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Since the day when the first MG went zipping down an American highway to the mingled jibes and cheers of this motor-minded nation, the impact of the European automobile—sports, sports-touring or midget model—has been a ready topic of debate. To many, including most of the pace-setters of Detroit, it was a flea bite which might raise a brief and feverish rash, a momentary dizziness which the spacious comfort and automatic, power-assisted ease of the traditionally big 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 since lost in the ponderousness of " Detroit iron." Only relatively recently have a discerning few observed that the truth, as usual, is poking up its head somewhere between the two extremes, that the postwar hands-across-the-seas development in motordom has worked two ways. Thus, while the vanguard of a sports car parade may count among its achievements the creation of a Ford Thunderbird, a Chevrolet Corvette, a Chrysler 300 B or a Studebaker Golden Hawk, now the big news is that the Europeans have learned something from Detroit. The motor city can take credit for having wrought some significant changes on the production lines across the sea. And if there are those who still would like to question this conclusion, let them visit New York's new Coliseum this weekend to see the International Automobile Show.
There, gathered under one roof for the first time in 16 years, in an area half as big again as a football field, is gleaming proof: the major products of Europe's major manufacturers, as well as the avant garde of Detroit. There is something for everybody. The racing enthusiast will find competition cars of all makes and sizes. For the sportsman, there are his familiar favorites, plus a few dream cars. There is a sizable assortment of the tiny European "economy cars." But most of all, and most important to the majority of American viewers, is the wide variety of family cars, styled frankly to American taste yet straining to keep the special sporty appeal which has always been the European trademark.
Notable among them 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 and the luxurious Mark VII. The 2.4-liter short-stroke engine (six cylinders) is a cut-down version of the XK engine, combining high performance and economy. It offers a top speed of 100 mph, cruising at 85, and boasts a maximum economy of 30 miles to the gallon. The Two-Point-Four retains a good deal of the XK's sporting look, yet is undeniably a four-door sedan. Its price is $3,795.
A NOTABLE NEWCOMER
A real newcomer to the U.S. is France's Citro�n, the sensational DS-19. The DS-19 is as new as a fresh coat of paint, with some features which are years ahead of any other production car. Notable among these is its automatic air-oil suspension, which corrects body lean in cornering as well as under irregular loading, permits varying ground clearances and incorporates a unique jacking system in which both wheels on one side can be retracted clear of the ground with little more effort than the touch of a button. The DS-19's four-cylinder engine has twin Weber carburetors; its clutch action is automatic; and it has power steering and power brakes with separate hydraulic circuits for the front and rear wheels. Top speed of the four-door sedan is 90 mph; price $3,285.
New, also, is the Renault Dauphine, in line to succeed the small, rear-engined 4CV. A 13-foot-long, four-door sedan, with a four-cylinder, 845-cc engine, it has a top speed of 73 mph, an economical maximum of 40 miles per gallon at an average of 40 mph. The price: $1,595—and if it catches on as Renault hopes, there will be 50,000 Dauphines running errands in American suburbs by 1959.
Sweden, entering the American car market for the first time, is aiming at two-car families with its brisk little front-wheel-drive SAAB-93. The carefully streamlined two-door sedan is built by the SAAB Aircraft Company, and is equipped with a three-cylinder, two-stroke engine of 748 cc. Its predecessor, SAAB-92, had a two-cylinder engine which the designers converted to a higher output by increasing the number of cylinders to three without increasing the total cubic capacity. The SAAB (it rhymes with job) is just over 13 feet long and just under five feet high, but its interior is spacious enough for four people, and its seats even fold down to make a bed. Price: $1,795.
The Sunbeam Rapier, newly introduced from Great Britain, is in exactly the same size category as the SAAB, and has a four-cylinder, short-stroke engine of 1,390 cc which will deliver enough power to take the small vehicle over the road at a top speed of 90 mph. Of all the new imports, the Rapier comes closest to being completely American in looks, if not in size. It is a two-door, four-passenger sedan and will sell for $2,499.
All in all, Britain will be showing 31 models, including two Rolls-Royces and a whole fleet of English Fords. Germany will have 23 cars on display, with a diminutive newcomer among the Porsches and Mercedes: the 596-cc Lloyd, available as a sedan, convertible or station wagon. Italy will be represented by Alfa-Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia. Arnolt-Bristol, a joint English-Italian-American product, will be on hand with a new hardtop Mark II. Detroit will be there with such newly familiar production-line numbers as the Chrysler 300 B, the Chevrolet Corvette, the Ford Thunderbird and its eye-popping experimental dream cars. Anyone who can't find something to ooh and ah over here, should renounce his machine-age citizenship.