British International Motor Show

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British International Motor Show
VenueThe Crystal Palace (1903)
Olympia (1905–1936)
Earls Court Exhibition Centre (1937–1976)
National Exhibition Centre (1978–2004)
ExCeL London (2006–2008)
Most recent2008
Organised bySociety of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (archived)

The British International Motor Show was an annual motor show held by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders between 1903 and 2008 in England.

Initially held in London at The Crystal Palace, Olympia and then the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, it moved to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in 1978, where it stayed until 2004, it was held at ExCeL London in 2006 and 2008. The 2010 and 2012 events were cancelled due to the global financial crisis, it was in part succeeded by the London Motor Show in 2016.


Britain's first motor show[1]—for horseless carriages—was held in South Kensington in 1896 at the Imperial Institute under the auspices of Lawson's Motor Car Club.[2]

The first British Motor Show organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) was held at The Crystal Palace, London in 1903, the same year that the speed limit was raised from 14 miles per hour (23 km/h) to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) by the Motor Car Act 1903 and two years before the formation of The Automobile Association.

In 1905, it moved to Olympia, London, where it was held for the next 32 years before moving to the Earls Court Exhibition Centre from 1937 until 1976, except for the period of World War II during which time there were no shows. From 1978 until 2004, it was held every second year at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Birmingham, with the 2004 event being held in May, rather than the traditional October, to avoid a clash with the Paris Motor Show.[3]

The July 2006 and July 2008 shows were held at ExCeL London;[4] the 2010 and 2012 shows were cancelled due to the global financial crisis.[5][6]


Earls Court[edit]

The cars listed are those announced in the late summer lead up to the show or during it. Manufacturers did announce other cars at times to suit them and as that practice grew the public lost interest and the motor show finished its long run in the middle of the 1970s.

Year Show New cars announced for this show Photo
1948 27 October – 6 November
Earls Court, London

Attendance 562,954
highest previous attendance 315,000

Jaguar XK120 open two seater — October 1948
Morris Minor — September 1948
1949 28 September to 8 October
34th International Motor Show,
Earls Court[7]
Rover 75 — September 1949
1950 18 October 1950 – 28 October
  • Earls Court, London.
  • 35th International Motor Exhibition.
  • The world's largest display of Cars, Boats, Caravans; carriage work, marine engines, components and accessories, tyres, transport service equipment and car trailers.
  • Open daily 10 till 9[8]
Jaguar Mark VII — October 1950
Austin A70 Hereford — October 1950
Ford Zephyr Six — October 1950
1951 17 October 1951 – 27 October
Earls Court, London.
attendance was down sharply (375,000 from 480,000) because there were few new models and polling day for the General Election fell in the middle of the Show period. The choice models were export-only.
Vauxhall Velox — August 1951
Austin A30 — October 1951
1952 22 October — 1 November
Earls Court, London
37th International Motor Exhibition

Attendance 462,538, plus about 4,000 from overseas who entered free of charge

Healey Hundred — October 1952
Triumph TR2 — October 1952
1953 21 October to 31 October
Earls Court, London
38th International Motor Exhibition

For the first time since 1938, foreign exhibitors were present, including Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen

Attendance 612,953

1954 20 October to 30 October
Earls Court, London
39th International Motor Exhibition

Jowett and Lea-Francis do not appear

New exhibitors Skoda and DKW

New models introduced during the year by Standard, Morris, Singer, Austin, Rootes, Vauxhall, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce

Attendance 523,586

1955 19 October to 29 October
Earls Court, London
40th International Motor Exhibition


UK 30
USA & Canada 17
France 6
Germany 6
Italy 3
Czechoslovakia 1

Attendance 516,811, including overseas visitors 13,750

1956 17 October 1956 – 27 October
Earls Court, London
41st International Motor Exhibition


UK 31
USA & Canada 16
France 6
Germany 6
Italy 3
Czechoslovakia 1
Sweden 1

Orders taken at the Motor Show enabled Austin to return to a five-day working week

Attendance numbers were not reported

1957 16 October 1957 – 26 October
Earls Court, London
42nd International Motor Exhibition
1958 22 October – 1 November
Earls Court, London
43rd International Motor Exhibition

Neither Allard nor Lagonda book stands at the show


UK 33
USA & Canada 14
France 7
Germany 7
Italy 4
Czechoslovakia 1
Sweden 1
Holland 1

Attendance 534,422

1959 21 October – 31 October
Earls Court, London.

