The Designers

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Bill Boddy

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“The Designers” by L. J. K. Setright. 199 pp. 10 in. 6 1/2 in. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd., 11, St. John’s Hill, London, SW 11. £4.50).

Companion volume to “The Upper Crust”, here is Leonard Setright’s interpretation of those who created motor vehicles down the years, of all kinds, including competition cars. This author’s individualistic approach to a subject, coupled with his good memory for the past and his knowledge of detail, make this an interesting discourse, albeit the theme was done some years ago, in 1970 in fact, by David & Charles. But in that previous book eleven great automobile engineers were dealt with, by a selection of writers. In “The Designers” Setright casts his net much wider. Indeed, he divides his designers into the artists, those who style bodywork, those concerned mainly with chassis problems, the –engine developers, the mechanics, the theoreticians, and those who form part of a design team.

There is interest in seeing how Setright rates each of the talented men he deals with, which adds interest to a book covering much great names as Abarth, Herbert Austin, Becchia, W.O. Bentley, Birkigt, Ettore Bugatti, Colin Chapman, the Duesenbergs, von Eberhorst, Dr. Giacosa, Alec Issigonis, Juno, Frederick Lanchester, L.H. Pomeroy, Tresilian, Voisin, Zagato and so many others.

If there is not all that much new ground,and if the publisher has been hard pressed to find many fresh illustrations (some are colour plates, which “The Upper Crust” lacks), this book bears recommendation because of the interest in discovering what Leonard makes of it all. But I was sorrowful to find that he believes that Ernest Henry stole from Birkigt the twin-cam, multi-valve conception, a myth I thought Motor Sport had exploded quite some time ago! That this book is also too superficial is confirmed by almost no reference to Georges Roesch; none whatever to Parry Thomas and his Leyland Eights, a car Bolster refers to as a car which might have become “the greatest car of all”—W.B.

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