The combination of the Daily Express, the owners of Earls Court and the co-operation of the Motor Agents Association produced Motor-fair. Devoted to a central theme (a foreshortened Monte Carlo) Motorfair occupied the annual London Earls Court Motor Show date. Inspired by the chance of making money, Motorfair’s organisers introduced a whole range of sideshows and displays to make the event a lot more imaginative than in years before.
Motor Sport readers may well have been most interested in the fundamental change: that you could buy a car. In fact you could buy anything from a cheap current model to a variety of “collectors’ cars and motorcycles” auctioned by Christie’s during the opening week.
Visually the show did try and offer the general public more excitement. There was a roadway from the balcony down to the “Monte harbour” and three shows a day to cover fashion, the inevitable pitstop competition and a comedy driving act. Away from that central attraction though the show felt a bit flat. Officially Lotus, Alfa Romeo, Rolls-Royce and Mercedes were not represented. In fact there were more Rolls-Royces on view than ever before (a very welcome variety) though the top class British manufacturer was staying away, like Mercedes, owing to the difficulty of keeping pace with demand. There were quite a few Lotus cars, but the sum total of dealerships combining to produce a stand of representative cars for each marque did not, as a rule, produce such an impressive stand.
There was an abundance of smaller car makers and competition vehicles on hand, apparently including Jody Scheckter’s Monaco-winning Wolf: but I did not check to verify that. A display of record breakers included the 18.3-litre Sunbeam V12 that Campbell took to 150.87 m.p.h. in 1925. Alongside that, the Bluebird-Proteus that managed 403.1 m.p.h. in 1964, and Robert Hornes’ 1970 Ferrari 512M that recently set 191.64 m.p.h. as the new UK flying-mile record.
Although I preferred the Dolomite Sprint mid-engined Delta prototype in aluminium, the star of the show was the Panther Westwinds extraordinary 6-wheel open two-seater. Powered by a mid-mounted Cadillac 8.2-litre V8, engineered with twin turbochargers by Miller in America, the car’s near £,40,000 price tag plus 200 m.p.h. claimed top speed were naturals for press coverage. In fact the car is said to have eight orders already, though no sort of weather protection is yet visible. However, last year’s show headline-stealer, the Aston Martin Lagonda, is now in production.
The organisers do not expect to put on Motor-fair again next year. Then the SMM&T will have the official show at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. After that it will be fascinating to see if the SMM&T persist in Birmingham, especially if there is an alternative London show.
The writer’s assessment would be that Motor-fair was not any kind of sensational advance in motor shows, as was claimed in the press briefings, but that it did offer a better family day out and displayed more imagination than expected at Earls Court Motor Shows. It had a strong flavour of the now-dead Racing Car Shows at Olympia and elsewhere. An interesting flavour, but not a great one without the full scale manufacturer displays. Combine the two, but how? – J.W.