. longer, or 8 ft. exactly. But the engine, by reason of a compression ratio of 8.0 to 1 instead of 7.0 to 1 and other modifications, develops an extra 14½ b.h.p. for an increase in maximum crankshaft speed of 600 r.p.m., the Rapier engine peaking at 5,000 r.p.m. The four-speed synchromesh gearbox has ratios of 16.6. 12.9, 7.9 and 4.1 to 1, but a Laycock de Normanville overdrive which operates in third and top (giving six forward speeds) steps this up to 3.95 to 1. The unladen kerb weight is just under 21 cwt. and a specially low build is employed. The price will be £986 0s. 2d., inclusive of p.t.
When introducing the Sunbeam Rapier in London on October 12th, Sir William Rootes spoke of a top speed of 90 m.p.h. and an overall fuel consumption of 30 m.p.g., and said that the first rally driver to test the new car was John Cutts, who had that morning driven one down from Coventry! It is the intention of the Rootes Group to enter the Rapier, which has the "Gay Look," in International competitions, but insufficient will have been produced for entry in the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally, for which the well-established Sunbeam Mk. III saloon will be relied upon, the convertible Sunbeam Mk. III and Alpine roadster having been discontinued to streamline production. This Mk. III 2.3-litre Sunbeam, which does a rugged 95 m.p.h. and handles well in almost the vintage manner, having been improved greatly from the lessons of the Alpine Rally, will be exhibited unchanged, but in the "Gay Look." We published a roadtest report in August, 1955.
Triumph Stand No. 123
The Triumph TR2 sports model has won universal fame amongst enthusiasts and competition drivers, and represents excellent value for money. It is a reliable, comfortable car for road use, able to out-accelerate almost anything normally encountered, it has sound handling qualities, it is snug when closed up (or in hard-top form), yet its maximum is just under or above 100 m.p.h. depending on tune. Moreover, the 1,991-c.c. twin-S.U. version of the famous Standard Vanguard engine which powers it is notably economical, and something like 28 m.p.g. or better is realised while cruising at speeds in the region of 70 m.p.h.-and it is quite happy holding 98 m.p.h.
The Triumph TR2 has earned a great reputation in sports-car races and rallies without departing very far from standard form, and an enthusiastic TR2 Association is in existence. Consequently, the new TR3 model, which has its power output increased from 90 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m. to 95 b.h.p. at the same crankshaft speed, retaining the same gear ratios, and overdrive if required, will be a source of great interest. It has more room behind the seats than formerly, and an occasional seat, supplied as an extra, may be installed.
The TR3 is priced at £25 more (£650 basic) than the TR2 but at an inclusive price of £921 19s. 2d. in this country, or £985 14s. 2d. in hard-top form with sliding windows, it is right at the top of the sports-car field in terms of value for money. Extras available include the electrically-operated overdrive operating on second, third and top gears, heater, radio, competition-type back shock-absorbers, Dunlop Road-Speed tyres, competition-type front springs, telescopic steering, centre-lock wire wheels, leather upholstery, tonneau cover, and the extra seat. Motor Sport's impressions of the TR2 appeared in the issue dated February, 1955.
Sports Cars Costing Under £1,000
Inclusive of P.T.
£638 12s. 6d. ... Morgan 4/4 Series II two-seater.
£676 17s. 6d. ... Dellow Mk. IIC two-seater (not at Earls Court).
£768 19s. 2d. ... Dellow Mk. V lightweight sports (not at Earls Court).
£844 0s. 10d. ... Morgan Plus Four two-seater.
£844 0s. 10d. ... M.G. MGA two-seater.
£865 5s. 10d. ... Morgan Plus Four four-seater.
£886 10s. 10d. ... Triumph TR2 two-seater.
£921 19s. 2d. ... Triumph TR3 two-seater.
£950 5s. 10d. ... Triumph TR2 hard-top two-seater.
£985 14s. 2d. ... Triumph TR3 hard-top two-seater.
* This amusing poem by Horace M. Wyatt, of which we reproduce the first verse, is believed to have appeared in Car Illustrated or 1905. Recently our erudite readers have sent us full versions of two different "Hiawatha-motoring" poems, so perhaps someone will be able to complete this one? — Ed.