Since the daywhen the first MG went zipping down an American highway to the mingled jibesand cheers of this motor-minded nation, the impact of the Europeanautomobile—sports, sports-touring or midget model—has been a ready topic ofdebate. To many, including most of the pace-setters of Detroit, it was a fleabite which might raise a brief and feverish rash, a momentary dizziness whichthe spacious comfort and automatic, power-assisted ease of the traditionallybig American car would soon dispel. To others, Europe was the acme of style,producer of a vehicle which brought back to motoring a sporty zest long sincelost in the ponderousness of "Detroit iron." Only relatively recentlyhave a discerning few observed that the truth, as usual, is poking up its headsomewhere between the two extremes, that the postwar hands-across-the-seasdevelopment in motordom has worked two ways. Thus, while the vanguard of asports car parade may count among its achievements the creation of a FordThunderbird, a Chevrolet Corvette, a Chrysler 300 B or a Studebaker GoldenHawk, now the big news is that the Europeans have learned something fromDetroit. The motor city can take credit for having wrought some significantchanges on the production lines across the sea. And if there are those whostill would like to question this conclusion, let them visit New York's newColiseum this weekend to see the International Automobile Show.
There, gatheredunder one roof for the first time in 16 years, in an area half as big again asa football field, is gleaming proof: the major products of Europe's majormanufacturers, as well as the avant garde of Detroit. There is something foreverybody. The racing enthusiast will find competition cars of all makes andsizes. For the sportsman, there are his familiar favorites, plus a few dreamcars. There is a sizable assortment of the tiny European "economycars." But most of all, and most important to the majority of Americanviewers, is the wide variety of family cars, styled frankly to American tasteyet straining to keep the special sporty appeal which has always been theEuropean trademark.
Notable amongthem is the new 2.4 Jaguar, described as a "five-passenger sports car"and designed to fit squarely into the gap between the high-spirited XK-140 andthe luxurious Mark VII. The 2.4-liter short-stroke engine (six cylinders) is acut-down version of the XK engine, combining high performance and economy. Itoffers a top speed of 100 mph, cruising at 85, and boasts a maximum economy of30 miles to the gallon. The Two-Point-Four retains a good deal of the XK'ssporting look, yet is undeniably a four-door sedan. Its price is $3,795.
A real newcomerto the U.S. is France's Citro√´n, the sensational DS-19. The DS-19 is as new asa fresh coat of paint, with some features which are years ahead of any otherproduction car. Notable among these is its automatic air-oil suspension, whichcorrects body lean in cornering as well as under irregular loading, permitsvarying ground clearances and incorporates a unique jacking system in whichboth wheels on one side can be retracted clear of the ground with little moreeffort than the touch of a button. The DS-19's four-cylinder engine has twinWeber carburetors; its clutch action is automatic; and it has power steeringand power brakes with separate hydraulic circuits for the front and rearwheels. Top speed of the four-door sedan is 90 mph; price $3,285.
New, also, isthe Renault Dauphine, in line to succeed the small, rear-engined 4CV. A13-foot-long, four-door sedan, with a four-cylinder, 845-cc engine, it has atop speed of 73 mph, an economical maximum of 40 miles per gallon at an averageof 40 mph. The price: $1,595—and if it catches on as Renault hopes, there willbe 50,000 Dauphines running errands in American suburbs by 1959.
Sweden, enteringthe American car market for the first time, is aiming at two-car families withits brisk little front-wheel-drive SAAB-93. The carefully streamlined two-doorsedan is built by the SAAB Aircraft Company, and is equipped with athree-cylinder, two-stroke engine of 748 cc. Its predecessor, SAAB-92, had atwo-cylinder engine which the designers converted to a higher output byincreasing the number of cylinders to three without increasing the total cubiccapacity. The SAAB (it rhymes with job) is just over 13 feet long and justunder five feet high, but its interior is spacious enough for four people, andits seats even fold down to make a bed. Price: $1,795.
The SunbeamRapier, newly introduced from Great Britain, is in exactly the same sizecategory as the SAAB, and has a four-cylinder, short-stroke engine of 1,390 ccwhich will deliver enough power to take the small vehicle over the road at atop speed of 90 mph. Of all the new imports, the Rapier comes closest to beingcompletely American in looks, if not in size. It is a two-door, four-passengersedan and will sell for $2,499.
All in all,Britain will be showing 31 models, including two Rolls-Royces and a whole fleetof English Fords. Germany will have 23 cars on display, with a diminutivenewcomer among the Porsches and Mercedes: the 596-cc Lloyd, available as asedan, convertible or station wagon. Italy will be represented by Alfa-Romeo,Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia. Arnolt-Bristol, a joint English-Italian-Americanproduct, will be on hand with a new hardtop Mark II. Detroit will be there withsuch newly familiar production-line numbers as the Chrysler 300 B, theChevrolet Corvette, the Ford Thunderbird and its eye-popping experimental dreamcars. Anyone who can't find something to ooh and ah over here, should renouncehis machine-age citizenship.