THIS year from October 6th-16th saw the 47th Paris Motor Show to be held and even if it is no longer the gay and sparkling array of special exhibits that it used to be, it still has an atmosphere that makes it one of the best of the International Motor Exhibitions. Where motor cars are concerned I am easy to please for I really like all types, though I must admit to liking some more than others, but above all else I do enjoy seeing good cars being used in preference to seeing them glittering under floodlights on show stands. My trip started well for I had only got as far as the Silver City car park at Le Touquet when I saw my idea of a motor show. Looking well travel-stained and ready to eat up more miles, either having landed from England or as soon as the Bristol Freighters had flown them swiftly across to Lydd, were two Porsches, a Sunbeam Alpine an Aston Martin DB4 and a Maserati 3500GT. Being also old-car minded, as well as Vintage minded, I could not help noticing a vast pre-war Mercedes-Benz limousine and a pre-war Morris Eight tourer that had obviously done an enormous number of Continental miles.
In Paris in the usual Grand Palais were more travel-stained and used cars amid the shiny and sleek new exhibits and somehow these attracted me more than the new ones, for whereas a new car may well be a phoney the old ones had proved themselves. On the Simca stand was the Ariane saloon with the new five-bearing 1,290-c.c. four-cylinder engine, which had completed 200,000 kilometres at an average of 104.77 k.p.h. (translated into English this is 124,200 miles at an average of 65 m.p.h.) round the rough concrete Miramas track near Marseilles. It was standing on a section of concrete that was a replica of the Miramas surface and was dirty and dusty, just as it had finished the demonstration run, establishing numerous long-distance records. It had been driven by a team of drivers from the Simca factory and one gets a better idea of the achievement when one realises that they started at 8 a.m. on April 25th and drove continuously until July 14th, stopping only for driver changes, refuelling, greasing, oil changing, tyre changes, etc. The car was on show as a demonstration of faith to the French public that Simca feel justified in the speed and reliability of their new four-cylinder engine, which they have named the ” Rush.” Not far away was another travel-stained saloon, this being on the Jaguar stand and it was the 3.8-litre Mk. II with which Consten and Renel won the Touring category of the recent Tour de France. Amid the shiny Mk. IX and XK150 Jaguars this grubby 3.8-litre looked rather nice, for it had demonstrated convincingly what its production brethren could do. The special racing-type bucket seats in the front looked particularly efficient and these coupled with the basically good driving position of the 3.8-litre saloon must have made it great fun to drive on the Tour de France. Another Tour de France car was the little B.M.W. 700 coupe with which Metternich and Hohenlohe won the Index of Performance handicap, this also being travel-stained and proudly wearing its competitor’s plaque. It would have been rather nice to have seen the overall-winning Ferrari G.T. of Mairesse and Berger on the Ferrari stand, but instead the Italians had crowded three sleek production cars into their tiny space. There was an open two-seater California model, a hardtop version and the new four-seater saloon, known as the 2 + 2. All these use the well-tried V12 engine and the four-seater is remarkable for its silence and smoothness. Of course, the sort of Ferrari that wins the Tour de France is a very different thing; still with a V12 engine, but a really harsh and rorty “racer” built specially for competitions and one of the finest sporting cars ever built. Rivalling the Ferraris for desirability and performance were the Aston Martins on David Brown’s show stand, there being two DB4 models and a G.T. version, while not far away were two 3500GT Maseratis, a coupe and a drophead, but somehow they did not possess that fierce business like look of the Astons and Ferraris, nor did the 300SL Mercedes-Benz roadster with hardtop, which had re-appeared on the stand of the Stuttgart firm. Still a nice Wagnerian type of car the 300SL is beginning to look dated and the like G.T. Maserati no one uses them for serious competition against the G.T. Ferrari, so it is difficult accurately to assess their true worth. In this same unproven category of high-performance, and here I refer to 130 m.p.h. or more, is the Facel Vega which seems to sell on merit amongst owners rather than publicity, while its little sister, the 1,600-c.c. twin-cam Facellia is beginning to be seen about quite a lot.
