EARLS COURT, October 18th.
TRADITIONALLY the day opened with the B.M.C. Press Luncheon it Grosvenor House, during which Sir George Harriman, C.B.E., expressed the opinion that it is a pity the Government should have to stifle the Motor Industry (which last year earned £783,000,000 in exports and £540,000,000 in the first eight months of 1966). He reminded us that B.M.C. exports are now eight per cent. higher than last year and concluded by paying tribute to good Press relations, announcing that from January Raymond Baxter, the well-known B.B.C. motor-racing commentator, will become B.M.C.’s Director of Motoring Publicity—this follows Ford’s establishment of a Press Office in Fleet Street.
In spite of the credit squeeze expensive foreign cars had not shunned the Show. Lamborghini showed the fabulous transverseengined P400 Miura but did not deign to quote price or technical details in the catalogue. Ferrari’s exhibit included the 4-o.h.c. 275GT Berlinetta 4A, and the Pininfarina stand contained the sensational central driving three-abreast Ferrari 365P special coupe, a seating layout said to have been tried by Lamborghini and discarded. Feruccio Lamborghini attended his stand on Press Day but we did not see Enzo Ferrari on his! However. Uhlenhaut of Mercedes-Benz was there and Alec Issigonis was taking a keen look but not, we think, ordering a Porsche. . . Urbane-looking Colin Chapman was present to talk about Lotus cars.
Amongst the luxury cars Rolls-Royce exposed the technical mysteries of the Silver Shadow and Mercedes showed a fully clothed 600 saloon. Many lesser cars ape the opulent in the matter of leather and wood and other amenities, outstanding being the Ford Executive, which many people will covet unless they are Viscounts. It occurred to us that today many people’s cars are better made, more comfortable and spacious than their homes.
Vauxhall have the fishlike XVR experimental coupe with 100% visibility through its pillarless screen, shod with Goodyear Blue Streak sports-car special tyres of dragster profile. Unfortunately this Vauxhall, instead of being Luton’s reply to Lotus, will probably never be sold. Its lines are excellent, the pedal assembly adjustable like that of the original Mustang. The Marcos is now Ford Cortina GT-engined and has the live back axle and revised interior trim with wooden facia. At least they are honest about using Ford engines, whereas Reliant and (Ahern clothe their V6 Zephyrs in anonymity. Beside the GT Marcos is a Mini-Marcos of which 160 have been sold.
Ford have the biggest stand and seem to attract the biggest crowds. Modestly displayed, almost unnoticed, is the Le Mans-winning 7-litre Mark II coupe., cleaned up for the occasion, bearing its racing number 2 and, incidentally, advertising Shell fuel, Autolite plugs and its Goodyear Blue Streak tyres. Another competition car proudly exhibited, in this case very prominently, is the mud-stained Safari Rally-winning Peugeot 404. Honda show their F.2 998-c.c. fuel injection engine, claiming over 140 b.h.p., but the new Formula Two Ford-Cosworth engine was not evident.
The sports Honda S800 was a centre of interest and although it looked like an apologetic Sprite its 791-cc. 70-b.h.p. twin-cam, twin-Keihin engine should challenge the small B.M.C. “Spridgets” although they now have detuned Cooper S engines of 65 b.h.p. The Honda costs £779, the Sprite £671.
Rover’s main exhibit is a white 2000TC on unfamiliar wire wheels; that they have merged with Alvis is apparent from the stand layout. B.M.W. have the new 1600 on view and automatic transmission for the 1800, controlled rather like an invalid carriage by a T-handle floor quadrant lever with a press-button safeguarding reverse. B.M.W., as usual, are arousing interest, for at £1,500 the 1800 presents a challenge to the Rover 2000TC – how would you decide?
Going back to exotic cars, Maserati have the new 4-litre Mistrale coupe and the 4.2-litre 4-o.h.c. fuel-injected Quattro Porte with refrigerated ventilation as standard equipment. Every bit as good-looking in the Italian style is the new Jensen with coachwork modestly credited to Vignale and Superleggera, available with Ferguson 4-w-d if you can afford it.
The bronzed bikini girl on stand 11.4 was terrific—we forgot to look at the car!
The Lotus Elan S/E coupe was seen to be revolving, its teddy-bear driver presumably having lost control. The new extractor vents should be noted and will add the final touch to one of the safest, most enjoyable sports cars at the Show.
You can buy a Reliant Rebel for £534 complete. B.M.C. have a cutaway Austin 1800 displaying the Issigonis theme, a tilted-up transparent-roofed 1800, and have let one side of a Riley Kestrel fall off to demonstrate the roomy interior. As for the Iso Rivolta, when Motor Sport (which as the Show catalogue states “enjoys the highest net sale of any motoring journal in the country”) offered to road-test a car we were told that we would have to wait several months, so here is one happy make which can afford to refuse good publicity!
The Morris 1000 and Fiat 500 are still with us in current form, and emphasis that there is no change in the midst of change is seen on the Morgan stand.