Matters Of Moment, November 1957



The London Motor Show

On October 16th another great Motor Exhibition opened at Earls Court. The opening ceremony was performed by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Harold Macmillan, M.P.

In his speech Mr. Macmillan paid warm tribute to the British Motor Industry on its splendid export record. Such a record is indeed worthy of praise; but let us not be too complacent. The fact is that this is a disappointing Motor Show. Few of the innovations of which we heard forecasts last year have come about. British motor cars continue to rely on cart-springs, rigid back axles, propeller shafts, and water radiators, and they go up instead of down in price with the passage of time.

Did Mr. Macmillan pause to study the advanced design of most of the Continental cars as he made his tour of the exhibits and did he stop to consider the highly-competitive prices at which such vehicles will sell in his free European Market? From the viewpoint of new British cars to compete against and beat such designs, the 1957 Earls Court Exhibition is, we repeat, a disappointment. Where is the revolutionary Ferguson? Where can you find a single British car outside the minicar class with an air-cooled engine, in spite of the fact that every aeroplane, military and civil, has flown for many years now without the complication of coolant plumbing? Come to that, how many new applications of independent-rear-suspension have you discovered on British chassis? When cars go out from this little Island to provide transport in the mud, the heat, the cold and over the rough roads that prevail in various parts of the Globe, success or failure can depend on items of specification that may seem extravagant and unnecessary at home.

It is a sad reflection on our common sense that, as the world prepares to move into an era of space-travel — congratulations to Russia on her magnificent technical lead in getting up the first “moon” — the conservatism of directors, the calls of the shareholders and the continually rising cost of labour combine to retard the beneficial development of that earth-bound transport vehicle, the motor car, which, unless it is a Citroen DS19, has not advanced materially in the last decade.

The Earls Court Show emphasises that while the bright ideas come from the smaller manufacturers, the future — and our future — is increasingly in the hands of the Big Five. They, in turn, are governed more and more by the component and accessory suppliers whose manufacturing ability and “know-how” contribute very materially to the excellence of our dependable — if technically backward — cars. Their stands in the Gallery at Earls Court repay a visit, because the products you can examine thereon find a place in the structure of all the cars on display in the glittering hall below — which, in general, are assembled products rather than manufactured goods, with the exception of certain components, mainly engine parts. Some of the Gallery displays are refreshingly ingenious, compared with the artificiality of much of the presentation for which the car manufacturers are responsible.

Earls Court, 1957, may go down as the “Disc Brake Show.” The use of such brakes is increasing, and anything which contributes to road safety is to be commended. Disc brakes are not yet universal, and they are not yet found on inexpensive cars. But, just as in 1923 front-wheel-brakes were adopted by the more wide-awake designers and by 1924 were virtually universal, it may be that the foresight of firms like A.C., Aston Martin, Bristol, Citroen, Fairthorpe, Jaguar, Jensen, Lotus, and Triumph may result in greater use of discs in place of drums in 1958.

Otherwise, apart from the advent of some new high-performance small-engined cars like the Wolseley 1,500 and a spate of miniature cars, good, bad and indifferent, Earls Court reveals nothing excitingly new.

Elsewhere the Editor reviews the exhibits to the best of his ability in a report which had to be written before the Show was officially opened — see page 636.

Racing Rules for 1958

Changes in International rules for next year include a capacity limit of 3-litres in races counting towards the Manufacturers’ Championship, a ban on changing drivers in Formula 1 races and compulsion to use hydrocarbon fuel of 95 to 100 octane (research rating method) as a fuel in Grand Prix races, the minimum distance of which is reduced front 500 to 300 kilometres.

Motor Sport will be occupying Stand 74 at the Earls Court Motor Show. On the stand will be several sets of colour transparencies, taken during the year by our Photographer. These sets, which have printed descriptions and cost only 21s. each, have proved very popular during the past year.