Matters of Moment, November 1958

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Earls Court Motor Show

On October 22nd the London Motor Show was opened by the Rt. Hon. R. A. Butler, C.H, M.P., Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Lord Privy Seal. This great International Motor Show will remain open every day. Sunday excepted, until November 1st.

This year some extremely interesting new British cars will be exhibited: The race bred Aston Martin DB4 is particularly worthy of study, and other new British cars include the specially styled Austin A40, the Humber Super Snipe with ingenious, but not original, valve gear, 3-litre Rover, Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire, Bristol 406. Daimler Majestic. Mark IX Jaguar. Twin Cam M.G., and a new make in the form of the Peerless. The greatest interest, however, will be displayed in the family cars which, in the case of British products, continue to use rigid back axles suspended on cart springs, whereas many of the Continental small cars have i.r.s. and engines located close to the driven wheels.

It is pleasing to find a racing development in increasing favour, amongst manufacturers, in the form of disc brakes. On the other hand, another racing development petrol injection, has been adopted for a normal type of car by Mercedes Benz, whose new 220SE brings great credit to this long-established German company.

Technically this is not a very interesting exhibition and it is curious that in an age when the efficiency of the small engine has reached a very high level, so many manufacturers are showing cars of increased cubic capacity, compared to their previous models.

It can be said without fear of contradiction that this Motor Show, which attracts such very large crowds is not the ideal place at which to choose such an important possession as a motor car. The exhibits are shown under artificial light which can affect their colour schemes, suspension is very often strapped down to obtain an abnormally low build, as if the car always runs fully laden, and some of the exhibits noticeably the show chassis are specially finished for the occasion. Be that as it may, this London Motor Show is the splendid social occasion enabling agents to meet contacts from the parent firms, racing drivers to argue over next season’s contracts and cars, members of design teams to see collectively all the products of those firms from which they cause cars to be assembled (rather than manufactured!), and throughout the days when the Show is open it would be difficult to calculate the gallonage of alcohol liquor consumed. In addition. where, except at Earle Court. could the public “collect cars” by sitting in as many as possible. as at other time they used to collect cigarette cards and still collect gimmicks from cereal packets?

Certainly the stands at Earls Court show cars in a distinctly collective manner, at all events to those who believe that a fair test of a car involves taking it on the road and driving it hard and far, perhaps over the Welsh mountains or up and down Alpine passes or hurrying to the Mediterranean to escape the persistent rain and east winds of England. In comparison the motor car as a Static exhibit in a museum or show hall seems strangely artificial, and although demonstration cars are kept adjacent to Earls Court for the benefit of serious potential customer’s, such demonstrations cannot be very convincing in the congested traffic and brief by-passes which contribute to the test routes.

While enthusiasts will go the Show primarily to enjoy high performance cars so admirably presented by Alfa-Romeo, Aston Martin, Austin Healey, Ferrari. Frazer-Nash, Jaguar, Lotus, M.G., Triumph and other manufacturers, it must be remembered that the majority of the visitors will look first at more normal cars and some will even be enthusiastic over the inereased use of two-pedal control and fully automatic transmission. In this context the modern small family car provides exceedingly satisfactory transportation we reminded ourselves by spending the weekend before the Motor Show opened behind the wheel of that admirable little saloon Fiat 600.

Whether you are seeking a car which will exceed 100 m.p.h. or 40 m.p.g., or any of the variances between such limits the International Motor Show at Earls Court provides the magnificent assembly of the world’s automobiles in a satisfactory setting.

MOTOR SPORT gives, on page 764. the Editor’s special stop press impression of these cars as seen on the eve of the opening day.

World Champion 1958

Heartiest congratulations to Mike Hawthorn on being the first Englishman to become World Champion.

The readers and staff of MOTOR SPORT are particularly delighted, for his first major success was the winning in 1951 of the Brooklands Memorial Trophy. He won the Trophy in a T. P. Riley brilliantly prepared by his father, the late Leslie Hawthorn who would have been extremely proud that his boy has made such good use of the opportunities that he gave him. So confident were we of him becoming World Champion, that in September we put in hand the colour blocks for our front cover tribute.