Vintage Newsreels: When The Earls Court London Motor Show Was A Sign Of Changing Times – 1962-1978

Here’s something to make up for the lack of motor shows in 2020. The annual London Motor Show is long gone, as is the replacement event in Birmingham. The last formally industry sponsored event was held in 2008, and the only remining major European shows are in Frankfurt and Geneva. The events of 2020 have obviously impacted both of these, and maybe they too will not come back in the familiar form.

But this is CC, so we can look back to the great days, through the medium of the Pathé newsreel, originally designed for the cinema. Here’s a small selection.

From the 1930s to the 1976 this was held at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in West London, after which it moved to the National Exhibition Centre outside Birmingham, and went bi-annual, to 2008. Various attempts have been made to revive it in an amended form, but it seems a hard sell nowadays.

We start (top) with 1962, when casual sexism and stereotyping were seemingly acceptable. Or even obligatory.

This is 1966. Britain needed to export, where British cars are renowned for compactness, handling and economy apparently. But there are some Japanese cars. Never mind a Ferrari, there’s the Ford Zodiac Executive!

1968 saw the introduction of the breathalyser to crack down on drink driving, but don’t worry, as Woman is now allowed to drive home from the pub. And she can be patronised as well. And, if she’s lucky, choose the colour of the car.

In 1972, there was “a strong challenge from Continental rivals”. But hey, we had the Vauxhall Firenza and a new instrument panel on the Lotus Europa. And Fiat presumably had a side deal with Pathé.

I imagine I would have attempted to create a similar effect with Dinky and Corgi models when I got home. But why is the de Tomaso Mangusta going the wrong way?

1973, and more casual sexism and some Royal fawning – did Princess Anne win a prize for that hat? Another warning about foreign cars increasing their share, but Rolls-Royce are still the best. No evidence required, old boy.

1976, and a Prime Ministerial visit, and George Best. Best gets the XJ-S, the PM gets a Mini. They were tough times, then.

And in 1978, in Birmingham but no cars for Ford because of a strike.

And yes, I did diligently buy the review supplements from the newspapers. And, no, I haven’t got them anymore.


1948 London Motor Show review