Opened by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

Visitors to the Motor Show are asked by Scotland Yard to leave their cars at home


paid 560,310
overseas visitors another 19,707
1960 19 October to 29 October
Earls Court, London

Attendance: 428,000 reported 12 months later

1961 18 October to 28 October
Earls Court, London
46th International Motor Show

The Zagato coachwork stand exhibits a Mini-Minor named Gatto beside a Bristol and an Aston Martin

Attendance: 578,034 and a further 20,000+ overseas visitors

Year Show New cars announced for this show Photo
1962 17 October to 27 October
Earls Court, London
47th International Motor Show

Attendance: 474,086 and 21,199 more from overseas, it was noted the paid attendance was 103,948 less than last year

1963 16 October to 26 October
48th International Motor Show
Earls Court, London

Paid attendance believed to be in excess of 550,000 people.[citation needed]

1964 October 1964
Earls Court, London
_ October 1964
1965 20 October – 30 October
Earls Court, London
1966 19 October – 29 October
Earls Court, London
1967 18 October – 28 October
Earls Court, London
1968 16 October 1968 – 26 October 1968
Earls Court, London
The opening ceremony was performed by Princess Alexandra.[19]
1969 15 October to 25 October
Earls Court, London

In September, Earls Court Exhibition workers threatened to strike; the day the show opened, two UK major manufacturers had assembly lines at a standstill.

1970 14 October to 24 October
Earls Court, London
55th International Motor Show

British makes on display: 28
Foreign makes on display: 46 including a sales team from Russia

Four hundred manufacturers of cars, components and accessories

There are girls dressed as rabbits, sailors, and as Nell Gwynn, and girls in "extremely inadequate"[citation needed] chain mail

It was agreed[who?] that Earls Court was no longer an adequate venue[citation needed]

1971 October 1971
Earls Court, London
1972 18 October – 28 October
Earls Court, London
1973 October 1973
Earls Court, London

Seventieth show

1974 16 October – 26 October
Earls Court, London
1975 October 1975
Earls Court, London
1976 October 1976
Earls Court, London

Widely publicised as the last at Earls Court

67 makes from 16 countries

More diesel cars displayed than ever before


Year Show New cars announced for this show Photo
1978 The International Motor Show made its first appearance at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, and attracted record crowds of 908,194.[23]
1982 The International Motor Show again appeared at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham during October of this year.[24] The two most notable new launches were the Audi 100 and Ford Sierra. Other new cars included the Austin Ambassador and MG Metro.[25][26]
1984 20 October 1984 – 28 October 1984 NEC, Birmingham. 17–19 October were reserved for professional visitors. The show saw a total of 696,183 visitors this year.[27] Austin Montego Estate – the Design Council award-winning family estate from Austin Rover[28]
Reliant Scimitar SS1
Dutton Rico[29]
1986 18 October −26 October 1986 NEC, Birmingham. Jaguar XJ (XJ40)
Renault GTA in RHD, British debut[30]
1988 22 October 1988 – 30 October 1988 NEC, Birmingham. Jaguar XJ220 – debut of Jaguar's 220 mph (350 km/h) all wheel drive (AWD) super car concept vehicle
MG Maestro Turbo[31]
Middlebridge Scimitar[32]
Audi Coupé (B3)[33]
1998 22 October to 1 November 1998 at the NEC, Birmingham. Saw the launch of two critical saloons from British car manufacturers. Bernd Pischetsrieder, then in charge at BMW, made an impromptu speech about the future of Rover's Longbridge plant. Rover 75 – debut of the first (and last) Rover with the help of BMW
Jaguar S-Type – all new executive car from Jaguar, retro in design like the Rover.
2000 The International Motor Show remained in the Birmingham NEC during October. Honda made news in claiming it would have fuel cell cars on sale by 2003.[34]
2002 The 2002 show at the NEC, Birmingham featured the international Bentley Continental GT
TVR T350[35]
2004 In 2004, the show, branded The Sunday Times Motorshow Live, was held from 27 May – 6 June, instead of the usual October. Peugeot 407 (United Kingdom Introduction)[36]
Peugeot 407 SW (United Kingdom Introduction)


Year Show New cars announced for this show Photo
2006 The 2006 British Motor Show was held in July at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London's Docklands. It featured a nightly post-show rock music festival called Dock Rock. Alfa Romeo Spider (United Kingdom Introduction)Aston Martin Rapide (United Kingdom Introduction)
Bentley Continental Flying Spur Mulliner Driving Specification
BMW M6 Convertible
Chevrolet Captiva (United Kingdom Introduction)
Chrysler Sebring sedan (Europe Introduction)
Dodge Nitro (Europe Introduction)
Ford Focus coupe convertible (United Kingdom Introduction)
Honda Civic 3 door hatchback

Jaguar XJR Portfolio
Jaguar XKR
Kia C segment model (codename ED)
Land Rover Freelander2/LR2 (World Introduction)
Lexus GS 300 Limited Edition
Lotus Europa S (United Kingdom Introduction)
Lotus Exige S (United Kingdom Introduction)
Mazda BT-50 (Europe Introduction)
Mazda3 MPS (United Kingdom Introduction)
Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe
MINI GP (United Kingdom Introduction)
Mitsubishi i (Europe Introduction)
Rolls-Royce 101EX (United Kingdom Introduction)
Saab 9-3 Convertible BioPower
SEAT León Cupra
Smart Fortwo EV
Toyota RAV4 (United Kingdom Introduction)
Toyota Yaris (United Kingdom Introduction)
Vauxhall Corsa 3 door and 5 door (World Introduction)
Volvo S60
Volvo S80 (United Kingdom Introduction)
Volvo XC90 (United Kingdom Introduction)

2008 The 2008 British International Motor Show was held at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in the Docklands from 23 July – 3 August, and was the last regular British International Motor Show.

