Earls Court impressions
EVERY year my Proprietor demands this stop-press report of the Show almost before it has opened, and on the day of the B.M.C. luncheon, too. Consequently I am looking at the exhibits through a haze of Pouilly Fuisme 1955 which I hope Manufacturers will remember when reading what follows.
Earls Court 1960 is a great spectacle but not terribly exciting for not many new cars are to be seen. However, sporting types are well represented, pride of place going to a F.1 Cooper, winner of this year's Manufacturers' Championship, with a list of components sharing its success. It is the actual Watkins Glen car and John Cooper assures me it is a runner. Lotus have contrived a F.J. Lotus-Ford on their stand and Austin Healey display proudly the Liege-Rome-Liege winner. No. 76, which makes you appreciate that in this exacting field Britain can do it as well, or better, than Continental manufacturers with exotic names and B.M.C. sports cars, even in these draughty times, are selling as well as ever in America.
It is always nice to see engine and chassis exhibits in a Show where the emphasis is on glamour and ballet displays—Renaults stage their own ballet and we have heard owners remark that Dauphines dance about on the road at times. Humber have a sectioned 3-litre engine showing its Peugeot-4 style valve gear, Rootes show rotating 78-b.h.p. Rapier and 85 1/2 b.h.p. AIpine engines, while the Aston Martin engine with finned gearbox casing and water jacket following the contour of the cylinders shouldn't be missed. Jaguar also show a working sectioned engine butt someone has dipped it in gold paint, and Singer, with their engine exhibit. reminds us that this make is now wedded to one carburetter and push-rods. They claim the floor gear-lever to be a sports feature, which will make VW smile. A Riley chassis is shown on its side, and looks very old-fashioned, as you would in this position.
Apparently, judging by the larger-than-life pictures on the Hillman stand, choice of a car begins almost in the womb, for a smiling baby acclaims the Minx.
Volvo show their rugged 122S saloon standing on chunks of broken concrete, as indicative of the punishment these cars stand on Swedish roads, while the long-awaited P1800 sports coupe is there: it will be made in this country from next March, at the rate of 100 a month, in left-hand-drive form, but a right-hand-drive version will not he available until next October, they told us.
Ford turn their back on hard times with two cars, a Zodiac and Anglia, on a turntable, labelled, respectively, "HIS" and "HERS," and the Austin Se7en and Morris Mini-Minor are no longer listed as other than de luxe form. The cyclecars are there, even to two opposed air-cooled cylinders and belt-drive on the D.A.F. stand and great fun they are to drive but they must be looking distinctly sideways at B.M.C. since Issigonis designed the far better minicars for his Lord and master. In any case, we deal elsewhere with cars under 750c.c. but as the N.S.U. dealt with there is the Sport Prinz, may I remark that I came to Earls Court in an ordinary N.S.U. that cruises easily at an indicated 60 m.p.h.. returns 45m.p.g. of "mixture" and is a pleasure to drive?
The resurrected Lea-Francis gives you a 102-b.h.p. version of the Ford Zephyr engine in the a "Leaf Lynx" but you must judge for yourselves whether you would care to be seen in one, alive or dead. The instrument panel extends upwards from the transmission tunnel in a faintly Ferrari or Facel Vega fashion, divorcing the front passenger from the driver, which may possibly appeal to nervous girls, and the stylist responsible for the body must have been frightened before birth by an airship.
On the Lancia stand the Flaminia Farina coupe is very attractive but the Appia saloon has its rear door hinged at the back, inseparable from pillar-less construction and I was disappointed to find non-trailing front doors on the Panhard PLI7s.
Simca modestly refrain from showing the " Miramas " saloon which broke long-duration Class records at the disused track of that name becasue it is not vet available in this country, but Ford show one of the travel-stained Anglias which ran round and round Goodwood for seven days and nights recently at 62 m.p.h. - here is one of the Show's great mysteries; at Goodwood it was on Michelin "X" tyres but the car on Stand 98/99 is wearing grubby Goodyears.
