An international automobile show—said by the organizers to be the largest of its kind ever presented in the United States—will open in New York this Saturday, April 4, for a nine-day stand. Taking up 218,000 square feet of space on three floors of Manhattan's Coliseum, the show will display more than 300 new cars from Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and, although representing only part of the industry, the U.S. as well.
Brought together under one roof will be most of the models that have contributed to the booming foreign car market in America, along with some bright new entries. There will be cars for every taste and function—midget, middling and full-sized passenger cars, sports cars for spirited driving and cars of stately elegance for traveling in style.
The foreign automakers have been ecstatic for some time now, of course, over the up-up-up trend of their American market. As recently as 1955, they sold only 57,118 vehicles in the U.S. Sales last year soared to 373,189, nearly double the figure for 1957, accounting for a healthy 8% of the entire American market. The imports are away to another record-breaking start this year.
Along with the foreign car push has come the rise of the American "compact" car—larger, roomier and more powerful than a typical foreign economy car, but smaller than a typical model from Detroit's Big Three. American Motors started the ball rolling with its Rambler; Studebaker-Packard chimed in last fall with the Lark.
COUNTERMOVE BY THE BIG THREE
The Big Three, as nearly everyone knows by now, are expected to counterattack sharply with small cars of their own before very long. General Motors may take the plunge in late summer or early fall, Ford in December and Chrysler in early 1960, although this timetable is by no means certain.
New York's big show bows in, then, at a time of extreme excitement: foreign manufacturers riding the crest of an amazing boom but anxiously watching for the Big Three's small car thrust; the Big Three anxiously studying not only the foreign invasion but also the Rambler and Lark success stories, meanwhile cloaking their small car projects in great secrecy.
With out-and-out economy cars like the Volkswagen, Renault Dauphine and Fiat 1100 already well established in the U.S., the foreign builders are moving aggressively with what might be called medium-priced cars, and these will be among the most interesting at the show.
Here we have such eye catchers as Italy's Fiat 1800, England's Austin A-55 and MG Magnette (both based on a body shell designed by the famous Italian coachmaker Pinin Farina), Sweden's Volvo Amazon, Japan's Toyopet and France's Renault Caravelle. Belonging with this group are imports from European affiliates of the Big Three: General Motors' English Vauxhall and German Opel, Ford's German Taunus and the top English Fords, and the top French Simcas brought in by Chrysler.
Introduced recently at the Swiss show, in Geneva, the crisply styled 1800 sedans and station wagons are Fiat's first postwar six-cylinder cars. Two engine sizes will be available. The 1.8-liter model develops 85 hp and the 2-liter 95 hp. Farina, whose candle burns at both ends these days, did the styling. Prices have not been announced here, but they will probably be near $2,500.
The Italianate Austin A-55 and Magnette, priced at $2,199 and $2,740, respectively, at U.S. ports of entry, are excellent examples of a noteworthy swing away from stand-pat conservatism in British styling thought. From Japan comes the entering wedge in an American offensive by its biggest car producer, Toyota, in the four-cylinder, 68-hp $2,329 Toyopet sedan; from Sweden the four-cylinder, 85-hp 122S, called the Amazon in Europe, at a price yet to be announced; from France the pretty and somewhat mysterious Caravelle, whose specifications and price are under Renault's hat, the car not being generally available until fall.
Sports car enthusiasts will find a glittering lineup of high-performance cars at the show. Three deserve particular mention. Most illustrious among these is the 1958 world champion Grand Prix road racing car, the Vanwall—unfortunately retired from competition now—which brought England its greatest racing triumphs. The brilliant new Aston Martin DB4 sports-touring car has been pictured in these pages before (SI, Nov. 3).
The third is the world's newest sports car, and it is having its premi√®re at the show. This is an extraordinary venture by Britain's oldest automobile company, Daimler. Famed for the stately formal cars it has traditionally supplied to Britain's royal family, Daimler now introduces the Dart (see page 52). Its 140-hp, 2.5-liter V-8 engine is Britain's first postwar V-8. The rather rakish body is of fiber glass. The car weighs only 2,100 pounds and is said to be capable of 130 mph.
Evidence of blue blood won't be required when the Dart goes on sale in the U.S. this winter; any commoner with approximately $3,900 may apply.