Matters of Moment, October 1968

• Earls Court Prospects

From the 16th to the 26th of this month Earls Court Opens its doors to another London Motor Show. While remaining depressed about a show of cars at which it is virtually impossible to find parking space, we predict a big attendance and the usual enthusiasm for exhibits displaying themselves self-consciously under the arc-lights, with potted plants, vibrant bikinis and the rest of the gimmicks to off-set them. There will be the usual all-embracing range of vehicles, from value-for-money Go-Slow-with-Labour small saloons to high-performance cars capable of twice the British top speed-limit. In view of the prediction of riots and revolution later in the year we hope there may be a few armoured cars for sale. And with the recent wet weather conditions in S.E. England there could be a revival of interest in amphibian cars, although we have found the Editorial Rover 2000TC to be adept at wading and its disc brakes little troubled by immersion.

Contrary to what might be imagined, Earls Court 1968 will not consist of a vast Leyland stand opposed by those of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and flanked by insignificant one-man exhibits from A.C. to T.V.R. Badge engineering still prevails, enabling the normal quota of stands to hire themselves from the S.M.M.T. Whether these will contain much that is sensationally new remains to be seen on the morning of October 16th. There will be improved B.M.C. cars, Jaguar will reveal a new saloon, although still shy of introducing multiple cylinders (some notes on this new model by our Jaguar expert appear on the next page) and there is proof, on the stand of the audacious Morgan Company of Malvern, that the genuine sports car is far from dead. Audacious because they have turned the old Plus Four into a Plus Eight by installing therein that splendid light-alloy V8 Rover engine while retaining exposed sliding-pillar i.f.s, which also constitutes the steering pivots and has to be lubricated by bleeding oil from the engine supply, in a car with a separate gearbox, a chassis frame, and disc/drum brakes, capable of 125 m.p.h. and a s.s. ¼-mile in 15 sec. At last the Morgan’s seats adjust; but what a pity the screen can no longer be folded flat! This is a hybrid of very sporting demeanour, but, not content with just a round-the-houses road-test, it exists for Motor Sport only on paper. Our full appraisal should be interesting!

That Rover will show their breathtaking mid-engined coupé made from Rover 2000 parts and powered with their fine V8 engine is too much to hope for with business tycoon Sir Donald Stokes in the chair. But will they have a manual gearbox for the production V8s? Anyway, the Solihull Company has gained much in prestige with the new engine, at the expense of in-line-minded Jaguar. . . .

This year’s Earls Court Show should be interesting rather than exciting. Having built cars lethal in the hands of those who cannot drive them properly, manufacturers will go out of their way to advertise how safe structurally their products are in a shunt. The Wankel rotary engine will be seen to have gained ground very slowly (but see the N.S.U. and Mazda Stands) and amid all the sophisticated engineering the air-cooled two-cylinder power-pack will be seen to have survived. We are, indeed, delighted to know that the might of Fiat, in its wisdom, has introduced a further-improved version of one of the finest economy cars ever made—the 500L. And that VW remain faithful to the air-fanned boxer-motor for their latest attack on World sales—in the 411. Peugeot, too, have a new car, which they call the 405, or 504 or 555 or something; owing to a muddle over their pre-view for the British Press, this one also exists only on paper for us. Our long-standing respect for Peugeot makes us hope for a chance to road-test it some day. A pity, however, that the worm-drive which was once a hallmark of the old French Company has now been abandoned for hypoid bevels in the new cat’s back-end . . . These are some of the Stands which you mustn’t miss, but we trust that you will Buy British, for a flourishing Motor Industry is essential for British prosperity in the demanding years that lie ahead.

Even if you are not contemplating a new car when you visit Earls Courtand who is, with the threat of a 50 or 60 m.p.h. speed limit looming and more and more restrictions and expenses being loaded on to motorists’ shoulders?it is worth going up to the Gallery and inspecting the thousands of ingenious accessories and components, without which there would be no cars on the floor below. The latest tyre technics are there, and Joseph Lucas Ltd. and the other electrical firms have interesting displays, especially remembering that only one in a million of us would want to motor daily on tube ignition and candle lamps.

Finally, when you descend, tired if not exhausted, remember that we hope to refresh old friends and meet new ones at Motor Sport‘s own StandNo. 4 on the Ground Floor.