Some extremely atractive Facel Vegas can be admired on stand 161, quiet coupes with dashboards like a ship's engine-room and exhaust pipes nestling coyly within the back bumper, as they used to do on the Vauxhall Victor. A label tells you that here is the "World's Fastest Production Saloon," the claimed top speed of the HK500 being 150m.p.h. If you can't afford the Excellence at £6,370 you can have the scaled-down twin-cam "Facellia"— if you have £2,692.
Ford show the 1961 V8 375-b.h.p. Thunderbird, which looks as good as we know the 225-b.h.p. Ford Galaxie to be, but enthusiasts will no doubt prefer to dream at the Maserati and Ferrari stands, where they show 3500GT and 250GT models, respectively, the new Pininfarina 2+2 Ferrari coupe being present. But all these cars are beyond the reach of most of us.
The Daimlers, to many people's relief, still look like Daimlers, the V8 Majestic saloon and the V8 SP250 sports model being notable exhibits. Jensen have the improved S.series saloon with that unmentionable automatic transmission (although, no matter what hush-hush the publicity agents impose, the Official Catalogue quotes it quite clearly as Rolls-Royce). The vintage-minded will note that the radiator shell of the modern Roll-Royce must be some two feet in front of the front hubs, but you must decide whether you prefer this or the not-at-all blatant lines of the Series 4639 325-b.b.p. Buick Invicta amongst today's comfortably large cars. The Buick Special looks an attractive cross between a Ford Falcon and Chrysler Valiant and is America's idea of a small car - 215 cu-in. yielding 155 h.h.p. at 4,600 r.p.m., and a wheelbase of 9 ft. 4 in.
But, on the subject of compacts, what a pity the brilliant new Pontiac Tempest has missed Earls Court.
The ugliest vehicle in the Show is probably the Isetta but the Skoda Felicia runs it close. However, if it's elegance you want, Renault are doing their best with their (real) ballet-girls, and on Press Day the Motor Trade was astonished by the B.B.C.'s ballet boys,who performed antics in the aisles. Come to think of it, this is a Motor Show of movement, which is a nice thought when you remember the traffic jams and parking problems outside. There is even a young woman so confused by a medley of traffic signs that she spends the time driving her Triumph Herald backwards and forwards in a tight circle, without turning her head—and what with one thing and another I can understand how she feels.
Although Rolls-Royce won't tell you what power it develops they show their compact 6.2-litre light-alloy V8 engine; the lengthy beltdrives are duplicated. Mercedes-Benz show a 300SL coupe, with normal doors, which reminds me that Simms Motor Units have petrol injection equipment on Stand 207. The Harold Radford Bentley "Countryman" grows toadstools on its back bumper or are they picnic seats ? A revolving Citroen DS is labelled with all its many outstanding features - why not just call it the most advanced car in the Show ?
Finally, MOTOR SPORT ths year looks out on a very line Alfa-Romeo Zagato G.T. coupe and not quite so handsome Zagato Aston Martin and Bristol coupes, which makes up for a lot of things. W. B.
T. A. D. Crook, Managing director of Anthony Crook Motors Ltd., has purchased a 200m.p.h. Piper Comanche light aeroplane. As these cost over £10,000 it looks as if business in Continental cars is flourishing !
Just to complicate an already complex situation, the V.S.C.C. of Australia has revised its rules and now recognises 1918 to 1931 inclusive as the qualification of a vintage car, and 1932 to 1940 for p.v.t.s.
Murphy Radio have introduced a remarkably compact car-radio incorporated in the rear-view mirror. Called the Voxson, it costs 20 gns., and is the lowest-priced all-transistor car-radio made in Britain. It needs 12 volts, no outside aerial, current consumption is that of a sidelamp, and any competent amateur mechanic should be able to install it himself.
The recently-formed model-T Ford Register has been refused permission to use the Ford script for its badge, etc. by Ford of America. The T-Register now has 57 car-owning members.
There's nothing new under the sun—or on the moon, yet ? In 1929 the police announced that any cars parked near the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament Ground would be towed away ...!
Paul Piesch, one-time driver of Grand Prix Auto Unions, is today head of a German publishing house and drives a Porsche Super 90.
A lynx-eyed reader noticed that some of the weights used by Louis Martin in the Olympic Games were marked '' Ferrari, Modena " . .