THE GLORY DAYS OF AUTO SHOWS
Earl's Court, the Paris Motor Show, the Geneva Motor Show, the Detroit Autorama....those were the stars of the glory days of the auto show. Where something really special always was revealed. Jaguar XK120, Austin Healey 100, a new Ferrari, Corvette or something totally unexpected and unheard of would shock the crowd.
In the good old days, your average Joe could plop himself down in the back seat of the displayed Rolls or Bentley, even if he couldn't afford the price of a gallon of petrol. OH, to go back to the 50's and 60's and be a part of that scene......or maybe not, as Triumph Forum correspondent John Macartney, former Standard Triumph executive and stand worker, recounts:
What many people fail to realise is that motor show cars are very different in many ways to the normal production version. For a start, the paint finish received detailed attention and were often resprayed several times to give the paint a ‘deeper’ appearance. Engine blocks were a shiny black, as were hoses. Body and door shut lines underwent considerable work and door shuts themselves were silky smooth in operation and quiet to operate. This was always difficult to achieve on the Herald, GT6 and Spitfire as closing most doors on those models mostly sounded like putting the lid on an empty trash can.
Every night after show closure, the carpets, seats and door cards in all cars were exchanged for new ones and any faults or problems reported to the Stand Manager during the day were rectified. Knobs, switches, lenses that had been stolen or damaged through clumsy removal were also replaced. Leaking or non functional hydraulics were replaced as well and there’s a moral here. NEVER buy a car that has done a stint as a display vehicle at a ten day motor show. It will have gone through hell in that time and Engineering always studied reports of how the cars had held up during the show.
Theft, attempted or actual was by no means unknown and one day a man wearing a pair of white overalls was actually caught trying to remove a Herald differential!!! It happened on a Saturday when you could hardly move on the stand because of the crowds. Car ‘ride heights’ were often raised a little to allow for the daily punishment of people of various weights collapsing into cars on a crowded stand. This did little to give seats a gentle life! Mostly, this was achieved by temporarily fitting all cars with heavy duty tropical suspension for the show duration. Doing this meant there was nothing like the amount of “give” found in a car that was conventionally sprung.
Was the motor show experience enjoyable? If you like standing on your feet from 09.00 to 22.00 without somewhere to sit down, for ten days solid in an unhealthy atmosphere that gave everyone flu and talking to people who mostly bored you witless and were often less than polite, eating the same outside catered lunch and no chance of a quick beer, I suppose it might have been. The truth was, it wasn’t. We all had to wear dark, tailored three piece suits (bought at our cost), starched cotton shirts with turned back cuffs and a detachable stiff shirt collar and sober tie. Shoes had to be polished like a guardsman's boots, clean finger nails, immaculately clean and parted hair and heaven help you after a day attired like that if the Stand Manager detected even a tiny whiff of halitosis or sweat.
Yes, I will admit we, Standard Triumph’s public face looked good and perhaps we had a little virtuous pride in ourselves - but to this day, I’ve yet to meet any car company employee or salesman who knew as much about his/her product AND the same level of detail of every other make and model of car that competed with us. To this day and well over fifty years later, I’m still amazed how much I can still recall.