While the modern day automotive industry might well seem all but doomed unless it manages to reinvent itself radically in record time, there was indeed a bygone era where it all seemed a lot more optimistic and cheerful. Now imagine travelling back in time and attending the Earl’s Court Motor Show in 1962 – all of 57 years ago…
Things really were decidedly different in the motor industry back then. For starters, the cars from various marques actually looked different from each other, each having their own unique designs and features. Amazingly, this was even the case when badge engineering came into play – take a moment to appreciate how a Riley Elf exudes an entirely different character from the Mini upon which it was of course based. To further emphasise how things have changed, the stylish cars back then were indeed presented in a multitude of pleasing tones rather than just being silver, grey or black as seems almost mandatory nowadays.
But it’s not just the cars which are obviously very different from the soulless creations which litter the modern International Motor Show – it’s also very much the manner in which they are presented to the public. I was quickly utterly absorbed by this British Pathé documentary from Earl’s Court in 1962. It quite obvious that rotating displays were clearly all the rave for 1962. Austin seems to have outdone everyone else though by having three cars rotating separately between each other on their stand. Then there are the perspex body panels which equally seem popular – whether exposing the blinged up A-series engine of a Mini Cooper, the improved luggage space provided by the external boot of a Riley Elf, or indeed pretty much every mechanical component of the Morris 1100 ADO16.
But what strikes me as truly different, is how the public seem to have an interest in the mechanical aspect of cars. There are bare chassis on display, cutout engines and rotating transmissions – even a Riley Elf where the entire body is continually raised, lowered and then raised again by hydraulics to expose suspension, brakes and drivetrain for all to revel at. It certainly seems a lot more relevant to motoring than our current days focus on the cars capabilities on connectivity…
Enjoy this trip back in time as British Pathé presents the Earl’s Court Motor Show in full Technicolour:
With monumental British cars such as the Ford Cortina, Triumph Spitfire, Lotus Elan and Jensen CV-8 all being launched at this motor show there seemed to be real promise on the horizon. Yet I must confess that the otherwise excellent narrative made me giggle on a few occasions. It starts off stating:
“This motor show at Earl’s Court is the last one with Britain outside the Common Market.”
Then as the short film draws to an end, we are told:
“If this year’s motor show is any guide, the British car industry will rise to the opportunity.”
In the painful clarity of hindsight, both remarks are certainly thought provoking if nothing else…