Motor Show Review

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

(NEC, October 18th)

So, the Cavalcade concluded – incidentally, the Midland Motor Museum ran Wright’s 1951 Frazer Nash in it as well as their Mercedes-Benz – my next task was to go to the NEC Motor Show, in satisfactorily multi-cylinder style in the glass-roofed Editorial Rover 3500 (it has recently been Skyported, of which more next month). A press ticket did not enable one to park very near the NEC buildings but the shuttle-service of Bedford coaches functioned well, at all events on this occasion. The main Exhibition Hall was not too large to walk round, was brightly-lit, well-ventilated, and generally the impression was very favourable. More stands offered hospitality to tired journalists than at Earls Court and although the Fiat Press Club had no food when I became hungry, I was soon being looked after nicely by Volkswagen GB Ltd., who had tables set out on their stand among some of the finest small cars you can buy. It was quite like old times. . . .

Written within a few hours of our printing deadline, this is not so much a Show Review, more a Stop-Press walk-about. The first thing to strike one was the fact that there were no cars on the vast expanse of the Ford stand, although the turntables were revolving. So the grab-grab Unions can take pride in having removed a great name from the most important 1978 Motor Show, in their efforts to gain a stranglehold on the management, which is only trying to follow the policy dictated by a Labour Government. Next door, the Vauxhall stand was full of good cars, and British Leyland had the greatest display of all – the size of Ford and Vauxhall combined, and also the most noisy, perhaps to try and convince British taxpayers that they are getting value for their money! A too-loud band played as each BL product emerged on a railway, through multi-colour curtains, and Leycare, and no doubt Super-Cover, was lauded to the rooftop. As I watched, a Rover “railcar” emerged, “driven” by a girl – which seemed undignified for this very respected make, cleverly engineered by Spen King. But I was glad to find all the sports cars, MG Midget, MG-B GT, Triumph Spitfire and TR7, among the Leyland exhibits.

There were the usual Press Day gimmicks, such as scantily-clad females, ponies on the Colt stand and a Honda Civic band. BMW were verbally telling us about the merits of their exciting new M1 mid-engined coupe. Lotus had a very dignified display, with an Esprit revolving on a turntable, which gave a good view of its shallow seat cushions, stubby gear-lever, and near-horizontal steering-wheel. The greatest F1 car of them all, Andretti’s Lotus Type 79 JPS Mk. IV, was modestly displayed where no one seemed to have noticed it, with huge cut-out letters spelling “L O T U S” as a background. There were other competition cars, too. I found Stirling Moss momentarily puzzled at finding an F1 Ferrari keeping company with Lancia and Fiat rally-saloons, until we realised they were all displayed under the Fiat banner. Mercedes-Benz had the mud-plastered Cowan/Malkin South American Rally winning 450SLC on a stand that contained sectioned engines that would run electrically if visitors so wished, as well as their diesel-engined C.III Mk. 3 record-breaker, the stand being picked-out by an enormous Three-Pointed-Star. BP showed a Warwick Trailer’s F3 March 783 and on the Morgan stand Peter Morgan was to be found with the DB3 Motors’ Prod-Sport Championship-winning Morgan Plus 8, which uses a Moss 4-speed gearbox as this has more acceptable ratios than a standard Rover 5-speed box. Morgan 4/4s now comply with Export regulations, by the way. But the racing car that stole the Show was surely Renault’s Alpine A442B, Le Mans-winner? Let us hope an F1 Renault occupies the same place, next time. On a sporting note, this stand had a Renault Gordini 5 going downhill, on a white plinth. Honda showed a 1960s Firestone-shod Surtees F1 car.

