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The Lotus Esprit was launched at the British International Motor Show, Earl's Court in 1974

The British International Motor Show was held regularly between 1903 and 2008, initially in London at Crystal Palace, Olympia and then Earl's Court before moving the Birmingham and the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in 1976 where it stayed until 2004. It then returned to ExCeL London for 2006 and 2008. The 2010 and 2012 shows were cancelled and no announcement about a possible 2014 show (as of April 2012). The event is recognised by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles


The first British Motor Show organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) was held at 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 The Automobile Association. After the 1903 event it moved to Olympia in London, where it was held for the next 32 years before moving to Earl's Court, London from 1937 until 1976, except for the duration of World War II during which time where were no shows held.

From 1978 until 2004 it was held every other 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 Frankfurt and Paris Motor Shows.[1] The 2006 and 2008 shows were held back in ExCeL, London prior to the cancellation of the 2010[2] and 2012[3] shows due to the Late-2000s recession.

Motorfair, an alternative London show was held at Earls Court biannually from 1977 to 1999. Motorexpo, a smaller, non-international show started in 1996 and is held annually at Canary Wharf.

Show details

Detailed information for shows in later years.

Date Description Introduction Photo
1948 27 October – 6 November 1948 Earls Court, London. Being the first motor show since the end of World War II there were a large number of significant car launches, and received 562,954 visitors. Vehicle introductions:[4] Austin A70 Hampshire
Austin A90 Atlantic

Hillman Minx
Lagonda 2.6
Jaguar XK120
Morris Oxford
Morris Six MS
Singer SM1500
Sunbeam-Talbot 80
Sunbeam-Talbot 90
Vauxhall Velox
Vauxhall Wyvern
Wolseley 4/50
Wolseley 6/80

Morris Six MS

1949 Austin A40 Sports[5]

Austin A40 Sports

1951 19 October 1951–29 October 1952 Earls Court, London. Austin A30

Austin A30

1956 17 October 1956–27 October 1956 Earls Court, London. Volvo Amazon

Volvo Amazon

1962 17 October 1962–27 October 1962 Earls Court, London. Ford Cortina Mark I
Triumph Spitfire

Ford Contina Mark 1?

1966 19 October 1966–29 October 1966 Earls Court, London. Aston Martin DB6 Volante - debut
Ford Cortina Mark II[6]
Hillman Hunter[6]
Jensen FF - AWD super car launched. The world's first production car with anti-lock brakes.[7]
Vauxhall Viva HB[6]

Aston Martin DB6

1967 18 October 1967–28 October 1967 Earls Court, London. For the first time since 1948, 1967 saw an increase in the normal daily admission charge which was raised from 5 shillings (GBP 0.25) to 7 shillings and 6 (old) pence (GBP 0.375).[8] Aston Martin DBS[8]

Triumph Herald 13/60[8]
NSU Ro 80[8]
Simca 1100[8]

Triumph Herald 13/60

1968 16 October 1968–26 October 1968 Earls Court, London. The opening ceremony was performed by Princess Alexandra at 10 am on Wednesday 16 October.[9] Jaguar XJ6[9]
Austin 3-litre[9] (relaunch)

Jaguar XJ6

1974 16 October 1974–26 October 1974 Earls Court, London. The Citroën CX had been launched a few weeks earlier at the Paris Motor Show and was scheduled for inclusion in the 1974 London show. It was withdrawn at the eleventh hour, possibly because the manufacturers found themselves unable to schedule rhd production of the car till well into 1975.[10] The model nevertheless went on to win first place with motoring journalists voting for the European Car of the Year a few months later. Aston Martin Lagonda (long wheel-base, four-door version of the Aston Martin V8)[11]
Lotus Esprit (Worldwide launch)[12]
Lotus Eclat (2+2) (Worldwide launch)[12]
Panther De Ville (Worldwide launch, for the basic model it was one of the most expensive cars being displayed at the time)
Toyota 1100 (UK launch of the Toyota Publica)

Lotus Esprit

1978 The International Motor Show made its first appearance at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, and attracted record crowds of 908,194.[13]
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.[14] Austin Montego Estate - the Design Council award winning family estate from Austin Rover[15]
Reliant Scimitar SS1
Dutton Rico[16]

Austin Montego Estate

1986 18 October –26 October 1986 NEC, Birmingham. Jaguar XJ (XJ40)

Jaguar XJ (XJ40)

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[17]
Middlebridge Scimitar[18]

Jaguar XJ220

1998 22 October to 1 November 1998 at the NEC, Birmingham. Saw the launch of two critical saloons from British car manufacturers. The then BMW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder made an impromptu speech about the future of the Rover Longbridge plant which would then lead to the sell of the brand in 2000 and its collapse in 2005. 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.

