Book reviews, April 1963, April 1963

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“International Auto-Parade, 1963.” 6th Edition. 308 pp. 11.875. in. x 8.375 in. (Arthur Barker, 20, New Bond Street, London, W.1. 45s.)

This annual catalogue of the World’s production motor-cars, which illustrates, often in colour, and gives the specifications of the different models of the many different manufacturers in four languages, cannot fail to provide a lot of pleasure to those who enjoy browsing through a book of this kind, regarding it as a sort of showroom window of delectable automobiles, from which can be derived a window-shopping dream as to what tomorrow’s, or next year’s, new car shall be.

Apart from the main catalogue section, nicely illustrated even if many of the illustrations are manufacturers’ hand-outs that have been seen previously, the book contains articles on futuristic cars, road-test summaries by well-known personalities of Aston Martin DB4, Zagato GT, D.A.F. Daffodil 750, Fiat 1500, Ford Taunus 17M TS, Ford Consul Capri, Ford Consul Cortina, Ford Zephyr 4, Ford Zodiac Mk. III automatic, Ford Fairlane 500, Ford Galaxie 500, Lancia Flaminia, M.G. Midget (unfortunately in its old 948-c.c. form), Morris 1100, Morris Mini-Cooper, Saab 96, Triumph TR4, Vauxhall VX 4/90, Volvo P.1800 and VW 1500—not that one can be absolutely sure that all these reports are unbiased, and why the predominance of Ford ?

There is a Technical Analysis of Passenger Cars with pull-out data sheets, motor-racing surveys and descriptions of current G.P. racing cars with colour illustrations, a review of the 1961/62 International rallies (rather out of date!) and a long discourse on Technical Highlights of the Year, mostly contributed by a mysterious company called ATAS, of London. Werner Buck, Dipl.Eng., writes of Brakes and Steering.

There are lots of advertisements throughout this Commonwealth (excl. Canada) Edition of the “International Auto-Parade” and this 6th edition is better than previous editions, although pretty expensive at 45s. The pictures of the World’s automobiles, as I have observed, are often those of their manufacturers, so girls figure in most of them, clad only in bathing suits in the case of the Simca Montlhéry Speciale and Plymouth Valiant Signet 200 convertible. This may not detract from the volume’s appeal but does distract the eye from the lines of the cars and seems bogus in a work of this price-class. However, the publishers have attracted some high-class advertisers—Jaguar, Volkswagen (double-page spread), Continental, Bosch, Swissair, Dunlop, Alitalia Airlines, Vandervell, United States Air Lines, Volvo, Chrysler Corporation (double-page spread), Alfa Romeo, Firestone, Austin, Carrozzeria Bertone (double-page spread), Chrysler International, Transportmaschinen Export-Import (who sell Wartburg and Trabant cars), Lufthansa, Fiat (double-page spread), Ford (double-page spread), Ford of Cologne, Ford of Dagenham (double-page spread), Elal, Rootes Motors Ltd., Innocenti (double-page spread), Lancia, Nuffield Organisation (double-page spread) and Standard-Triumph, in colour on fine art-paper. So perhaps they don’t really care what the readers think.—W. B.

“Motoring for Pleasure,” by Lord Strathcarron. 176 pp. 8.43 in. x 5.5 in. (Stanley Paul & Co., 178-202, Gt. Portland Street, London, W.1. 21s.)

This is a very entertaining book, from which I derived much enjoyment. Lord Strathcarron has an impish sense of humour which shines through his literary accomplishments.

Although “Motoring for Pleasure” looks outwardly like a text book for those new to private mechanical transport, and, indeed, contains useful and erudite hints and tips about many aspects of motoring and travel, it thinly disguises Lord Strathcarron’s motoring autobiography, from the days when he steered his mother’s Buick round Battersea Park at the age of four, through all his subsequent cars and some of those owned by the Strathcarron family.

A “Cars I Have Owned,” in fact, readably written. Cecil Clutton should love the condemnation of the Mercedes Type 130 and vintage fanatics will enjoy the chapter about his vintage possessions, even though the author has no illusions about the top speed of a “Red Label” Bentley and is equally honest about other illustrious makes and models.

