The Paris Show

Author

D.S.J

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There is one aspect of the Motor Show in Paris that always makes it well worth a visit, and that is the wonderful freedom given to exhibitors. It is truly International, cars from all over the world being on show, and manufacturers can display anything from a standard prodruction model to mechanical fantasies, from family saloons to Grand Prix cars, and the bizarre to the absurd. For the racing enthusiast there was not so much to see as in previous years, but tucked away in a corner of the vast Grand Palais, in which everything is crowded together, was the new Grand Prix Gordini. This was the semi-streamlined eight-cylinder car, with all-round independent suspension and disc brakes, that made its debut at the recent Italian Grand Prix. Next to this was a sizeable stand of the Maserati firm, and they were showing the new 1,500-c.c. sports car, painted blue for the occasion, with four-cylinder engine based on the Grand Prix unit, and all-enveloping two-seater body, as described in Motor Sport last month. This interesting and fast newcomer to the 1½-litre field is now for sale to the public and should liven up that category of sports-car racing. Also displayed were two of the new Gran Turismo models, fitted with very beautiful coupé bodies, one a two-seater and the other a very-occasional four-seater. These models are identical mechanically to the very successful and long-proven A6G 2-litre sports car, the Gran Turismo version being detuned to 120 b.h.p. How serious this entry into the touring-car range by Maserati proves to be will depend a great deal on the customers. Compared to past efforts at producing road/sports cars, as distinct from racing/sports cars, these new models are the best yet and are superbly finished.

At the other end of the great hall, Porsche were also being tactful and showing their production 1,500-c.c. Spyder painted French racing blue. This ready-to-race sports car has wider front brake drums and shoes than earlier models, with air-scoops to these, and is sold complete with collapsible quick-action jack and regulation hood, though how it is fitted with a single Perspex aero-screen on the car is another matter. The other Porsche models were naturally on show, including the new four-camshaft Carrera-engined coupé. From England in this ready-to-race tour of the show there was an immaculate blue and white DB3S Aston Martin, still, unfortunately, with normal drum brakes, albeit now drilled with large holes, and only six sparking plugs for its six-cylinder twin-o.h.c. engine, unlike the factory cars which have 12 plugs. Keeping it company on the David Brown stand was a drophead coupé DB2/4 and a normal coupé of the same type, but not the new one with the unstreamlined rear end, however. Finally, there was one of the “single-seater” sports Panhards, of the type that won the Index of Performance at the recent Tourist Trophy. These tiny 850-c.c. flat-twin-engined cars, with monocoque chassis/body frame and very streamlined bodies, are essentially a racing/sports model, with most of the accent on the “racing.”

For those who were looking for a “sporty” two-seater for fresh-air motoring, there was much to see; English cars, as at Frankfurt, being well to the fore. The Austin-Healey 100 was shown fitted with a new four-speed gearbox, the M.G.-A was no longer new since the German Show, and the model exhibited was actually fitted with very second-hand-looking wheels showing rust marks through the paint. Triumph were there, of course, with the TR2, and the little white Giulietta Spyder by Alfa-Romeo had come from Germany, as had the eye-opening B.M.W. 507 with detachable hard-top. Mercedes-Benz had a new 190SL model, beautifully finished in black and chrome, with white bucket-seats, though the safety catch on the passenger seat had been fitted back to front! Denzel from Austria showed an open two-seater model of what they thought the Porsche should have been. This model of 1,300 c.c. is claimed to give more power than the Porsche 1,300-c.c. Super, without the use of a Hirth roller-bearing crankshaft or inclined valves, the Denzel head having the valves vertical. The body is of aluminium, against steel for the Porsche, and naturally the whole car is much lighter. The very lovely, though harsh, Lancia Aurelia Spyder open two-seater was on show, backed up by its relations the Gran Turismo coupé and the Aurelia saloon. Singer were displaying their open 2/4-seater 1,500-c.c. model, honestly called a “roadster”; a designation some other manufacturers might fellow. Salmson were showing a two-seater version of the 2.3-litre four-cylinder, twin-o.h.c. competition model, and on the stand was a 1,500-c.c. version of the same engine; and, as already mentioned, the Porsche Speedster, the open version of the normal Porsche was also showing.