The SMMT promoted an all new showcase of the latest electric vehicle models. "The Electric Vehicle Village" brought together one of the largest collections of zero emissions vehicles ever seen in the United Kingdom, with a display of more than twenty battery powered vehicles.[37]

The motor show displayed a number of high priced, high performance electric cars, such as the Lightning GT and Tesla Roadster (2008).

Alfa Romeo Mito (World/United Kingdom Introduction)

Ford Focus RS
Lotus Evora
Mastretta MXT[38] (first Mexican sports car)
Nissan Qashqai+2
Ford Fiesta ECOnetic
Vauxhall Insignia
SsangYong Rexton R-Line
Tesla Roadster

Concept cars:
Cadillac CTS Coupe
Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
Citroen C-Cactus
Honda OSM
Kia Excee'd Convertible
Kia Kee
Land Rover LRX
Lexus LFA
Lotus Elise Eco
Saab 9-X Biohybrid BioHybrid
Smart fortwo ed

The 2006 British International Motor Show featured concerts by:

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  • SMMT history including that of the motor show
  • "British International Motor Show". Pietro Frua. – Source of show locations and dates
  1. ^ The Times, Tuesday, 14 November 1905; pg. 7; Issue 37864
  2. ^ Horseless Carriages. The Times, Monday, 17 February 1896; pg. 7; Issue 34815
  3. ^ Jorn Madslien (24 May 2004). "Struggling motorshow in spring debut". BBC News.
  4. ^ "The Motor Show is now in London and it's more fun than ever, says Sean O'Grady". The Independent. 18 July 2008.
  5. ^ Julian Rendell (27 January 2009). "British motor show in crisis". Autocar.
  6. ^ Tim Pollard (14 October 2010). "British motor show axed for good?". Car.
  7. ^ Display advertisement, page 5, Gloucestershire Echo, 24 September 1949
  8. ^ Display advertisement: Motor Show. The Times, Tuesday, 3 October 1950; pg. 4; Issue 51812
  9. ^ The Triumph Roadster. The Times, Saturday, 14 October 1950; pg. 3; Issue 51822
  10. ^ New Models At Motor Show. The Times, Wednesday, 18 October 1950; pg. 6; Issue 51825
  11. ^ New Austin Seven. The Times, Monday, 8 October 1951; pg. 4; Issue 52126
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "Cars Of Today" by Stuart Marshall. The Times, Tuesday, 19 October 1965 (issue 56456), p.4.
  14. ^ a b c d "Visitors' Guide: Hours and Charges; Opening Day; How to Get There (i.e. concerning the London Motor Show)". Autocar. Vol. 127 (nbr 3739). 12 October 1967. p. 59.
  15. ^ a b Basil Cardew (Ed.). Daily Express Review of the 1966 Motor Show. Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd, London.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Keith Anderson. Jensen. Haynes Publishing Group. ISBN 0-85429-682-4.
  17. ^ "The cars : Mini development history". AR Online. 5 August 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  18. ^ "About the FD Victor, Ventora and VX4/90". Vauxhall VX4/90 Drivers' Club. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  19. ^ a b c "Earls Court '68: Hours and Charges". Autocar. Vol. 129 (nbr 3791). 10 October 1968. p. 52.
  20. ^ Braunschweig, Robert; et al., eds. (12 March 1970). "Automobil Revue '70" (in German and French). 65. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag AG: 370. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j The Times, Thursday, 12 October 1972; pg. 29; Issue 58603.
  22. ^ Autocar Motor Show Supplement 19 October 1974
  23. ^ Car Magazine 19 March 2009
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ 1982 in motoring#United Kingdom
  26. ^ [1]
  27. ^ "Près de 700.000 visiteurs à Birmingham" [Nearly 700,000 visitors to Birmingham]. Transporama (in French). Edegem, Belgium. 4 (31): 11. December–January 1984/1985. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  28. ^ "Story of the Montego". Maestro & Montego Owners Club.
  29. ^ Mastrostefano, Raffaele, ed. (1985). Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1985 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus S.p.A. p. 264. ISBN 88-7212-012-8.
  30. ^ Liszewski, Nicolas. "Alpine V6 Turbo Mille Miles". Le site des amateurs et passionnés des Alpine Renault GTA (in French). Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  31. ^ Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (9 March 1989). Automobil Revue 1989 (in German and French). 84. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag AG. p. 400. ISBN 3-444-00482-6.
  32. ^ Automobil Revue 1989, p. 401
  33. ^ Automobil Revue 1989, p. 168
  34. ^ The Guardian 12 November 2000
  35. ^ What Car? 22 October 2002 Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "Peugeot At The Sunday Times Motor Show Live 2004". 12 May 2004. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  37. ^ British Motor Show "Plugs In" To Demand For Electric Vehicles Archived 7 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Automóvil Panamericano, No. 163 (15 July 2008), p.20

External links[edit]