There is a chapter on Motor Racing for the Amateur (Lord Strathcarron left Eton, Cambridge and the R.A.F. to become a racing driver in 1947, in Marwyn and Kieft 500s and a Gaston/Downton Austin Healey Sprite) and other essays on Driving Fast Safely, Choosing a Car, Changing Your Car, Snow, Ice and Fog, Average Speeds (in which the author tends to specialise, at the upper end of the scale), and others on driving in foreign countries. Parts of this book are superficial, but much of it is extremely enjoyable.

The Foreword is by The Duke of Richmond and Gordon.—W. B.

Cars in books

They continue to come to my notice—these references to cars by make in the books I read, whether fact or fiction.

For example, I am reminded that the greatest detective in fiction, William Sherlock Scott Holmes (1854-1957), used a car, chauffeured by Dr. Watson in disguise, in his exposure of German spies in 1914. It is described as “a little Ford” and must have been a model-T. From reading and enjoying that masterly work “Sherlock Holmes, A Biography,” by William S. Baring-Gould (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1962), I learn, too, that one of Holmes’ adversaries, Von Herling, used “a huge 100-h.p. Benz… luxurious limousine” and that motoring terms formed the code under which he worked.

Then there is reference to the Zim taxi, “the second best Russian car, something like a 1947 Plymouth” in which John Godley, Lord Kilbracken, was driven from Moscow Airport to his hotel in 1957 and the identical Zis cars of the V.I.P.s, in his splendidly readable book “Peer Behind the Iron Curtain” (Gollancz, 1959).

Vintage enthusiasts cannot fail to be amused at the chase which Eric Linklater describes in “Poet’s Pub” (Cape, 1929). A Bentley 2-seater is stolen and chased by an Isotta-Fraschini limousine, an aged Morris-Cowley and a vintage charabanc. Linklater apparently has no illusions about the top speed of vintage Bentleys, or perhaps his thief stole a “Blue Label,” because even when pressing on he does not exceed 60 m.p.h. Even so, the Isotta is left behind… Alas, in this fictitious chase the Bentley, like that in the film “Fast Lady,” is immersed in water, the Isotta has a puncture, the charabanc crashes mildly and the Morris goes onto two cylinders—”old motor cars grow asthmatic, systolic murmurs betray their weakened power, and carbon comes to poison them outright.” Vintage-car enthusiasts should read this Linklater.

Finally, a reader, Mr. Dunn of Weybridge, draws attention to a motoring reference in “On the Wind of a Dream,” by Comdr. Victor Clark, which reads: “I returned to Cape Town by road, part of the way with a friend of Freddy’s and the remainder by thumbing a lift. I could not decide whether my Good Samaritan was a racing motorist having his final training run, or merely mad, as the glint in his eye suggested, or possibly a salesman advertising the quite remarkable road-holding qualities of the little Volkswagen he was driving. Whichever it was, my ruffianly bearded driver started by driving, at a crossroads, right underneath some long, overhanging timbers sticking out from a trailer, and marked by a red flag. He then drove like the proverbial bats out of hell at anything up to 86 m.p.h., slowing down sometimes to 50 m.p.h. for a sharp bend, and once even to 45 m.p.h. for a rough patch marked ‘Recommended speed 20 m.p.h.’.”

Another Weybridge reader, Mr. I. R. Norman, contributes another interesting reference to a car that is mentioned in a book, as follows: “My mother came across this interesting piece of information while reading ‘Grace and Favour, the Memoirs of Loelia Ponsonby, Duchess of Westminster,’ of a trip from Hamburg to Budapest in a Graham-Paige. Loelia Ponsonby and two lady friends drove in ‘a tremendously showy, silver-and-blue Graham-Paige, a make which means nothing to the modern generation but which was then coming to the fore in the motor-racing world.’ This trip took place in 1929 and a photograph of this car is also included in the book.” I find the reference to this make then coming to the fore in motor racing particularly intriguing; perhaps American experts can tell us whether this refers to some exploits of this make in its native country, or was the Duchess of Westminster thinking of the record-breaking runs of D. M. K. Marendaz’s Graham-Paige cars at Brooklands and Montlhéry ?—W. B.

***

In the item headed “News of New Books” last month a line was omitted by the printers—the book which should have been referred to was one about British and European Motor Museums and their exhibits that Ian Allan intend to publish towards the end of the year.

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