MOTOR SHOW REVIEW
NEC, Birmingham, Oct. 19th
AFTER seeing the comment last month that the Sierra was probably the most significant car at the Show, I thought I need not go further than my local Ford showroom, which would save me a long and tiring journey to the NEC. Then I remembered that cars with names like Ferrari, Jaguar, Maserati, Lotus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz etc. were being shown there, no I thought perhaps I should get out the Alfa 6 and have a look . . . especially as we call this paper MOTOR SPORT. So I went first to the Alfa Romeo stand, to see whether I was the only person likely to be using an automatic Alfa with one carburetter per cylinder (six in all — which may partly explain its thirst of 19.4 m.p.g.). And, yes, there it was, flagship of all the many covetable cars on the ‘Alfa’ Romeo Stand. Then it was to the Rolls-Royce / Bentley stand, where I had been told hot and cold food would be available, and you could see how a grill is made. I thought they meant a mixed grill but it turned out to be the grille that distinguishes a Spirit from a Mulsanne. I have always thought of Skodas as sort of Shop-Stewards’ transport and have had nothing to do with them, but the new model — 120 Rapid coupe had to be investigated — ideal for getting away from a rigged ballot perhaps? It is a 1,174 cc two-door four-seater and as this is now one of the few remaining rear-engined cars, its 14 cu. ft. of luggage space is reached through a side-opening bonnet, quite the vintage touch . . . It is nice to see exciting competition cars on display and the most exciting was the World Championship-winning Fl Williams FW08. Surprisingly, it was shown on Autocar’s stand, although its talented driver Keke Rosberg is Motor’s lad. But Porsche had the Rothmans-Porsche 956 that gave Derek Bell his third Le Mans victory, partnered by Jacky Iclu, on view by the afternoon of Press day, claimed it to be “undisputedly the fastest car at the Show,” giving its speed as 221 m.p.h. Lotus had a Goodyear-equipped JPS, but no-one knew which one it was! Datsun was proclaiming its Safari success, with a suitably-sandy No. I Saloon, and Audi Sport UK had an Audi Quattro apparently ready for the RAC Rally. Renault showed a Fl Renault-Elf, Michelin-shop labelled “Prost” and BMW had the power behind a Brabham BT50. In this glittering exhibition, spread over those seven halls there was a reminder that we are now firmly linked to the rest of Europe in the Vauxhall-Opel stand, but Ford did not openly advertise the fact that their cars might come from Germany and Spain, as well as from Britain. It was all started by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (founded in 1902) at the Crystal Palace in January, 1903, with some 200 exhibitors and many demonstration runs given, an Exhibition repeated in 1904. The British Motor Show then moved to Olympia, from 1905 to 1914, after which that hall was used to hold German prisoners-of-war. The SMMT Show opened there again in 1919, with an overflow to White City in 1920, 1921 and 1922, ‘buses’ taking visitors between the two halls, as they do from overflow car parks to the NEC in the 1980s. By 1923 Olympia’s sew National Hall was ready to house all exhibits under one roof again with motoring increased three times since 1922, it is good to remember that by 1931, with Olympia’s recently-completed Empire Hall, along with the National Hall, able to make things easier, Battain held the absolute speed-records on land, in the air, and on water, as the appearance of
Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Napier-Campbell “Bluebird” (246.09 m.p.h.), Kaye Don’s Rolls-Royce-powered “Miss England” (110.22 m.p.h.) and the Rolls-Royce-engined Superrnarine S6B seaplane (407.5 mph.) testified, This went some way to restoring moral at a time of (as now) financial depression and widespread unemployment. By 1937 the Motor Show had moved to Earls Court. It went to the West Midlands’ NEC in 1978, with a new L7.6-million hall opened in time for the 1980 Show. This year the Home Secretary, the Rt. Hon. William Whitelaw performed the Opening Ceremony, in spite of his many other occupations, perhaps thinking that as his Police Forces are soon to have the additional burden of checking drivers’ belt-up arrangements, he should support such a Show (The excuse “Sorry Officer, hut I always wear braces” will not be acceptable, we gather).
The SMMT is to be congratulated on having almost all the promised exhibits in place on the morning of Press day but earns a very black mark for having no catalogues available, letting in all manner of non-badge-holders, and closing the Press car-park at 10.30 a.m. on Press day — motor shows don’t change!
Names like Boillot and Talbot mean something to motor-racing historians and they drew me to the latter stand, where the newest draw was the topless Samba, to which an openable Vauxhall Cavalier full of fur-coated girls was a foil to the Samba-dancers. This little package seemed such a nice way of obtaining plenty of fresh air that I began to pine for the open road (a term still viable, in Wales, in winter), so I retraced my steps to the parked Alfa 6, having to climb over a railway line on the way, as if to remind me that this is the Age of the Train. I wonder? — W.B. NEC Natterings
We wonder how many “oiled” visitors hailed cabs on the Carbodies. stand?
The Royal Mail Stamps stand had at each comer an historic car, the original 40,50 h.p. Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, an Austin 7 fabric box-saltxm, a 1935 SS I , and a brass-radiator modcl-T Ford Tourer.
It was nice to see Ferrari proudly announcing that they are World Champions, 1982, on the “tower” above their quietly presented display. • • * • • *
BL had the show at its feet, surely with the 135 m.p.h. Rover Vitesse and MG-Metro Turbo?
Colt were pressing the fact that they offer more Turbo-charged cars than anyone else, and you had the Turbo-diesel Rover and Lancia showing the old-way of applying supercharge. But there was no information about the Rover Vitesse at the BL stand. • • • • • •
We arrived at the Mercedes-Benz stand lost time to witness an awful roll-over accident happening, on video. * • • * • •
The economy-theme persisted, with a gaudy yellow-and-black 2CV Citroen Charleston. priced at well under £3,000. Its little exposed headlamps followed a vintage flavour, like that side-opening Skoda “bonnet’.
• • . • •
I was distressed to sera sad Kangeroo being led around. its front paws in boxing-gloves, and some tiny Ponies in very restricted pens, one being suckled by its Mare. The latter were publicising the Hyundai’s Pony range. Am I a foolish sentimentalist in believing the Motor Show IS not the place for easily frightened animals? • • • • • •
Lancia had a competition orientated display, with a Group 6 Lancia-Martini pointing downhill off its raised dais And a Group B Lancia Rally. the glass top of its bootlid revealing the supercharged twin-cam mid-engine. They also generously showed a Le Mans colour film even down to the gory accidents in spite of Porsche having wce the race.
I felt rather self-conscious, wearing trousers with old-fashioned turn-ups. until I encountered another pair — on the Morgan stand, where else? I will now. hand over to ft colleague for a report on the serious aspects of the Show, — W.B.