The New Jaguar XJ6

Jaguar Cars announce a new model to replace the 340, the S-type and the normal 420 saloon. This is the XJ6 series which can be had with 4.2-litre or 2.8-litre 6-cylinder engine, and with manual or automatic transmission. It is completely restyled, with improved coil-spring front, suspension and the well-tried E-type rear suspension. The 4.2-litre twin o.h.c. engine needs no introduction, but the 2.8-litre version is a new departure, owing its ancestry to the 3-litre XK engines used at Le Mans some ten years ago by Ecurie Ecosse and Briggs Cunningham. The XJ6 series will form the basis of Jaguar saloon car development in the years to come, so presumably will appear one day with the long-awaited V12 engine. In 4.2-litre 6-cylinder form the XJ6 is a very compact and effortless B to C car on English roads, but would need the optional higher axle ratio to deal with Citroën DS21 and B.M.W. 2002 saloons on high-speed Continental journeys. As the mechanical components descend directly from the 420 and E-type models the XJ6 is a true Jaguar, and the interior of the new car is another step forward in Jaguar value for money, the instrumentation, controls, seats, etc., leaving little to be desired. Of particular interest are the Dunlop E70 VR tyres of 15 in. diameter, for these are very wide tread pattern on 6 in. rims and prove conclusively that “racing does improve the breed”. They are standard equipment on the XJ6 series. A maximum of 127 m.p.h. is claimed by Jaguar for the 4.2-litre XJ6, but it would need the “European transmission” to achieve this and the long-stroke “vintage-six” would be at peak r.p.m.D. S. J.

Volkswagen’s New British Headquarters

As we observed last month, World domination of car sales by VW, the masters of mass-production in West Germany, has been one of the motoring and merchandising miracles of the post-war era. Now Volkswagen Motors Ltd. in this country announce a move to new premises, at Volkswagen House, Brighton Road, Purley, Surrey. They describe them in the following words:

“Of reinforced concrete construction, the egg-shaped building consisting of five floors of open-plan offices with a total floor area of 71,000 sq. ft., is raised above street level. It has a centre well overlooking an elevated platform with a scenic sunken garden. The top three floors of the building house not only Volkswagen Motors’ Staff, but also Volkswagen Insurance Service (G.B.) Limited and a new Volkswagen Training School. The Company expects to sub-let the two lower floors, retaining some 40,000 sq. ft. for headquarters, insurance and training staff. This compares with 18,000 sq. ft. at the old Volkswagen House in Norwood.

“Built as part of the Royal Oak complex, the whole structure, raised on columns, was designed by Messrs. Raglan, Squire and Partnerswell known for producing the more unusual type of building. Great care has been paid to employee comfort and facility in planning the office accommodation. For example, extensive use is made of the principles of open planning to give light, airy conditions. At the same time carpeted floors, sound-damping ceilings and curtained columns keep noise to a minimum. Where typing takes place in open offices, sound screens are available to prevent discomfort for employees working close by. Each floor has its own decorative scheme and each section is distinguished by the pattern of curtaining, though the colour schemes are blended together.

“The fifth floor contains the executive suite. Full restaurant facilities for all staff are also located here. The fourth floor contains the Marketing, Service and Parts, Management Services and Accounts Divisions. The third floor houses Volkswagen Insurance Services (G.B.) Ltd.,. the new Volkswagen Training School and office facilities. The school contains a large lecture theatre to hold 70 people, fully equipped with projection equipment and able to be sectioned off for smaller meetings. There are also rooms equipped for the practical instruction of mechanics.

“Volkswagen’s move to larger premises reflects the progress made in re-organising its distribution system announced in March this year. On July 1st, a third of all Volkswagen Dealers in Britain had started to operate directly with Volkswagen Motors. Over 40 Zone Managers were recruited and given an extensive training course lasting eight weeks between April and August. This enabled the new Regional structures to come into full effect by the end of September.

“Progress on the Regional Warehouses has been just as swift. The first opened at Edenbridge in Kent on July 1st. Those at Trowbridge, Holmes Chapel (Cheshire), Doncaster and Whitburn (Scotland) will all become fully operational between October 1st and December 1st. Coincidental with the development of the Regional Centres, the computer service, at present based on the original Volkswagen Motors Depot at Ramsgate, has been extended to vehicle and parts distribution and accounting services.”