Wheels of misfortune -- The rise and fall of the British Motor Industry

by Jonathan Wood. 91/2″ x 61/2″ . 250pp. (SidgwIck and Jackson Ltd, 1 Tavistock Chambers, Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SG. £15.95)

Symbolically picturing a punctured tyre, its dust-jacket proclaims this work to be the result of a quarter of a century of research, and it shows. Its author, a freelance journalist, has succeeded in squeezing the entire history of automobile manufacture in Britain, from the cycle-makers and coachbuilders of the nineteenth century to the present amalgamation of the home-owned sector under the Rover Group banner, into a volume whose sheer density of information is astonishing. As a result, perhaps, of having to fit so much into a limited amount of space, this solid-feeling tome does not always succeed in putting across answers to the many questions it poses.

The reasons for the industry’s growth and later decline are there, certainly, but are sometimes lost in the chronology. Since this is clearly a volume for the serious student of industry and economics, it concentrates unashamedly on the written word. Two sections of black-and-white photographic plates consist merely of portraits and stock pictures of the most significant cars— shapes which illustrate design advances but can add little for those already familiar with model lines.

As a straight historical account the book cannot be faulted. Every important entrepreneur, designer or manager merits a personal potted biography within the body of the text, every model range is evaluated, and Wood has all the production facts and figures the reader could ever require at his fingertips. Historically well-researched and also impressively up-to-date, this will clearly remain a vital reference source for many years to come. GT