Matters of Moment, October 1973

On With The Show

This is certainly the theme song of the SMM & T, organisers of the London Motor Show which is scheduled to take place this year at Earls Court between October 17th and 27th. It shows no sign of changing this to “The Show Is Over”, in spite of advice to hold it bi-annually, outside London, or not at all, the last-named in view of the impossibility of shopping properly for a car when it is static on an exhibition stand, when what you need to do is to evaluate its performance, comfort, its “feel” and its parking ability, etc., on the road.

These considerations notwithstanding, the Show is to go on, and will no doubt be attended by the usual packed crowds of experts. enthusiasts, spectators and rubbernecks, with the bowler hats inexorably heading for the Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Mulliner/Park Ward and Vanden Plas stands, Our advice is not to go there in a car, because you will be unlikely to get into the official car-parks no matter how impressive your pass or invitation, and the normal kerbside parking in sleezy Earls Court will inevitably have been put out-of-bounds by zealous police and wardens. Of course, quite the best time to go is during the Press preview on the day before the Official Opening, when you can watch the most exciting stripshow in Town. Providing you walk in briskly through one of the side-doors, wearing overalls or carrying a bucket, there should be little difficulty. Never mind the unfortunate reporters and picture-makers who were hoping for clear stands on which to carry out their work. Many of them will he unstaffed and unfinished anyway, some completely devoid of cars. . . .

Yes, the Show’s the thing, this month, and it is no less realistic we suppose than looking at aeroplanes inside we suppose at the old Crystal Palace, as used to happen, or at boats moored under a roof in a tap-water Marina. So, unless it has to be evacuated on account of bombs motivated by the Peace-on-Earth, goodwill-to-all-men boys, or doesn’t open on time because of strikes by the chippies and the electricians, and if the Motor Industry works sufficiently long beforehand to have some cars to put on display, the London Motor Show should be pretty much as it always is. You may go there to Buy British, as was once fashionable, in which case you will be buying Leyland, under ten different badges, unless you support one of our microscopic manufacturers. They have our blessing, which is why we published a road-test on the TVR 3000M last month.

What will you see at Earls Court? Well, British Leyland’s very latest, much publicised Quartic controlled Allegro will be there for the first time, it car called, by the way, after a Ford coupe with V4 or six-cylinder engine which was unveiled ten years ago. You will find the best Buick roadster ever, on the MG stand. The Japanese trade steam-roller will be in relentless-action. The World’s best-engineered cars will be found on the BMW and Mercedes-Benz -stands, the most sophisticated on Citroen’s stand. Ferrari, in the Dino, will have perhaps the most covetable and safest handling. The Rolls-Royce and Jaguar XJ12 exhibits will uphold Britain’s reputation for top-prestige cars . At the opposite extreme, Wartburg will be like a mongrel guarding a bone which officialdom may soon force it to bury and Vauxhall should be attempting to regain its one-time esteem as a general motor for the general public. Ford of Britain will probably have, the greatest area of stand-space. Deservedly, because their recently-further-improved best-selling Cortina is the with-it work-horse and in the current Consul and Granada Ford continues the tradition of comfortable,

spacious high-performance models which offer almost as much as the top-bracket makes, at a far more modest cost. Moreover, if the name Ford is synonymous with dependable everyday transport for the masses, these days it has a very healthy Ford Sport image, with Escorts and Capris from AVO which are instant rally or racing cars at the drop of a flag. Ford also, of course, finance the Cosworth F1 engines which win Grand Prix races. The DAF transmission will be cocking a snoot at Borg-Warner and if recent vee-eight and vee-twelve power units have disappointed in not possessing twin-overhead camshafts, go along to the Aston Martin Stand, where the latest 5.4-litre V8 is a great slab of vintage-like engine with two camshafts above each block, four twin-choke Webers, oil-radiators, etc. Aston Martin Lagonda say they have fewer exhaust emission problems with Webers than with Bosch fuel injection, which is a pointer to the continuing absence of technical stagnation within the Industry. Witness the ingenious valve gear of the new Triumph Dolomite Sprint, already discussed at length in Motor Sport, the growing adoption of multi-valve engines, the under-rocker camshafts of the Opels and much more similar ingenuity on the engineering front. At the age of 14, reading a paper in the alas now-defunct Automobile Engineer, we nearly went mad trying to adjudicate between turbulent, non-turbulent and “squidge” combustion chambers. Today, the hemispherical head, of pre-war racing fame, still challenges the pent-roof head, with the BMW 520 having a highly developed version of the swirl heads used on these cars. Will Lotus present a less sporting appeal this year, now that the well-loved Elan is no more and Colin Chapman speaks of four-seater tycoonisrn? Who will buy the big American land-cruisers which take up much space at Earls Court? Indeed, who will buy any kind of new car, with further threats of petrol rationing in the wind? Which will not stop the publicity boys from announcing those million-dollar sales which miraculously coincide with the opening of a motor show. Incidentally, the top criteria seems to be not whether you can hear the clock ticking as you drive along but what speed you can do and still be able to converse; Aston Martin Set it at 225 k.p.h . . . .

