Book Reviews, August 1976, August 1976

“The Wankel Engine” by Nicholas Faith. 234 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. (George Allen & Unwin Ltd., Ruskin House, 40, Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LU. £6.95.)

Although the Wankel rotary internal-combustion power unit conceived by Felix Wankel is of long standing and was tried in this country by journalists in 1964, at Goodwood, it has not made the expected inroads into the automotive world. It is of interest to me as one who saw early engines on the test beds at NSU, and who has since driven a number of cars so powered, from the rear-engined NSU runabout to the sophisticated and happily-remembered NSU Ro80. Here at last is a book which puts the origins, development and progress made with this simple engine into full perspective. h will be read with interest by engineers, whether or not they believe in Felix Wankel’s concept, and by students of automobile history and progress.

This is not a biased survey by any means. The author is frank about Felix, giving the reasons why he was unpopular in engineering and technical circles; I was interested to learn that his vast fortune was spent largely on founding a home for cats and dogs and given to cancer research. In this fascinating account the financial squabbles, as well as the engineering difficulties to be overcome by those who were interested in the Wankel rotary engine are well covered and the work of those closely associated with the idea are sorted out for us—Keppler, Von Heydekampf, Hurley, Bercot and Bunford, Matsuda, Rolls-Royce (on the diesel side), General Motors, Ford, Mazda, etc. The Wankel application to fields other than road transport are by no means overlooked. Moreover, Faith is a critical author—to give one example, he dismisses Iliffe’s book on the Wankel engine by Richard Ainsdale as “incomprehensible”. Karl Ludvigsen he describes as “a beacon standing out through the mists” created by other writers. Nicholas Faith has set out to untangle these conflicting and complex reports on the Wankel story and has written an important contribution to history, in an acceptably popular concept.


“A Motor Racing Camera 1894-1918” by G. N. Georgano. 102 pp. 9 3/4 in. x 7 1/2 in. (David & Charles, Brunel House, Porde Road, Newton Abbot, Devon, £3.50).

It is said that David & Charles have set themselves a target of a new book a day, and we are beginning to believe it. This one, by the National Motor Museum’s Photographic Librarian, is a feast of interesting pictures of motor racing, or more particularly of racing cars, from the earliest days of the sport to its demise during the early part of the Great War. There is a suitable and intelligent textual commentary and so the book Is worthwhile but not wildly impressive. For one thing, we have seen some of the illustrations before. For another, in some cases they are not all that brilliantly reproduced.

Mainly this is a road-racing pictorial. Brooklands gets just four old chestnuts and if we sec the big start picture, captioned vaguely, date and makes of cars apparently uncertain, I Shall weep. over it, Which will make it even more indistinct . . . The other Track shots have all been seen before. But early motor racing is so far divorced from anything anyone knows or remembers today that historic pictures of it are not to be ignored and it is on this ground that this not expensive book gains strength.—W.B.

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From Petersens in Canada comes a paperback-size book “Ford in The Thirties” by Paul R. Woudenberg, which contains a Most informative and interesting survey of Ford through the Model-A and the great V8, up to the war years. The problems besetting Ford in introducing these important new cars, how they compared with rivals in their own price class and in other categories, how Emil Zoeriein, who worked closely with Henry Ford, remembers those times, together with a host of pictures and. specifications, etc., makes this essential reading for Ford buffs. The British price is quoted as £1.95.

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A rather curious but effective approach to explaining how the car works has been taken by S. B. and T. G. Ernes, who do it with photographs and diagrams, 330 in all. It might help the young son or the little woman to comprehend under-bonnet and under-floor mysteries. The book is available from Edward Arnold Ltd., 25, Hill Street, London, W1X 8LL, for £1.80.

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Further titles are available in the Jerrold “White Horse” series of guides, covering Anglesey, loW, Bath, Wells and the Mendips, Hadrian’s Wall and Kidder Forest, and Pembrokeshire. They cost 40p each.