Motoring: Hedonistic days of Earls Court

Torbay Weekly

Paul Jolly, classic car specialist and valuer:

Traditionally, January 1 was the date to replace the family car, but with the change of suffix letters to September 1 and March 1, many will be thinking of a new car about now.

The Earls Court Motor Show was held in October to encourage sales for the New Year.

I joined a Rover/Jaguar dealership in Surrey selling cars as a temporary summer job but loved it so much I remained there six years.

My first assignment was to be at this very arena in 1969 selling new Rover 3500 Crayford Estate cars and the Lotus Cortina convertible with my own demonstrator in the car park below.

Of course, this was in those hedonistic days of nubile topless models lounging over car bonnets for the media attention.

Naturally, I only ever heard about such things and never left my work station for fear of missing a potential client!

It would fall to the likes of Lotus and TVR to lower themselves to such exhibitionism but by crikey, it got their cars in the daily papers the next day. Can’t think why!

Three years earlier, my father took me to the show intending to order a Triumph GT6 to replace his older Spitfire.

Triumph had an open stand with a large array of cars and the massed throng of crowds made it difficult to see anything up close.

On the way, we passed by the exclusive and carpeted Lotus stand, which by contrast, was neatly roped off, with a low wall of flowers and a pretty, blonde, mini-skirted receptionist at the entrance point.

"Dad, Dad," I yelled, "that’s Colin Chapman over there."

To my utter astonishment, he changed direction and we were on the stand. Can’t think why!

On January 1, some ten weeks later, we took delivery of a shiny new red Lotus Elan. Funny old world!

His, and my, loyalty to the brand continued for a further ten years and four new Lotus Elans.

Plus, I got to meet the legendary Colin Chapman.

My only advice to the likes of Triumph would be... put more red cars on your stand!