Random Reflections on - Earls Court 1962

A pleasing aspect of this year’s London Show was the number of smaller car manufacturers exhibiting there – Abarth, A.C., Elva, Lotus, Morgan, Reliant, Sabra and T.V.R., while Fairthorpe relinquished their Stand under unhappy circumstances. However, those who would otherwise have been able to sit in a Rockette were allowed by the Exhibition authorities to sit on chairs. This is proof that amongst Very Big Business the smaller firms are surviving. Another pleasing thing was the effect the outburst in the Press has had over the S.M.M.T.’s former ban on racing-car exhibits. This year B.R.M., Cooper and Lotus F.1 cars were a big draw, while Saab showed their Monte Carlo Rally winner and Panhard their victorious CD Le Mans Index of Performance coupe.

Saab’s “High Performance Course” saloon with a B.S.M. badge caught us for a moment—it did not imply a new equipe, merely that Carlsson is consultant to the British School of Motoring’s High Speed Course at Brands Hatch, if that is any consolation to you.

The outstanding small car exhibit was B.M.C.’s Morris 1100 and compact as the ADO16 is, it was interesting that both this and the M.G. 1100 looked impressively big little cars. No doubt conscious that the public may be cautious about the new Hydrolastic suspension, B.M.C. played it down, although proclaiming that it makes all roads into motorways, which is kind to some sections of M 1. Any doubts the customers have should surely be dispelled by the reliability of the Minis’ rubber suspenders.

The opinion in some quarters seemed to be that the Morris 1100 isn’t quite so spacious within as a Mini but possibly the people sitting in the back of the 1100 were specially bulky ones imported by Ford for the purpose. Those who thought B.M.C. were making too complicated an engine range were pleased to discover that the 1,089-c.c. ADO16 power unit is now used in the A40, Morris 1000 (which will have to be re-named) and the Sprite and Midget sports cars. This will endow them with improved performance, the “Spridgets” now having disc front brakes to cope with it.

Ford of Dagenham-America had easily the largest Stand but we were frightened away by the presence thereon of’ a Police Z-car; anyway, a day after the Show opened Ford production came to a halt due to strike action.

A very fast small car, the Abarth Twin Camshaft 1000 coupe with engine cover removed caught the eye, and the imagination, for it gives 105 b.h.p. at 7,100 r.p.m. from 982 c.c.  Aston Martin showed a G.T. engine as in their Vantage model-302 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. from 3,670 c.c. There was a Singer Vogue labelled “New” but looking very old-fashioned. Dual head lamps do not suit Bentley and R.-R. There was a VW on its roof which even we thought funny. Actually it was done to show the clean underparts and location of the machinery. On this Stand they were cashing in on the car that went to a watery grave in the Channel by asking, as a caption to its picture: “Why Does a Volkswagen float?”, the answer being, “Because it is Well Made,” and if a car is that water-proof it will be dust-proof, too, which is of interest to many foreign visitors. Alfa Romeo had only one open car, a Michelin “X”-shod Giulia Spider.

Triumph were rightly making much of the Spitfire (but why a I.h.d. example?) and there was also one of those elusive Triumph Vitesse Sixes and a Goodyear-shod TR4. The TR4 has been out a year but we still await one for road-test.

It was nice to see a couple of T.V.R.s at Earls Court, on a Stand roughly the size of their factory—this is another one we want to road-test.

The Peugeot 404 cabriolet had petrol injection and opens completely, like the new Citroen Decapotable, which was on a turntable facing the very different Jaguar Mk. X saloon. The A.C. Cobra V8, like the Studebakers and most of the Maseratis, was absent on Press Day but was anticipated by a board giving acceleration figures taken by a magazine we had never heard of, but exactly the same as those in Road & Track, quoted elsewhere!

What else?  Well, the body had popped off an Elf up into space, Renault and Simca showed engines at both ends of their cars, there was a TR4 with its sunshine Surrey Top, which sounds delightfully Victorian, and at last all the Panhards doors trail; for some reason the Tigre was called a Relmax S Tigre, which means de luxe.

Lancia included, for lovers of fresh air, a Flavia Vignale convertible with floor gear-lever amongst their always dignified exhibits—cars in the best of taste.

Daimler had a 140-b.h.p. V8 engine on their Stand and Coventry-Climax their V8 racing engine (174 b.h.p. at 8,200 r.p.m. from 1,494 c.c.) on view for the first time, which was rather pointless as they were on the point of withdrawing it from production. What is going to happen to Formula One in 1963 or 4? Lucas had a B.R.M. V8 G.P. engine on Stand 211 to remind you that Graham Hill’s successes have been assisted by P.I. and E.I. equipment.

It was nice to see Ogle in the Coachbuilding Section but sad that Zagato wasn’t there. The Ogle SX1000 appeared in party trim but the attraction was the Ogle SX250 based on the V8 Daimler SP250. This fine car has long awaited better bodywork. The Ogle glass-fibre version has no-nonsense grouping of the instruments on square panels, the shortest remote gear-lever ever, and dual headlamps behind Perspex panels. Cars, it seems, now either sprout extra headlamps or coyly hide them away, as on the exciting new Lotus Elan (see page 862) —an idea B.M.C. contrived for the original A.H. Sprite, but abandoned. Chapman ingenuity—the Elan rotated on a turntable, with its lamps section retracted and extended, flashing, as it went round.

The star of the Mercedes-Benz exhibits was the 300SE—threepointed, if you took note of its self-levelling air suspension, fuel injection and 4-wheel disc brakes. Auto Union showed the 1000S roadster, claimed to cruise at a top speed of 90 m.p.h., for the first time in England. Undoubtedly the most alluring exhibits to enthusiasts were the Ferrari 250 G.T. Berlinetta Scaglietti competition coupe and the 5-litre V8 4-o.h.c. Lucas fuel injection Maserati G.T., backed up by a 4-litre Ferrari 400/SA Superamerica special coupe on the Pininfarina Stand. The other design by this talented Italian designer whose work is so well-known in England, was metallic green Austin Healey 3000. Reliant showed their high-performance Ford Zodiac powered Sabre G.T. coupe, lots of engine in a familiar chassis, strengthened and with disc front brakes, that should spell plenty of exciting “go.” Several girls were noticed with “Cleanslip” on them. Nice to know that visitors to Motor Shows are so hygienic.

The Car of the Show?—Pat Moss says it was the latest 300-b.h.p. Ford Thunderbird, with electric window lifts, a steering column moving sideways to provide easy entry but locking in place as a gear is engaged, etc. The car on the Stand was sold by the third day.— W. B.