Earls Court Impressions
Vast crowds are now in full invasion of the London Motor Show, sampling the seats of every vehicle they find unlocked, so that they can decide how to place their order for a new car, of which, if they are lucky, they should be able to take delivery before next summer.
There is much in this issue of Motor Sport to interest normal as well as hyper-enthusiasts, so when preparing this brief review of Earls Court the Editor and the Continental Correspondent — it is fashionable for journalists to tour the Show in pairs! — decided to remember their paper’s title and look mainly at sports and high performance cars.
The surprise exhibit was the Fiat 1,500 Cabriolet with four-cylinder 1,491-c.c. twin-cam alloy head engine giving 91 b.h.p. and having four separate copper exhaust pipes, central gear-change, and a very pretty two-door two-seater drophead body not only designed but made by Farina. About 105 m.p.h. is claimed and a few of these left-hand-drive Fiats will be sold here for £1,840.
“Abarth corner” is an enthusiasts’ paradise, where you can see the yellow coupe which broke long-distance Class II records, including 500 miles at 102.89 m.p.h., and the Fiat 850 fixed-head coupe (£2,986) with twin-cam engine having inlet ports in the centre of the head and taking its cooling air through a big scoop on the engine cover,
Lotus show three production Elites, respectively in red, white and mauve, and opposite is the F.1 Cooper in its place of honour, the off side of the bonnet removed to reveal its Climax engine.
Austin-Healey show worthwhile Sprite and 3-litre chassis exhibits, and on this Stand there is a Shorrocks-blown Sprite engine which gives 86 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m., this having the three upswept exhaust stubs and 1¾-in. S.U. of the record-breaking Sprite, whereas the public have to be content with a normal exhaust manifold and 1½-in.carburetter. All the Porsches have the new items of turbo-fin brake drums, raised bumpers and lamps, new gear-levers, etc., and on closed models exceedingly neat rear folding seats. A neat point of detail is the lockable pockets in the doors of the 1600 Super roadster.
Alfa-Romeo have a pleasing display of red cars, of which the most exciting is the Giulietta 125-m.p.h. Sprint Speciale coupe, which has a five-speed gearbox with 4.1 top gear, and with that beautiful twin-cam engine giving 116 b.h.p. Mercedes-Benz show a 190SL coupe.
Surprisingly, Jaguar show no sports models but have a triple-S.U., part-sectioned 150S engine, very beautifully finished, in a glass case. Daimler is creating enormous interest with the SP250 V8 sports car, which they hope to produce at the rate of at least 150 a week for the first two years, making their own fibreglass body. If the external appearance is rather ugly and old fashioned, the padded leather facia and leather-covered steering wheel are in excellent taste. Backing up Edward Turner’s sports Daimler is a new closed car with the same engine (on the Hooper Stand) and a new 220-b.h.p. 4½-litre V8 Daimler Majestic Major saloon notable for its excellent low-speed torque and absence of noise at high speed for a car of this bulk. The handsome new Sunbeam Alpine is brilliantly displayed against silhouettes of New York, and the Alps.
So to the Aston Martin Stand, where the DB4 and the new DB4GT Superleggera two-seater coupe are overlooked by the Aston Martin DBR1/300 which won the Le Mans race — this car a very effective reminder that Aston Martin won the 1959 World’s Sports-Car Championship. The Editor said he would rather have a DB4GT than the equivalent Ferrari or Maserati, but the Continental Correspondent remarked that he would wait until one of these Aston Martins leads a field of Italians in the G.T. race at Monza.
Luckily the Editor claims he is colour blind, for he was spared when he came upon a puce Peerless, which someone said was of Toni Perm hue.
The M.G. Stand includes 1,600 and Twin-Cam coupes with transparent bonnet tops and a restless Farina Magnette forever turning circles. Bristol show a Zagato saloon spoilt by cheap side-beading, and Lancia have a GT version of the Flaminia, a sleek two-door coupe for which they claim 112 m.p.h. and 20 m.p.g.
New to Earls Court is the A.C. Greyhound 2/4-seater saloon (£2,891) with double-wishbone and coil-spring i.f.s. diagonal-pivot coil-strut i.r.s., and a Bristol D2 engine. If the rear suspension recalls the post-war Lagonda, the rack-and-pinion steering is new to A.C. That great enthusiast Bob Gibson-Jarvie has a Greyhound on order. The Continental Correspondent had to be assisted from the Morgan Stand when be discovered that the steering-arm is coupled direct to the track-rod. Before we leave cars for enthusiasts, a mention should be made of the range of sports and racing engines on the Coventry-Climax Stand on the ground floor — they are all there, up to the 2½-litre F.1 unit giving 236 b.h.p. at 6,750 r.p.m.
Having looked at the fast stuff we turned our attention to lesser things, although this is not the right way to describe the splendidly compact and beautifully-finished V8 engine on the Rolls-Royce Stand. Amongst engine exhibits are a sectioned i.o.e. Rover, Simca, Daimler, Morris, D.A.F., VW, and even a s.v. Ford Popular. There are lots of funny small cars, including the Citroen Bijou with a fan in its nose, an ugly two-door plastic 2/4-seater saloon body, and an enormous single-spoke steering wheel cribbed from its elegant sister, the DS19. All the little cars are fascinating but who will buy one of these Citroens at £674, or a B.M.W. 700 at £728, when they can buy a de luxe B.M.C. baby for £536? Talking of which, do not fail to see the cleverly-sectioned Austin Se7en with roses round the door and astonishingly thin-gauge roof. There its also an instructional B.M.C. engine exhibited, showing the set-up of the Austin Se7en engine/transmission unit. While looking at small cars we encountered a Dauphine which had had a shocking accident (or perhaps it was oddly sectioned) and a Fairthorpe which had had a worse one. The Editor did not intend to look at the Floride because only that morning he had received a good Corgi model of one, but when he found the real car full of girl-models it was a different matter. Triumph show a brilliantly-illuminated Herald chassis with working suspension and transmission which enables visitors to see clearly the i.r.s. with its bent radius-arms. This car, like the Bentley, Rover and Rolls-Royce,needs a minimum of servicing, which should definitely become a future trend.
The Peugeots looked unhappily forlorn, and the belt-drive D.A.F. (1959 !) will not be marketed here until next spring, which is what they told us last year.
Having seen the real small cars we went to see America’s idea of a small car, but the Ford Falcon looked anything but small, the Chrysler Valiant was not arriving until the Monday, and we hardly noticed the Rambler, or the Studebaker Lark, of which they show two V8s and one Six. But we did notice the Chevrolet Corvair 700 with its flat-six air-cooled rear engine, swing-axle i.r.s. and very fine body lines. This is definitely one of the leading exhibits at Earls Court. It costs £2,211 here but should still attract queues of eager customers.
After this compressed tour, we staggered back to the Motor Sport Stand and, sinking down, came face-to-face with a Vauxhall Friary Velox, which should encourage large families, while beyond it we were faintly embarrassed to see more of these irrepressible Volkswagens, one of which was taking the water jump. W.B.