Among the sporting coupés, apart from those already mentioned, was the ever-present 300SL. Pegaso showed two models, with body by Touring of Milan, and they also showed a new version of their V8 engine, available in 3.9 or 4.5-litre form. Just behind them was the Ferrari stand and two typical Ferrari coupés were shown, both on the 3-litre V12 chassis known as the 250 Europa. Of particular interest was the fact that both were fitted with left-hand steering and controls, the first time Ferrari had made this move. A very beautiful chassis was on show, being the new Super-America, with 4.9-litre V12 engine, a production version of the 1954 Le Mans winner. The large-diameter tube chassis now has i.f.s. by coil-springs, a four-speed gearbox just behind the engine, and retains the normal ½-elliptic rear suspension, while the brakes would stop a Grand Prix car. Another chassis of particular interest to those who like nice mechanical things was the new 2.5-litre Talbot-Lago four-cylinder, based on the old Grand Prix engine, with high camshafts, pushrods and rockers. Mounted in an entirely new frame comprised of two large-diameter tubes, with i.f.s. by wishbones and transverse leaf-spring, the engine drives through a ZF four-speed gearbox with short central control and by propeller-shaft to the normal rear-axle suspended on leaf-springs. Built in a classic, almost vintage, tradition, the new Talbot-Lago chassis was a delight to behold and made noticeable the fact that many manufacturers no longer show the chassis of their cars, either because they have not got one, like Porsche, or else it is too horrible to behold, like — ahem! Two coupé bodies were shown on the new 2½-litre Talbot-Lago chassis and they looked very sleek and small beside the long-out-ofdate 4½-litre coupé that was displayed. Nearby were two tiny D.B. Panhard coupés, one with a sickly plastic body that was made to look more sickly by the colour scherne of green and white, though both were very neat and compact in shape.

The Ford Thunderbird, with hard-top, was lurking about, as was the pretty little Karmann coupé VW, while Jaguar showed only coupé and drophead XK140 models as standard, but they were oceornpanied by a very sleek Ghia-bodied coupé on the same chassis. The Bristol stand looked very sombre with gunmetal grey 405 models, saloon and drophead, and it was left to Arnolt, just opposite, to attract the sporting types with his very pretty Bertone-bodied coupé, fitted with Borani knock-off alloy disc wheels. For the Renault enthusiasts there were many versions of specialist work on the 4-c.v. theme, with attractive little coupés by Henri Chapron and mechanical mods. by Autobleu, and a tiny coupé based on a 300SL, even to the “gull-wing” doors, by Pichon-Porat. Equally, Panhard Specials were shown, one successful one by the company just mentioned, and another enormous one by Arista that was big enough to take a Bristol engine.

Being a truly International Show, all the Americans were there, looking beautiful, vulgar, funny or obscene, depending on the viewer’s mind; though Chrysler were so ashamed of one of their models they buried it down a hole so that only the front stuck up above ground. An enormous Cadillac Eldorado, looking in accordance with the viewer’s eyes and mind, was revolving on a platform and showing a great deal of stainless-steel where chromium once grew, while the prize for vulgarity must surely be handed to a device called the Gaylord. This tiny tubular chassis is fitted with a 5-litre Chrysler engine of fabulous horsepower and the German firm of Spohn executed a beautifully-finished body to the most horrible design yet seen, the idea being born in Chicago. Any true vintage members must have rejoiced in the P100 headlamps and the exposed front wheels, but there the rejoicing would have ended. Not far from this monster was the stand of Boano, a coachbuilder of Turin, and showing were two creations of Raymond Loewy, the American body stylist. One was a very sleek coupé on a Chrysler, so low you could see over the roof, and the other was a rather strange flight of fancy on a Jaguar chassis. Neither are likely to be repeated but were fine examples of coachbuilders’ art given a free hand and very typical of one section of the Paris Salon every year. On the other side of the hall from these cars was a peculiar object called an IAME, which hailed from the Argentine and had a 3-litre V8 air-cooled engine, very much like the old Steyr, but cooled by an enormous turbo-fan driven by belts from the front of the engine. This engine was mounted in a chassis and coupé body that were merely meant to prove that the engine could be fitted to a car.

All these interesting, exciting and amusing things in one big hall meant that the end of the day found the mind beginning to boggle and the head a bit swimmy, but to complete the day the new Citroën just had to be seen. With everything controlled by hydraulic pressure and the whole conception being like an artist-designer’s impression of a 1980 motor car, any firm but Citroën would never have got away with such a gigantic forward stride in automobile engineering. Having got away with just such a gigantic step when they introduced the f.w.d. Citroën in 1935, they will probably do it again with their 1956 car. The Paris Salon has always been acknowledged as the greatest Motor Show, and it surely retains that title. — D. S. J.

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