Yes, for some reason inexplicable to ordinary people the Show will be on again. MOTOR SPORT will be on Stand No. 4 on the ground floor. We keep good company, for we are adjacent to BMW and Lamborghini!


Computers are wondrous machines but the results they produce are sometimes far from wonderful. You can for another month renew your driving licence at any Tax Office. This is useful if you have not seen the reminder to renew or have overlooked it and discovered that your licence has expired and you are about to commence a journey, apart from being generally convenient. (We remember once finding ourselves without a licence when on tour and applying for a renewal form at a village PO. Being young and in holiday mood we found the long hat of questions on the application hum irksome and when it came to saying if we could read a number-plate at X-yards, wearing glasses if required, we replied “Yes, if clean”. We then posted the application, to be sent home, and drove off, thinking we were legally entitled to drive a motor vehicle. (Alas, when we returned to base, there was our application. which had been turned down because bureaucracy did not accept what it called flippant answers to its official question!) But they did send the licences back by return, in those days.

Normally, however, you can renew a licence across a local tax office counter. Not for much longer, however! After November 1st the Swansea Computer Centre is to do this for you. You hand in your expired licence as before but instead of being issued with a fresh one you will receive a receipt. It will be three Weeks or longer before the licence arrives. What if you are going abroad ? We are informed that the receipt will enable an International Driving Permit to be issued. But will the receipt be valid in the World’s police stations, if you are asked to show a licence ?

Thus has another nice simple service become complicated. The DoE say that thousands of applications were delayed after the Swansea Centre opened and that disqualified licences still take longer to renew than others (thereby imposing an extra period to the Court’s disqualified time?. But they proudly assure us that 98% of licence applications are now being dealt with within ten days and the rest in five or six days. Computers, phaw! Especially when we pay millions for ‘ern. . . .

(Sept. 8th)

THE old-established speed trials along the Madeira Drive on Brighton’s sea-front, over a standing-start kilometre, took place in glorious summer weather before a truly immense crowd of spectators who lined the whole length of the course. Sponsored by Shell Sport and organised by the Brighton & Hove Motor Club, the very full day’s programme reached a climax at the end of the afternoon when Dennis Priddle made a shattering run in his AA Fuel Dragster, powered by a super-charged nitro-burning Chrysler V8 engine, over a demonstration quarter-mile in 7.97 sec. The sheer bravery and courage of the West Country lad as the Dragster accelerated along the bumpy, cambered road, brought forth the most incredible spontaneous round of applause heard at a motoring event for many years.

The main events over the kilometre saw the usual interesting array of machinery on two, three and four wheels, and it is this variety of vehicles that is the main attraction at such events. In spite of the fine weather not many class records were broken, although Goddard’s turbo-charged 8-litre Bentley took the Bentley Drivers’ Club record with 26.07 sec, and Marsland’s 2-litre Ford-powered Brabham took the record for Racing Cars 1,101 – 2,000 c.c. with an excellent 20.81 sec. With no really powerful motorcycles entered the cars came out on top in this annual acceleration contest, the McLaren 5,700- c.c. V8 of Rose just beating the similar car of Jonty Williainson, though neither got near to Patsy Burt’s existing course record of 20.21 sec., set up in 1968.


1st : B. Rose (McLaren 5700-cc V8) .. 20.53 sec.
2nd : J. T. Williamson (McLaren 5700-cc V8) .. 20.60 sec.
3rd : B. Marsland (Brabham BT 35) .. 20.81 sec.
4th : A. F. Bradwell (Brabham FWD 4,500-cc V8) .. 20.99 sec.
5th : A. Hamilton (Ford GT40) .. 22.56 sec.
6th : J. C. Cooper (Ford GT40) .. 22.66 sec.
D. Prlddle (Chrysler V8 Dragster) 1/4 mile SS .. 7.66 sec.


1st : A. Weedon (Triumph 500 c.c..SC) .. 20.79 sec.
2nd : N. Dodd (Triumph 650 c.c..SC) .. 21.00 sec.
3rd : 1J. Camhi (Triumph 500 cc..SC) .. 21.42 sec.
4th : B Keys (Norton/JAP 996 cc) .. 22.69 sec.