This image, from the front cover of the special Motor Show issue of the Belgian magazine La Revue Sportive Illustrée, has almost certainly been posed and paid for by the Ford Motor Company. It depicts the moment when the Belgian King Albert 1 (in military uniform) was welcomed onto the Ford stand by Mr A C Nagle, Director for Belgium of the Ford Motor Company. Judging by the crowd of top-hatted gentlemen who appear to be on a tiny platform way above the floor of the hall, this is clearly a composite publicity picture, but we could not resist showing it – because of the plethora of makes shown in the signs above the stands.
This 18th Salon was held, as it had been since first organised in 1902 (with a break from 1915 to 1919), at the Cinquantenaire, an exhibition complex and park commissioned by the Belgian government under the patronage of King Leopold II for the 1880 National Exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Belgian independence.
After the First World War, the Belgian motor industry was struggling to return to pre-war output levels. Indeed, whereas the 10th Salon of 1911 hosted 16 Belgian car makers and 33 from foreign countries (mainly from France), only 9 Belgian car manufacturers exhibited in 1920, with significant international competition.
In our Snapshot view, the only Belgian makes to be seen are Miesse and Minerva, among many makes from France, the USA and Italy. But in other pictures in this special issue the situation improves for the home country: we can see stands for Métallurgique, Nagant and Impéria, and another shot of the King, this time visiting the Excelsior stand with Arthur de Coninck, “…eminent engineer-manager of the Saventhem factory, who designed the famous 6-cylinder, pearl of our national industry.”
Belgian coachbuilders were there too, including Van Den Plas, Albert D’Ieteren, De Ruytter and Vesters & Neirinck. And not to be forgotten are stands for indigenous motorcycle manufacturers Bovy and Saroléa.
Neverthless, Ford Motor Company seems to have had the most money to spend on promotion. Apart from its appearance on the front cover of this issue, it could afford to have a double-page spread inside for the Model T, and yet another double-page spread for its upmarket sister car the Lincoln.
It would be many years before the proud marques of Belgium disappeared from the motor industry. But our Snapshot gives a telling glimpse into the fiercely competitive international competition that finally overcame it.