Among the smaller G.T. cars the Porsche range of coupe, drophead and hardtop using the 1600 or 1600 Super engine remains unchanged, their show stand displaying one of each type but unfortunately not one of the pretty Abarth-bodied competition Carreras as they are built in limited numbers and each one is sold almost before it is completed. On the Volvo stand was being shown the new G.T. model called the P1800 and it certainly looked nice but as yet nothing much is known about its potential, but if it performs that much better than the well-known saloon Volvo it is going to be quite a motor car. It has disc brakes on the front so obviously the Swedes expect it to go pretty fast. Alfa-Romeos were showing their Giulietta Sprint and the sleek Sprint Speciale with its delightful five-speed gearbox and these cars always have been desirable and still remain so, but a little way away on a small stand stood a Lotus Elite with 1,219-c.c. Coventry-Climax engine, smiling quietly to itself, sure in the knowledge that it could see-off any Alfa-Romeo in 1,300-c.c. G.T. racing. However, as a usable everyday G.T. car the answer still remains unknown, for though I can vouch for the Giulietta I lack practical experience of the Elite. On the Abarth stand was one of the really hot little G.T. coupes with the latest 1,000-c.c twin-cam Abarth-Fiat engine and in Italian racing red it really looked purposeful; it was accompanied by open and closed versions of the latest Abarth-Fiat combination, the tuned Fiat 2100, enlarged to 2200 by Carlo Abarth. The very pretty bodies were by Allemano and typical of Italian coachbuilders’ art on one-off projects, though these Abarth 2200 models are soon to become small-production lines. On the opposite side of the Grand Palais was the Alpine stand, not to be confused with Sunbeam, for these were the competition coupes built around small Renault components. The latest model, known as the “Tour de France,” was a very businesslike little coupe with five-speed gearbox and available with engines varying in size, such as 747 c.c., 845 c.c. or 998 c.c. Next door to the sporting French coupes was the stand of the Italia 2000, a very pretty coupe, with wire wheels built around Triumph TR3 components in Italia. When one of these was seen in Monte Carlo back at Grand Prix time it caused a lot of whistles and raised eyebrows even before it was realised that it used Triumph components. It is only in small production, but nevertheless one does see them about in Italy, and in looks it is what the Peerless should have been but failed to be. It was just after looking at the Italia 2000 that I thought I was seeing things for a sign above a stand said “BRISTOLAC” and I thought it was something new until I realised it meant BRISTOL-A.C., for there was the trusty Ace-Bristol and the 2.2-litre Greyhound saloon that appeared at Earls Court last year but has not yet truly got under way.
One does not usually look among the Americans for G.T. cars, and in fact one still does not, but an eye had to be cast over the latest two-door version of the Corvair Chevrolet, for this is now approaching the interesting stage of development, very nearly becoming a desirable G.T. coupe, while certainly the flat six air-cooled engine is interesting. Chevrolet had a coupe on their stand, as well as the normal four-door saloon, but best of all was the special bodied Corvair by Pinin-Farina for that master of Motor Show cars had done a fine job on the rear-engined American chassis. The American stylist Raymond Loewy was exhibiting another motoring creation, this time on a Lancia Flaminia chassis and the body had been built by Motto of Turin, being a typical Loewy close-coupled coupe, but the radiator grille, almost hexagonal in shape was the foremost part of the car and the surround was of chrome-plated steel and was intended to take the place of a front bumper. Over the rearward portion of the roof was a rather thin adjustable aerofoil claimed to reduce turbulent drag, increase aerodynamic efficiency and exert a downward pressure on the rear of the car. These things are certainly possible if an aerofoil of large proportions is used but it is doubtful whether the slim blade on the Loewy creation would have any measurable effect. On Lancia’s own stand was exhibited their version of a G.T. Flaminia but somehow it is not so convincing as the old G.T. Aurelia, though Zagato make a really business-like G.T. body on the Flaminia chassis but of course this was not being exhibited. Of the French industry the Regie Renault had a splendid display of Dauphines, Ondines and Gordinis lined up nose-to-tail and each one mounted on a central pivot. To the gentle strains of Tchaikowsky’s Swan Lake ballet music the little Renaults revolved, flapped their doors open and shut, raised and lowered the lids of boot and engine compartment and blinked their headlights all in time with the music. Like any chorus of dancers time was needed to get the Renault dancers in unison and the electronics engineers were beginning to win the battle by the third day of the show. The cars all pirouetted together, and opened their various lids in tune, but the door opening and shutting mechanisms still required more practice, while at one point in the ballet where the cars poked their spare wheels out through the slots behind the front number plate, like putting their tongues out, one rude little Ondine refused to put hers back! The Ondine, by the way, is the latest version of the Dauphine, which is fitted with the four-speed gearbox of the Gordine-Dauphine but without the hotter engine. All models have been improved in handling by a small lowering of the final drive unit, giving less static positive-camber.
In direct contrast to Renault the Citroen factory did not need to put on any sort of show, their practical little 2 c.v. and advanced DS19 and ID19 models attracting the crowds as always. However, now that firms like Henri Chapron have proved that a drophead or open DS19 is possible and practical the Citroen firm themselves offer a sleek drophead on the DS19 chassis and this was creating a great deal of interest.
On leaving the Grande Palais I sat in the Champs-Elysées for a quiet drink musing on the fact that motor exhibitions were all right in their way but I really preferred practical motoring and that some of the exhibits would have been much more exciting had I been able to hear their engines and exhausts, when . . . zoommm, a G.T. Ferrari went by and life took on a different flavour. In the course of one quiet drink the Champs-ElySees proceeded to offer my idea of a Motor Exhibition, for amid the streaming traffic going by at an average of 40-50 m.p.h. I saw and heard a DB4 Aston Martin, a Facellia, a Giulietta, an Austin Healey 3000, a Face! Vega, another Facellia, a D.B. Panhard coupe and a Zagato Flaminia. I’m wondering whether perhaps next year I won’t spend the whole Of the Paris Motor Show time sitting on the Champs-Elysees.—D. S. J.