Every year, due to the exigencies of flat-beds and the Motor Sport print-run, I am given the unenviable task of reporting the London Motor Show before it opens, which means on Press Day, when not all the stands are complete and the best journalists are staggering under the hospitality dispensed by B.M.C.
This year the Star of the Show is unquestionably the Austin 1800, of which the considered opinion is that Alec Issigonis has done it again, even if, except for the car’s compact dimensions, Citroën did it, perhaps faintly better, more than ten years ago.
I was glad to see strong emphasis on rally successes in a Show which attracted 30 British, 12 U.S. and Canadian, seven Italian, six French, eight West German, two Swedish, three Israeli, and Russian car exhibits. Ford had the Safari Rally-winning Cortina on a rotating dais with a standard Cortina proudly displayed with it —and more cups than Saab could muster on a similar display proclaiming it as “The most consistent rally-winner of our time.” Sunbeam, too, were advertising the Geneva Rally 1, 2, 3 class victory of the Tiger.
Aston Martin refrained from showing their James Bond Special, which is a stunt exhibit unfitted to any serious Motor Show, but it was in their Piccadilly showroom and they could not resist using the 007 registration number on one of their cars. Maybe, as Marples is no longer M.o.T., they felt the full machine-gun treatment to be unnecessary. . . .
The man-sized 45DCOE 12 Webers on the Iso Rivolta GT 5300 were out-done by the very business-like intake side of the Abarth Simca 1300’s engine and the low-built Elva GT with Fissore Fiore bodywork and the Zagato Zimp were notable exhibits. The last-named has a 4-seater coupe body of light alloy panels on a space-frame Structure, mounted on a virtually standard Hillman Imp chassis with braced platform and altered front-wheel camber. It will be imported to Dorchester-on-Thames from Italy, as a high-class coupe for discerning motorists. Lotus showed an engineless Elan S2 chassis, a sort of wheeled backbone, an Elan rotating on a turntable and flashing its headlamps, while imagine the enormous Teddy Bear which for a time occupied the driving seat of a Lotus 7 is the sort of sports-car driver a certain insurance company cannot abide. There was probably no significance in the red, blue and green finish of the Ferrari exhibits, Ford were demonstrating their new ventilation system for the Cortina range, in which stale air is changed within the car every 40 seconds by means of rear extractor vents, the control panel Within easy reach, which seems to have the Austin 1800’s freshair arrangements licked. B.M.W. had 3 sectioned 1800 o.h.c. engine, there were Ford Zodiacs pretending to be hovercrafts above luridly-dazzling roads, the new Fiat 850 could be seen fully-sectioned, and Reliant showed a Rebel chassis. Mercedes-Benz bad an open 230SL and r.h.d. 600 amongst their exhibits.
VW listed their latest beetle mods, there was a sectioned Riley Elf in lurid colours, a sectioned Mini to show that Moulton Hydrolastic suspension has been applied to the inimitable minibrics, a standful of sober Rovers, a Singer Chamois with the engine unit separated from it, while the Renault RS was shown rigged up for foot-control by a polio victim, its flat floor and automatic transmission making it suitable for such conversions, for the disabled or those women drivers who like to wave their arms about while in animated conversation as they drive.
Up in the gallery the clever use of models by Avon to emphasise the grip of their tyres caught my eye.
In short, Earls Court 1964 was much like any other Earls Court, with rather a dearth of new models, and so, without typist or telephone, the Production Manager on his way to Mexico and the Continental Correspondent hibernating in darkest Hampshire, this is the Editor signing off in the chaos of Press Day at the Motor Show.—W. B.
Mr. G. W. Harriman, CALE., Chairman of The British Motor Corporation, speaking at Grosvenor House, London, on Motor Show Press Day :—
“Seeing Paddy Hopkirk in front of me leads me to say a word about rallies. We obviously enter rallies to win and to obtain as much publicity as possible, and this, gentlemen, including you Paddy, is where you have helped us enormously. Basically, we are interested in assessing the car’s performance under conditions which are similar to those in which they will operate. In our opinion, pure motor racing does not help to improve the breed of a car, but rallies do, and this is where we learn something of value which eventually leads to improvements of our products.”