Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Show Is Home at Last; British Internationl Motor Show

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Show Is Home at Last; British Internationl Motor Show

Article excerpt

Byline: GILES CHAPMAN

CAR-MAD Londoners were incredulous at the news that their annual Motor Show in 1976 would be the last. Were carmakers really going to deny a glittering preview of the latest models to the nation's most important customers? Would carcraving celebrities such as Peter Ustinov, John Lennon, Noel Edmonds and Prince Philip want to trek to Birmingham's dismal NEC to get their fix?

But the "ratings", it seemed, said it all. In its first year in Birmingham in 1978, the British Motor Show achieved its best-ever attendance figure - 908,000. The highest the event ever managed in London was 607,402 visitors in 1967.

London's first "official" Motor Show was organised by the fledgling Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) in 1903, and staged outside at Crystal Palace. Two years later, it shifted north and undercover to Olympia.

There was a party atmosphere from the start - an orchestra played a specially composed piece to welcome showgoers, entitled La Belle Chauffeuse.

The 1906 event attracted 200,000 visitors, many lured by the demos of pioneering cars given on Hammersmith Road outside.

Henry Ford, however, refused to join the SMMT, and so Ford was barred from exhibiting at the annual Motor Show. Undeterred, Ford hired the Royal Albert Hall and staged his own Ford Motor Shows there for five years from 1932.

In 1937, the Motor Show decamped to the brand new Earls Court exhibition building, where it remained until the NEC nabbed it in 1978. But Earls Court didn't take the loss of its car show lying down. In 1977, it held its first Motorfair, staged by major London car distributors. This became a biennial fixture for car enthusiasts in the "odd" years when the official British Motor Show wasn't held.

By this time, of course, London's once-thriving motor industry had vanished. …

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