The Rolls-Royce exhibits were so dignified as to be almost overlooked, but an interesting facet was the wipe-wash now used for the Silver Shadow’s headlamps; R-R do not use anything so common as rubber for these wipers, preferring nylon brushes, supplied, would you believe, so rumour says, by Kleenezee. Even more sombre-looking were the fine cars on the Lancia stand. Opel had the new Senator and Monza models revolving together, and Vauxhall showed their new German-built Royale. The Royale looked warmer and more attractive than the Opels. These GM cars approach the class occupied by Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW. It is curious that in-spite of Socialist inflation several manufacturers are hoping to up-grade their image to this luxury level. At one time cars knew their place; Rolls-Royce, Daimler and Lanchester were a cut above, for instance, Vauxhall, Wolseley, Crossley and Armstrong Siddeley etc., even in prosperous times. Today we have Opel/Vauxhall, Volvo, Renault and others casting envious eyes at the upper-class cars from Coventry, Munich and Stuttgart. I like the Opel formula, however, of a truly simple six-cylinder engine, however “lux” the shell it occupies. It recalls the incredibly indestructible Chevrolet “Stove-Bolt Six” or “Cast-Iron Wonder”, and in this respect GM have turned the clock back. However, whereas that now-historic Chevvy had conventional push-rods to prod the valves above its pistons, the new Opel six-cylinder engine has that neat GM camshaft-in-head valve layout, with hydraulic tappets.

In terms of technical innovation, I have been saying for years that Mercedes-Benz make the best-engineered cars in the World and their adoption of Bosch anti-lock braking endorses this. Note, too, the use of i.r.s. on the biggest Opel/Vauxhall cars. At the other extreme, the air-cooled twin-cylinder engine has contrived to survive, for Citroen showed the Visa, and a Dyane 6 and a 2CV6 and Fiat still had a 126 among their wide range of cars. The Citroen Visa, of course, also comes with four cylinders for the sophisticated customer!

The Saab 900 was there, and there was a sectioned Saab turbo engine on this stand, for those anxious to probe the mysteries of this power booster. The Peugeot stand had a blue arch and lots of big blue “ship’s ventilators”, as if to suck in the rest of the European motor industry. Incidentally, I was relieved to see that both Toyota and Colt were present, because their PR departments have left unanswered recent correspondence. Which leads me to remark that after Motor Sport’s recent Editorial about the Japanese invasion, Mazda were first, closely followed by Datsun, to take up some of the points raised; so full marks to the PR departments concerned – you may expect some Mazda and Datsun road-test reports quite soon, which accords nicely with my intention not to overdo publicity for Oriental motor cars.

On the first Press Day at the NEC the TVR and Subaru cars were only just arriving, but at least they got there, unlike the Fords. A Subaru pick-up was seen to be upended. I noticed that the Subaru 1600 bore the legend “front-wheeldrive” and also “5-speeds”. A Fiat X1/9 also had a “5-speed” label, so perhaps the number of speeds in the box is about to become the next status symbol? The Ferrari stand was fascinating as usual, with 308GTB, 308GTS, 308GTH, 512BB, and 400 Auto models on a stand barred to ordinary humanity. Maserati countered with Merak SS, De Tomaso GTS, Khamsin 4.9-litre V8 (“174 m.p.h. Price on application”), Kyalami, and De Tomaso Longchamp. Somehow I overlooked the Aston Martin stand. This time the stand of the National Motor Museum was properly displayed with well-lit exhibits. They comprised a fine 1909 Roi des Belges 40/50 Rolls-Royce in a tableau depicting an Edwardian open-air social occasion, backed by the “Prince Henry” Vauxhall, the Alfonso Hispano Suiza, a 1913 Argyll saloon, the 1913 NB tourer, the 1913 Tipo 51A Fiat two-seater, and that astonishingly lofty 1913 Thames coach from which those who were allowed on the upper-deck got a fine view of the race-courses it apparently used to visit. Curator Michael Ware must have been pleased with the NEC setting for this museum stand.

Reliant had several SE6 express-estate-cars on show, and a solitary Kitten for the m.p.g. stakes; one of the SE6s angled at 45 deg., and AC showed two mid-engined 3000s, to remind us that they are not quite still-born. The Coachwork Section was small this time and part of the show in the Main Hall. Bertone had a stand displaying Lancia and Fiat coupes, a Volvo, and an experimental effort, etc. Crayford showed their well-known convertibles, and you could ogle the Ogle 10/20 Glassback. Among the car exhibits, Vauxhall had their experimental project as a centrepiece but Porsche were well content with “The Car of 1978”, in the guise of the new water-cooled, front-engined 928.

The Accessories were housed in a separate hall, but it was difficult to find one’s way about and many of the stands were incomplete. – W.B.

Related articles

Related products