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1938 Earl’s Court Motor Show - Snobbery in Motoring at an End?

30th Apr 2018

In future, and from time to time, the Museum will be looking at motor shows of the past from around the world. 

As the years go by manufacturers, drivers/enthusiasts and journalists will put a contemporary spin on the attributes - or lack of attributes - of motor cars.  To get the full picture, however, it is necessary to look back at what the same group of people were saying about these cars at the time of their launch.  Other factors such as the political, economic and social climates are also relevant. 

So, for example, the 1938 Earl’s Court Show would be the last one to be held before the outbreak of World War 2 and also some 50 years on from the dawn of motoring itself.  A standard Wolseley saloon cost £395, while the limousine version of the Austin 4 litre/6 cylinder was almost twice as much at £700.  The outbreak of the War would also bring the ‘Vintage’ era of motoring to an end.

A contemporary report in the ‘The Spectator’ interestingly comments that the so-called “poor man’s car” of 1938 is just as lively as the “rich man’s” car of the late twenties; such is the advancement of motoring technology over a decade.  Apparently, then, there is no longer any shame or snobbery involved in being seen in a cheap car in the late 30s.