Matters of moment, November 1964

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The show

Once again autumn saw the London Motor Exhibition of the S.M.M.T. installed in the spacious hall at Earls Court—spacious within, except in the bars, but surrounded without by roads in which it is virtually impossible to park—the Motor Show you cannot visit in a motor car. Which gives rise to the thought that, as once a change was made from as once a was Olympia and White City to the new exhibition hall further into the Metropolis, perhaps the time has come for this great International sales-floor of the World’s motor vehicles to move again, to more open spaces outside London.

This year no very definite trend seems to have emerged, apart from an upping of engine-power by the simple expedient of increasing swept-volume to meet the demands of the new Motorways of Socialist Britain, and a stealthy advance in automatic transmission, whereby the driver is encouraged to keep both hands on the wheel and forgo the joys of changing his own gears.

It is satisfying to find no diminution in technical variety. The air-cooled twin-cylinder engine and belt-drive, with which cyclecar constructors were involved way back in the mists of motoring antiquity, still find a place on the extremely successful two-pedal DAF, the ideal ladies’ runabout and the best car for a beginner to take on his or her driving test, and the same number of cylinders and cooling-by-nature suffice for the useful little Fiat 500D you can buy here for less than £400 in spite of the appreciable chunk of import duty that protects British manufacturers, apart from transferring some more money from the over-taxed car-owner to the Exchequer —even with no more nuclear deterrents to pay for ?

In a Motor Show where exhibits ranged from this £399 baby Fiat to a £10,933 Ferrari, with some extremely good bargains in between, everyone should have been able to find a car approximating to their personal ideal, but, if they prefer not to contribute to purchase tax, may we respectfully refer them to the small advertisements at the back of this journal?

It is a source of considerable satisfaction that the small specialist firms continue to survive, and we hope prosper, in an Industry which is continually being narrowed down, with now only five Big Boys, and three of these linked to American finance. The enthusiast can still have his A.C., Alvis, Bond, Bristol, Dove, Elva, Gilbern, Jensen, Lotus, Marcos, Morgan, Reliant, Turner or T.V.R. from one of these brave little British factories, and, who knows, it could be the continuing demand for these small-output enthusiasts’ cars that keeps the interest of B.M.G, Standard-Triumph and Rootes in sports cart alive. Which is as well, for otherwise, with a dearth of convertibles, fresh-air has to be taken, ducted, in hermetically-sealed saloons.

Ford and the British Motor Corporation believe in a wide of models, with the latter better equipped at either end of a wide selection of models, and the Austin 1800—the Car of the Show— is challenged in the family-car field by scientifically-improved Ford cars, the one the brainchild of the designer of an effective pre-war rubber-sprung sprint-car, the latter definitely rally developed.

In the luxury-car field the Daimler and Rolls-Royce continue in production, British exponents of the American V8 cult, while the galleries of Earls Court contained all the familiar names and sufficient products to assemble a complete car. A word of praise for the tyre exhibits. Once. Continental-sponsored tyres were the ones to have, starting with Michelin “X.” Now Dunlop SP41 is an outstanding example.

Insurance

The cost of motor insurance continues to rise, because, we are told, of the increasing accident claims, although a thought might surely be spared for all the new motorists who take to the road, cannot do so without insurance, and who do not all indulge in accidents by any means. Now The Vehicle & General Group has antagonised sports-car owners, who already pay very dearly for their cover, if they can get any at all, by placing in leading daily newspapers the advertisement reproduced on page 947 of this issue, with the offending text underlined by one of our correspondents.

The sentiment behind this advertisement is sound, but why pick on a sports-car driver as the accident-prone culprit. Properly driven, sports cars are essentially safer than normal cars and many of them are scarcely as fast. No-one would condone overtaking on the wrong side of double white lines; who knows, perhaps a helpful policeman has waved the driver over because of a blocked inner lane. We are not in favour of Nationalisation but perhaps the Insurance Industry is becoming ripe for it!