OPENING DAY AT EARLS COURT
Dictated from Stand No. 4 at the Earls Court Motor Show, October 18th. ON THIS page I am going to attempt my annual feat of reporting the Motor Show in a matter of hours after it has opened, for the Pres§ Day was, occupied mainly With the hospitality offered to us by the British Motor Corporation at Grosvenor House. While it was very pleasant to hear Sir George Harriman of 13.1?A.C. announcing that he was confident about the future and fully intended to fight back so that Britain Could rise from her fifth place in world motor business to her former third place or higher, it did mean that when I arrived at the Motor Show the visitors had got in and it was very difficult to see the exhibits. However, with the aid of a comfortable pair of shoes. my reliable American Ritepoint ballpoint and German Grundig tape-recorder I contented myself with jotting down what I saw on a quick tour of the stands. Lancia were celebrating their 6oth anniversary with their usual ordinary-looking but extremely high quality and good-handling cars, Citroen had gone one stage further with their sophisticated headlamp arrangements, and Aston Martin have gone over to a de Dion rear axle for their DES, thus admitting that Rover are right, although I am not sure that this makes all the others wrong. General Motors had G.M. signs at the corners of most of their stands, but not that
showing Vauxhall cars, where crowds besieged the new overheadcamshaft models.
Competition cars were in evidence, such as the Monte Carlo Rallywinning Mini, No. 177, standing on a ramp, all cleaned and polished, the Acropolis Rally DAP 44, No. 144, which also looked so smart that I found myself thinking this must be a very clean rally. AustinHealey showed the 146-m.p.h. Le Mans Sprite, while Peugeot had legends about being the East African Safari winner on the side of a 404, although this had a transparent top to its bonnet which I am sure was not used during the rally. On the Alta Romeo stand the Tip) 33 coupe was Dunlop-shod, and it was interesting to see a.t95 t Tipo 159 G.P. engine, for which 445 b,h.p. at 9,500 r.p.m. was claimed, on this stand.
Softie stands were so fully occupied on opening day that it was impossible to get very near them, such as Lotus where the safe handling of the 2 12 Elan must be as much an attraction as its high speed, and the Mercedes-Benz stand, to which I was refused admission on the grounds that it Was already overcrowded, a very good sign this— but then I have often said ihat these are the best cars you can buy.
Wandering away from these overcrowded stands I found myself thinking of the great variety that one comes across at the Motor Show. As soon as I came in f was Confronted with a London-type taxi on one of the coachbuilding stands, then I came across Graham Hill in the role of TV star, and I then encountered a Riley Kestrel 1300 rolling over and over not for from the Vauxhall New Victor which was proclaiming its safety features. The N.S.U. Ro.8o twin-Wankel rotaryengined saloon, rotating on a dais, was one of the great attractions of Earls Court, and the price is /;,1,970, whereas the other twin-Wankel rotary-engined car, the rear-wheeled-drive Mazda ito S coupe, costs £2,606 158. There is no mystery about this Wankel power unit, for it can be seen through the transparent bonnet of this Mazda coupe and they also had a sectioned-engine on their stand. This-was a year of yellow paintwork on the Morgan, Pininfarina and Lotus stands, and also a year of intriguing new wheel styling, notably on the Rover, Ford, Triumph, Jensen and other stands, where the new Rubery Owen Rostyle wheels were to be seen, although the fancy wheels on a Peugeot 204 coupe were, I was informed, purely a Show time gimmick. Maserati Ghibli had real magnesium alloy wheels but their finish was disappointing. The tyre war was also reflected at Earls Court, as one noticed Dunlop tyres on the Honda, Michelin on
the Ferrari 275 GTB4 Berlinetta, with Firestone on the other Ferrari exhibits, and Continentals on the N.S.U. Ro.80.
I always feel that the very fast cars look out of place and rather selfconscious on a Motor Show stand and should be motoring hard and furiously on the open road. But this did not prevent crowds thronging the Ferrari and Maserati stands and standing wide-eyed at the Lamborghini Miuri and the more theatrical Marzal. Extremely quiet, good taste typified the Lamborghini 400 GT model. Then Pininfarina showed their yellow-hued Dino sport Fiat V6 competition concept Berlinetta, with spoilers before the nose and high up behind the tail. Coming down to earth. the Marcos coupe is now powered with the latest r600 Ford Cortina GT engine, and the sunshine roof is now standard fitting at the price of ,C1,485. They were honest enough to admit that they are not certain oPhow much extra horse-power their own exhaust system gives the Ford engine, quoting it in the region of 2-5 b.h.p. All the VWs had gear-levers but not all the exhibits had clutch pedals, and it came as quite a jolt to see a Karmann-Ghia on show, although today this has 53 S.A.E. h.p,, disc front brakes and the latest suspension. That cars are still made in the old hand-built quality tradition is apparent on the Mulliner Park-Ward stand, and on the Rolls-Royce stand, where a rather ancient ” Spirit of Ecstasy ” mascot, probably
borrowed from Conduit Street, was keeping company with the Mulliner Park-Ward drophead coupe. And in the coachwOrk section of the Exhibition, Zagato was causing interest with its “I CZ fastback version of the Rover 2000, while on the Bertone stand was that Weekend Telegraph Piranha Bertone Jaguar, reminding me that many years ago I wanted to spend part of the Show up in the galleries ordering components from which we would have assembled a complete MOrroa SPORT car. For, remember, without the Components Industry the confections, palatable and unpalatable, of the Motor Industry itself would be stillborn. After looking at all the exotic coachwork in this part of the Show, I made my way back wearily to Stand No. 4, passing on the way, as I was wearing a Lesion tie, the Leston stand, where the chequered-flag micro-skirts of the salesgirls could not be purchased or removed.—W. B.