Profiles Nos. 49-54

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Profiles are becoming a habit. Providing accuracy is safeguarded, they will be a sought-after source of reference in years to come. February’s half-dozen covered, in No’s. 49 to 54, the 1905 3-cylinder Rolls-Royce (George Oliver), the touring G.N.s (William Boddy), the Front-Wheel-Drive Alvis (Peter Hull), the Morris Eight (Michael Sedgwick), the 3.5-litre Delahaye Type 135 (J. R. Buckley), and the 300SLR Mercedes-Benz (Denis Jenkinson).

The Rolls-Royce story is well told and effectively illustrated, with the six colour-pictures by James Leech occupying the centre-spread. One is reminded that on this model the radiator, while being of the classical shape, had an oval badge lettered “The Rolls-Royce Radiator.” Although this Profile covers a model of which only six were made it gains in stature because the author is able to describe how the example magnificently restored by Mr. Adam McGregor Dick (and which was exhibited in the historic car section of the 1933 Scottish Show) behaves on the road—”the result of actual experience and not hearsay—or the sort of divine inspiration apparently sought after by some motoring historians,” as Mr. Oliver is pleased to tell us. I modestly refrain from discussing the G.N. Profile but am expecting the inevitable comments and criticisms (the printing error in the fourth line was not in the proofs I read and I was not shown the colour drawings or I would have asked for chains less like those of my Meccano days and a stronger-looking bevel-box!). Peter Hull, again whetting our appetites for his forthcoming book on vintage Alvis cars in general (rumoured as likely to be very expensive, extremely comprehensive, and to have a colour frontispiece) covers the front-drive cars concisely and enthrallingly, and at least some of the photographs are new. Whether the colour of Kitchener’s car, as depicted in the five-view drawings by an anonymous artist, is a printing disaster or as the owner has repainted it, I do not know. The author remarks that the door of the saloon shown on page 7 was probably “left open to let out all the noise of the straight-cut gears” but I was present at the Bugatti O.C. gymkhana in question and the reason was more likely that the passenger was dashing towards a bucket to deposit therein a potato, or something…

Reading Sedgwick on the Morris Eight is to make one want to go out immediately and buy one of these lovable little non-vintage, non-thoroughbred vehicles; I remember driving from London to Southport for a sand-race meeting and back through the night in one of these cars, before the war. The snag is that unless a complete rebuild were undertaken the results in 1967 would be invariably rather different from what they were in 1937! However; confined to paper, this is sheer nostalgia, with everything neatly sorted out for us in inimitable Sedgwick painstaking fashion. His allusion to the Morris Eight open models as “operational trainers for the M.G.” and the “Earthbound Tiger Moth—or what three generations of novices have cut their teeth on” may be unkind to a certain famous aeroplane but is nevertheless distinctly apt (remember, their screens folded flat). I doubt, however, whether the screen-wiper motor really constituted “quite a lot of drag”; this is presumably a Sedgwick leg-pull. Incidentally, standards applied to cars change quickly and I was somewhat surprised to find how impressed I had been over the Lanchester Ten of 1946 when coming upon a quotation from the contemporary Motor Sport road-test in “Lanchester Motor-Cars.” So I am reassured to find that in 1939 The Motor remarked of the Morris Eight : “Cornering, by which we mean a feeling of complete directional control and absence of roll, is almost up to full-blooded sports-car standards” and that the late Laurence Pomeroy wrote in the same year “of the great pleasure it gave me to handle, and of the long distance runs that I did without in any way feeling that I was being racked on a bouncing, underpowered baby,” after driving one of these little cars! It is interesting that one picture shows a pair of cars, Morris Oxford Twenty and Morris Eight, that were favoured by the author’s family in the later 1930s. That this Profile is so interesting although dealing with a comparatively undistinguished car emphasises this author’s ability to entertain as well as instruct.

Buckley on the Delahaye is worthwhile because of the interesting facts disclosed about the Company as well as about the Type 135, and the photographs effectively take one back—curious, though, that Rush drew closed versions instead of choosing the fine open-bodied Delahayes. Finally, the 300SLR Mercedes-Benz Profile is a model of what such publications should be. D.S.J. gives many fresh details about this great competition car from Stuttgart, even to quoting the chassis numbers of those referred to in the text, and tabulates all the 1955 race results, with racing numbers, and the present whereabouts of the remaining ten cars. The 19 photographs and cylinder head drawing capture perfectly the development of and inspiration behind the 300SLR and the Walter Wright colour plans and detail drawings, benefiting from scrutiny by D.S.J., are excellent.—W. B.