THE PARIS MOTOR SHOW 1961
FOR anyone interested in motoring with a capital ” A.1,” and I hope this includes all the regular readers of Mon* Sivi:T, the 48th Paris Salon was rather depressing. There were some splendid High Performance cars on show, but the whole of France seemed to be agog over the two 1.1CW wonder cart from Regie Renault and Simca. The former introduced their 750-c.c. Renault 41and the latter their 944-.c.c. Simca tOoo. The new Renault is a little tin box on little wheels, looking as though it should make a clockwork-like noise, whereas it makes the buzzing and roaring noise of a 4-cylinder. It has front-mounted engine and frontwheel-drive. The Simea is another tiny tin box on tiny wheels, trying hard to look like a grown-up Motor car, and haying rearmounted engine and rear-wheel-drive. For years Citroen have supplied the French populace, or the world for that matter, with Motoring for the Masses, and now Renault and Simca are getting in on the market.
During the Salon week the annual Test Day at Montlhory, on the fine 12.5-kilometre road circuit, gave an opportunity to get a foretaste of what the roads of France are going to be like in the very near future. The Simca moo was easily disposed of whilst trying the old-fashioned Simca Aronde with the hottest version of the 4-cylinder engine, and later in the day while enjoying the Citroen DS to and bowling along at an effortless 85 m.p.h. I came upon a gaggle of Renault 41., Simca zoo°, Citroen 2 c.v. and Renault Ondines completely filling the roadway and all racing along at varying speeds from 50 to 60 m.p.h. The effortless power-brakes of the DS t9 soon dropped the speed, and the incredible handling, road-holding and accurate steering of the car allowed me to weave my way in and out of this travelling roadblock. As I did so I could not help thinking that motoring with a capital ” M ” was going to get more and more difficult, in France.
I have always looked upon the Citroen 2 c.v. as a joke, but nevertheless a sound, rugged and very practical joke, that fulfils a certain aspect of motoring, and the Ami 6, with its larger engine, bigger body and more creature comfort, is a bigger joke, but when other manufacturers start doubling up on the .2 C.V. principles of transport for the people at minimum cost then the whole thing takes on a different aspect and I can see these little fizzers becoming as much a hindrance to high-speed motorway travel as the VW is on German autobahnen.
The Montlhery Test Day afforded the opportunity to sample all types of French car, just as the Goodwood Test Pay allows brief acquaintance with all the British cars, and tin§ year a welcome newcomer was the Facellia, the little 1,600-c.c. 2-seater from Facel-Vega, even though it has been in production for over a year. The small firm of Alpine had some of their surprising coupes built around Renault Dauphine-Gordini mechanical components, the vast reduction in overall height and better weight-distribution making them very handleable little coupes. Everyone was there with various examples of their products, especially Peugeot with their very honest 403 models and slightly more ‘flamboyant 404 models, including the latest one with fuel-injection. Back in the Grande Palais, unfortunately for the last time it seems, as the Salon looks like going to new premises next year, stock was taken of the International exhibits. At Paris just about everyone has a stand, for restrictive practices are non-existent and in the past, manufacturers from Argentine, Japan and Russia have all had space, in addition to all the well-known automobile countries of the world. One of the first to catch the eye was the new Facel II, by Facel-Vega, this being the latest version of the immensely fast Chrysler powered car, and it looked sleek and lithe, even by Ferrari standards, in contrast to the previous models, which have looked heavy and chunky. Not far away was a trio of glistening grey Maserati 3500 G.T. coupe.s, and two of these had Lucas fuel-injection adapted to their 6-cylinder twin-cam engines. The Ferrari stand had a 2 plus a saloon, a 250 G.T. and an open 2-seater roadster, all using the 12-cylinder 3-litre engine, and in case anyone had forgotten that Ferrari was top dog this year in Formula One, Sports-Car Racing and G.T. Racing, the stand was surrounded by photographs to remind them. Other Italian exhibitors of note in the sporting world were Osca, with three smooth coupes on the 1,600-c.c.-engined chassis, with bodies by various Italian specialists, and Abarth, who Was showing the Tour de France car still in rally condition, a normal 1,000-c.c. coupe and a large roadster on a 6-cylinder chassis. The Alfa Romeo stand was disappointing and somehOw one did not connect
it with the fast and furious Giuliettas of the competition world, though the name will always command respect. The Tour de France, being, the most important event for manufacturers as regards advertising, was. used by Facel-Vega, who were showing their Facellia which had completed the course, by Jaguar whose Mk. II Jaguar 3.8-litre saloon won the Touring Category, the actual car being on the stand, and by Abarth already mentioned. However, centre-piece on the jaguar stand was a most impressive E-type coupe revolving slowly on a turntable, and it was certainly a thing of beauty and something to drool over. Aston Martin were showing the powerful 1)B4 and a drophead version of the same car, and a single model of the new Lagonda Rapide, about which little is known as yet. On the Daimler stand was the imposing limousine, with 4I-litre V8 engine, bearing a card giving its maximum speed in k.p.h., and it was a figure that the French public usually associate with racing cars. The remarkable thing was that it was a figure that was genuine, as recorded by cnntempbrary road-tests. Mere sporty cars like the Austin Healey 3000, the Sprite (MG. Midget or Innocenti, depending on your Sentiments), Triumph TR4 and even the Zephyr-engined A.C. Ace, all seemed rather puny in comparison with this vast limousine that would whistle past them, chauffer-driven, on a motorway.
Small firms with one-off models, or limited production, were still to be seen, and a monster red coupe built by Vignale on a Chevrolet. Corvette chassis to the designs of Gordon Kelly from America, looked as though it would remain a ” one-off.” It gave the impression that no matter what You do to a Corvette chassis the result is going to look large and gormless. The French body-building firm of Bossaert showed two cut-and-shut versions of the DS Citroen, which looked most attractive. The vast overpowering American cars that have always been a feature of the Paris Salon are fast disappearing and being replaced by low, sleek and even ” compact ” American cars.
Among the technical innovations of the Salon were the toothed rubber-belt camshaft drive on the o.h.c. Goggomobil engine, known as Isard in France, this rubber belt being out in the open air, surprisingly. Mercedes-Benz, Maserati and Peugeot were showing production fuel-injection systems, Chrysler had a dreamcar fitted with a gas-turbine engine, Porsche had a 2-litre Carreraengined coupe, which is quite a motor car, B.M.W. exhibited their new r,soo-c.c. 4-cylinder-engined saloon, and Lancia the very advanced and revolutionary, for the Turin firm, Flavia, with flat-four engine, disc brakes, and front-wheel-drive.–D. S. J.