There are very few truly new cars on show this year. Colin Chapman, however, maintains his reputation with the Lotus Elite Mk. XIV coupe, which is not only a very pretty car to look at, but is a technical innovation, for it has no chassis, being of glass-reinforced epoxide and polyester resin. This two-seater coupe with spare wheel flat behind the seats has all-round independent suspension, that at the rear by Chapman struts, disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, a 1,220-c.c. Climax engine and a choice of six final-drive ratios. Its dual tanks in the front wings hold 18 gallons of petrol and the radiator is fully ducted. The price, with purchase tax, is £1,951 7s. This is a Lotus which looks as suitable for fast touring as the Club, Sports and Le Mans Lotus models have proved themselves to be for racing and fast road work. How nice to see a car that looks right and is technically significant, come from this small British factory!
Jensen show the new 541R, which follows the style of the well-established 541 but has a new, lower chassis, the Austin DS7 4-litre engine, revised rear suspension, special bonnet ducting to reduce the temperature of the air reaching the carburetters, disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, and a claimed maximum speed of 125 m.p.h. The body is slightly altered, with streamlined moulding above the back wheels.
Frazer-Nash have an exciting new Porsche-styled G.T. Continental coupe with V8 140-b.h.p. B.M.W. engine, and Borgward exhibit the TS75 two-door coupe. Two exhibits occupy the Alvis stand, one being the new drophead coupe on the TC 108/G chassis. The Alfa-Romeos in Italian red draw all who like fast efficient cars; the Giulietta saloon is now available in T.I. form with 65-b.h.p. Sprint engine and the open Spider can be had in Veloce 90-b.h.p. form and with an attractive hard-top if required.
Besides an Appia and Flaminia. Lancia show an Aurelia Spyder two-seater. The Porsche 1,600 Super now has Thin Wall plain bearings in place of roller bearings. The Morgan has adopted centre-lock wire wheels on one version, the Berkeley is present in promising new three-cylinder 492-c.c. Excelsior-engined form, as a coupe, this model having a four-speed Albion gearbox bolted to the engine and all versions having quadrant-change central gear-levers on the floor.
Allard have a new G.T. 2/4-Seater coupe with space-frame, C-type Jaguar power unit, large brakes and a man-size hand-brake lever. Its pretty body has very slender cast-alloy screen pillars and the neat bumpers adopted last year.
Delightfully miniature in every respect is the Goggomobil TS300 coupe, even to the size of its cubbyhole and the minute lever controlling the electro-magnetic gear-change, yet an incredible number of large fitted suitcases, alternately labelled “his” and “hers” are carried behind the seats. Isetta have made a special display of the new four-seater 600 saloon, which with its flat-twin 585-c.c. B.M.W. engine should be the high-performance model amongst the minicars. It will make Fiat think — especially as it costs £76 10s. less here than the two-seater Fiat 500 and £169 10s. less than the Fiat 600, and looks to have lots of room inside.
Skoda have an elaborate display of their 1,089-c.c. sports convertible, the new fan-cooled flat-twin engine of the remarkably rapid 850-c.c. Panhard is new to London, and the Singer engine survives for another year in o.h. camshaft form, in a Minx shell, albeit with but one carburetter.
For those with bulky wallets there is the rather nice Facel-Vega, with all manner of restrained “gimmicks,” such as lamp switches on the prop.-shaft tunnel, armrests individual to each front seat, the biggest lidded ash-tray yet, a delightful smell of good-quality leather and very tasteful interior appointments. The panoramic screen is like those on the new Vauxhalls — mind your knees! The engine is American, the back axle British, the conception French.
Stunt exhibits reveal little ingenuity this time. B.M.C. made much use of transparent bonnets, which would be amusing on one’s own car, the M.G. MGA rolls over as if having a horrid accident in slow motion, there is a Standard engine apparently made of gold inside a transparent globe, and on Stand 161 a ghost car of 1907, made of bent wire and some parts that would be useful to veteran-car rebuilders, intrudes to try to mark the jubilee of the Minx — or is it Hillman?
Pontiac attracted the T.V. cameras with the fenced-off Club de Mer, a sort of Indianapolis dream car, only this “Strato-Streak”-powered 300-h.p. cerulean-blue model is a futuristic sports two-seater. We heard there were interesting models on the Lotus stand but when we got there they turned out to be not the sort of models we had first thought of — and much more interesting!
The D.K.W. coupe was an absentee, nor did Simca show an open car, nor their Plein Ciel coupe. The Simca Montlhery 58 saloon with “Special Flash” 57-h.p. engine was partial compensation. Renault declined to draw enthusiasts with a Gordini Dauphine.
The new Aston Martin DB Mk. III saloon is a race-bred car if ever there was one, but David Brown showed it on a rather modest stand, where it was accompanied by a Lagonda saloon and appeared to have left the track and come to rest on a beach. Sir William Lyons was present for the Press preview on the Jaguar stand, where an XK150 coupe was shown and the Mk. VIII exhibited very prominently, but where the XKSS was not to be found.
Bristol had the new 406 saloon, flanked by two 405s. The 406 has a 2.2-litre engine but, for one who always admired the Bristol as a very fast 2-litre keeping its best performance for those drivers who enjoy changing gear, this seems a retrograde development. If more performance is wanted why not put the capacity up to 3-litres? This car has an uninspired wire radiator grille and Bentley body.
Various minicars like the Heinkel, Janus, Fairthorpe Atomota and Frisky can be examined, the distinctly-odd Janus dwarfed by vast Pontiacs on the same stand.
Citroen show a couple of the exceedingly advanced DS19 saloons and a quite unchanged 2 c.v. — perhaps the best peasant’s car there is. Ford make you feel your age by still exhibiting a Popular.
The nearest Earls Court gets to motor racing is the stand occupied by the B.A.R.C. How disgraceful that the centre of the Hall isn’t occupied by a G.P. Vanwall. The British Motor Press is well represented, and, let’s face it, the Press sells or discards more cars in a year than all the salesmen at the Show.
It is purely coincidence that a Volkswagen chassis can be seen right opposite the Motor Sport stand.! — W. B.