Once again there is this assignment I love so much— reporting what is at Earls Court the day before the Show opens, to meet printing deadlines. You might think that at least this would mean freedom from parking problems. But no—at 10.30 a.m. on the Tuesday before Opening Day all the official car parks were full, even exhibitors’ vans were being turned away from the Exhibition Hall and the streets within a mile hadn’t a car’s length of parking space to spare. So this is a motor show you cannot comfortably go to in a motor car, and the S.M.M.T. having now run 50 successful ones, I suggest they move to somewhere spacious just out of London for their 5Ist International Motor Show.
However, once we had “lost “‘ the Ford Cortina GT in a dismal side street and walked to the place., it was a great Show.
Space being at a premium we decided to look mostly at the high-performance cars, leaving automatic Minis to the district nurse and luxury cars to other pages—Mercedes-Benz didn’t have the six-door 600 limousine at Earls Court this year. Just as well, maybe, for it would have been a bit subdued by the eight-door 12-seater Checker Aerocar, which is 22.5 feet long.
Leaving the MOTOR SPORT Stand (you will find it at No. 4 on the Ground Floor, opposite the Lotus display of World Champion-bred cars), we first of all came upon Jem Marsh and his Marcos 1800s—mainly unchanged except for new prominent louvres on the bonnet top and a neat extractor in the back window to get the heat away, and with knock-on wire wheels as standard. There is also the new Marcos 1800L, with decently-located Ford live back axle, which brings the price down to that of a Lotus Elan.
Pride of place on the Austin Healey Stand was devoted to the Le Mans Sprite, No. 49, perhaps because there was nothing new to show. The Ford Mustang GT had the bodywork of a true GT car—two ‘Seats and a luggage platform within the coupe body and was on Goodyear tyres—Goodyear and Firestone tyres were far more prevalent at this Show than ever before and the days of Dunlop domination are over.
This year Lotus racing cars have a place of honour at Earls Court—a F.1 car on Dunlops and Lotus’ own Indianapolis Lotus-Powered-by-Ford on Goodyears, a very proud exhibit indeed. The two racing cars standing back-to-back show the F.1 cars to be over-tyred.
B.M.W., who seem to be enjoying a new lease of sales drive, allowed one of the most tastefully appointed cars at the Show, in the form of the new 2-litre two-door 2+2 CS coupe. This engine size seems right for a B.M.W. and this is a new o.h,c. engine, not a bored-out 1800. It develops 120 b.h.p. and has a 4-speed manual gearbox. All windows are electrically-operated, the rear ‘seats shaped for comfort, circular and rectangular headlamps are fitted and the interior is extremely well done.
I Suppose the smoothest and almost certainly the lowest car was the Dino Ferrari on the Pininfarina Stand, with the long tail taken up by the 4-o.h.c. V6 engine and spare wheel. The handbrake was, however, a bit of an anti-climax. Maserati showed GT cars altered only in details and a four-door saloon with the 5-litre V8 power unit, while a surprise on the British School of Motoring Stand was a Ford GT 40 coupe wearing their High Performance-Course badge.
The new M.G.-B GT coupe had nice lines, looked heavy, and divided itself very neatly for mechanical appraisal. But why trouble to upholster its very occasional back seat—a true GT car needs only a fiat plat form for luggage. The Aston Martin looked too ordinary and old-fashioned for its price but the new sports estate-car seemed to be attracting an avid public, until we discovered that they were admiring some girl-bunnies who were burrowing on the sofas. But the A.C. exhibits really were something—with a white 7-litre Goodyear-shod Cobra with the coil-sprung 427 chassis in full competition trim—what a motor car!—and the very handsome new Frua d.h. coupe on the same 7-litre chassis, only 6 in. longer, with r.h.d. and a Maserati-like Windscreen. Price : £4,250. In contrast, the normal 4.7-litre A.C. 289 looked quite sober.
The G.M. Oldsmobile Toronado, on U.S. Royal tyres for a change, is enormous, so that one hopes the stories about its f.w.d. not promoting excessive under-/oversteer are true! Its headlamps are concealed beneath flaps but not so cleverly as those on that very ingenious car, the Chevrolet Mako Shark II with Mk. IV 427 engine—which would really make the neighbours look sideways, yet is not so far off being a practical GT car.
Even more expensive than a Mercedes-Benz 600 is the Ferrari 500 Super Fast Pininfarina GT priced at £11,518 15s. Ferrari show also the GTS with i.r.s. and the 330 Pininfarina GT. We went to the Zagato stand, to see the replica Zagato Alfa Romeo 1750 with modern Alfa components, but it is too wide, too low, and is just stupid, like a seal of distorted Fiat Balilla: Just ask Peter Hull about it—then stand well back! Still, at around £2,500 it is a lot cheaper than trying to pick up a real vintage Zagato Alfa at an auction sale! The best thing on this stand was the new 4-o.h.c. V12 Lamborghini 350GT Zagato with six double-choke Webers. The Lancia Flaminia Supersport Zagato has almost the old Aurelia look. The Zagato Imp isn’t there this year. . .
You might think a Giulia Alfa Romeo adequately equipped but Harold Radford have had a go at improving one. They also show a DB5 estate car, and this trend towards super sports shooting-brakes seems to be spreading, for Ogle had one with centre-lock wire wheels, the body hiding a Reliant Scimitar which was pretending to be a Glazing Test Special—which. Triplex had better explain . . . , or you can read about it in an ” Ogletter.” Things seemed to be getting out of hand, So, passing on the way the actual 10,000,000th VW, we returned to No. 4.—W. B.