Rover 75

2000 The International Motor Show remained in the Birmingham NEC during October. Honda made the news in claiming that it would have fuel cell cars on sale by 2003.[19]
2002 The 2002 show at the NEC, Birmingham featured the international Bentley Continental GT
TVR T350[20]


2004 In 2004 the show, branded The Sunday Times Motorshow Live, was held from 27 May - 6 June, instead of the usual October.
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 (UK introduction)Aston Martin Rapide (UK introduction)
Bentley Continental Flying Spur Mulliner Driving Specification
BMW M6 Convertible
Chevrolet Captiva (UK introduction)
Chrysler Sebring sedan (Europe introduction)
Dodge Nitro (Europe introduction)
Ford Focus coupe-convertible (UK 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 (UK introduction)
Lotus Exige S (UK introduction)
Mazda BT-50 (Europe introduction)
Mazda3 MPS (UK introduction)
Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe
MINI GP (UK introduction)
Mitsubishi i (Europe introduction)
Rolls-Royce 101EX (UK introduction)
Saab 9-3 Convertible BioPower
SEAT León Cupra
Smart Fortwo EV
Toyota RAV4 (UK introduction)
Toyota Yaris (UK introduction)
Vauxhall Corsa 3-door and 5-door (World introduction)
Volvo S60
Volvo S80 (UK introduction)
Volvo XC90 (UK introduction)

Rolls-Royce 101EX

2008 The 2008 British International Motor Show was held at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London's Docklands from 23 July-3 August and was the last regular British International Motorshow. 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 UK, with a display of more than 20 vehicles which are propelled solely by battery power.[21] The motor show displayed a number of high-priced, high-performance electric cars such as the Lightning GT and Tesla Roadster. Alfa Romeo Mito (international and UK introduction)

Ford Focus RS
Lotus Evora
Mastretta MXT[22] (first Mexican sports car)
Nissan Qashqai+2
Ford Fiesta ECOnetic
Vauxhall Insignia
SsangYong Rexton R-Line

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

Land Rover LRX

The 2006 show also had concerts by:

  • 19 July, A-Ha
  • 20 July, Van Morrison
  • 21 July, UB40
  • 22 July, Roxy Music
  • 24 July, Simple Minds
  • 26 July, Katherine Jenkins with the National Symphony Orchestra of London
  • 27 July, Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra

See also

References and notes

  1. Jorn Madslien (2004-05-24). "Struggling motorshow in spring debut", BBC News. 
  2. Julian Rendell (2009-01-27). "British motor show in crisis", Autocar. 
  3. Tim Pollard (2010-10-14). "British motor show axed for good?", Car. 
  4. Telegraph 25 July 2008
  5. "Motoring Memories: Austin A40 Sports, 1951-1953". Canadian Driver, June 15, 2007, Bill Vance.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Basil Cardew (Ed.). Daily Express Review of the 1966 Motor Show. Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd, London. 
  7. Keith Anderson. Jensen. Haynes Publishing Group. ISBN 0-85429-682-4. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 "Visitors' Guide: Hours and Charges; Opening Day; How to Get There (i.e. concerning the London Motor Show)", Autocar 127 (nbr 3739): page 59. date 12 October 1967. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Earls Court '68: Hours and Charges", Autocar 129 (nbr 3791): page 52. date 10 October 1968. 
  10. "World-wide comment: No Citroën CX at earls Court", Autocar: page 18. date 12 October 1974. 
  11. Autocar Motor Show Supplement 19 October 1974
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Brief Lotus History". The Espirit Factfile.
  13. Car Magazine 19 March 2009
  14. "Près de 700.000 visiteurs à Birmingham" (in French), Transporama (Edegem, Belgium) 4(31): 11. December/January 1984/1985. 
  15. "Story of the Montego". Maestro & Montego Owners Club.
  16. (1985) in Mastrostefano, Raffaele: Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1985 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus S.p.A, 264. ISBN 88-7212-012-8. 
  17. (March 9, 1989) Automobil Revue 1989 84 (in German/French). Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag AG, 400. ISBN 3-444-00482-6. 
  18. Automobil Revue 1989, p. 401
  19. The Guardian 12 November 2000
  20. What Car? 22 October 2002
  21. British Motor Show "Plugs In" To Demand For Electric Vehicles
  22. Automóvil Panamericano, #163 (15 July 2008), p.20

External links

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