Book reviews, August 1980, August 1980
“The AA — A History of the Automobile Association, 1905-1980” by Hugh Barty-King. 319 pp, 101/2″,111/2″. (The Automobile Association, Fanum House, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG21 2EA, £14.95).
To commemorate its 75th year, the AA has commissioned this beautifully-produced book by a, to me, unknown author, who tells the complete history of the Automobile Association in considerable detail. The history is written in a style to please the general as well as the specialised reader and covers far more ground than did Sir Stenson Cooke in “This Motoring” some fifty years ago. It is evident as soon as one examines this large and nicely-bound volume that great care has been taken over it, so that it represents a dignified commemoration of the growth, from such small beginnings, of a remarkable and even controversial organisation.
HRH The Duke of Kent. GCMG, GCVO, ADC, the AA’s President, has provided the Foreword on his personal notepaper, and thereafter comes coverage of the entire career of the AA in as detailed a form as most of any require. Barty-King has divided his account into four parts. The first deals with the Early Champions of Automobilism, seen as required by The New Found Mobility 1820-1896, the Arrival of the Motor Car 1895-1900, which led to The War with the Police 1900-1905, these being the sub-titles to the first part. The second part of the book is concerned with The AA under Stenson Cooke, from its Initiation 1905-1907, its Combination (with the Motor Union) 1907-1911, the Recession of 1911-1916, its Revival in 1916-1932 and its Supremacy of 1932 to 1948.
Part three of the history is about Post War Development, as evidenced by the Expansion the AA enjoyed from 1948-1963, its Diversification of 1963-1970 and its Present Day activities over the period 1970 to 1980. Having thus portrayed the backgrounds and the significant and lesser happenings that represent the arrival, development and recent growth of the AA the author thoughtfully ends his book with Part Four, which is in the form of an Appendix, Bibliography and Index. Here alone is a wealth of invaluable as well as fascinating material for the historian — such as listed events in the history of the AA, the Committee members of 1905-1980, illustrations depicting how the AA badges, roadside signs (these once described by The Autocar as the “Yellow Peril” of the country-side), uniforms. AA telephone boxes, and the AA vehicles, have changed along the years. Then the “Red Flag Controversy” is discussed in detail, and there is even information about a Police view of speed traps, AA Awards and who won them, the links between the AA and the Military Police, Armorial bearings and a piece about the AA’s veteran car, their 1904 Renault Park Phaeton.
To attempt to cover the full contents of this comprehensive book in a review is hardly possible. There are all the pictures, some in sepia, others black-and-white, but many in colour, these colour pages including pictorial coverage of the AA’s vehicles, from the Triumph, James and Chater-Lea motorcycles used around 1909-10 to the modern Triumph T100R and Land Rovers. The end papers show an AA Scout getting a tin of fuel, almost certainly benzole, from the sidecar of his Triumph outfit, for the driver of a pre 1914 Sunbeam, of the type with the protruding top header tank and a posed picture of a present day AA Scout looking at the engine of a lady member’s car. Browsing through the enormous collection of pictures, cartoons, reproductions of old documents, advertisements, etc I realised that I had seen a great number of these elsewhere, but in this collective form, nicely printed, this is no great loss.
Among these illustrations some interesting points emerged, and it was fun to spot the cars, particularly vintage ones, in some of the pictures. For example, we learn, if we didn’t know it before, that WT Staple Firth, one of the famous AA solicitors, used a 10/20 hp Coventry Humber before the First World War, and early members of the AA’s first committee are shown, as is the “Dog and Trumpet” where it met, as this Ind Coope public house looks today. Later premises are illustrated too, starting with the suite of offices at 18 Fleet Street (now part of Barclay’s Bank), and we are provided with plenty of pictures of Stenson Cooke, the fastidious man who, at 31, became the first AA official. Long captions embellish most of these pictures, there is a map of the road where the action took place on the Fairmile road that led to an AA Scout being inprisoned in 1905, and some shots of Edwardian garages appointed to the AA are included. To continue to list those pictures that intrigued me is impossible, for there were so many, but I note that when Stenson Cooke was investigating travel for AA members at the commencement of AA Foreign Touring, he went on Charles Jarrotts 40 hp Crossley tourer from Folkestone to Boulogne, armed with customs papers issued by the AA. The pictorial coverage alone is a pretty complete record of everything the AA stands for, from the early days of automobilism. Including its activities throughout both World Wars. The 16 h.p. Sunbeam that was used for he AA 10,000 mileNational Benzole Trial is naturally there outside the Raven Garage inShrewsbury in our picture and “AA Roadside fuel stations” at Bolacy, Coombe Hill near Tewkesbury and at Yarcombe near Honiton, in the 1919,1920 period. From these pictures, one of which shows an early Austin Twenty Touring car having its underfloor tank replenished, we learn that Stenson Cooke had a Talbot touring car at this period (LB-7419), with rear windscreen. A Vulcan van is shown passing the AA’s first filling station at Aldermaston in 1920, there are Palladium, Daimler and Dennis trucks shifting food in Birmingham during the rail strike of 1919, led by a light car the radiator of which is obscured by a huge AA badge, and many other similar scenes in which it is fun to try to identify the makes of the vehicles depicted. One of these scenes show a Windsor light car passing an AA patrolman, HRH The Prince of Wales is seen in his Crossley tourer, and even the airship R33 is there — it was news to me that the AA used it for traffic spotting.
The AA is seen helping the driver of Rolls-Royce BM 3413 on the promenade at Nice, blowing up a tyre of an early 1920s Rover 12 two-seater, Frank Newton, the AA’s Chief Engineer at the time, is seen with the 90 hp touring Napier “Samson” and beside a photograph of Fanum House an AA Technical Inspector is shown jacking up a 5cv Citroen, the little car looking very like the clockwork models of it you could buy for 10/6d. . . .
An AA 1925 Standard van. Unic cabs in London, 14 hp and 15 hp Armstrong Siddeleys being directed as to their route, a Roesch Talbot at Boulogne, a Lancia Lambda saloon being checked at the dockside before shipment, a vintage Triumph Fifteen taking on BP, Stenson Cooke with Mussolini and King Alfonso of Spain, the AA’s DH Moth biplane G-AAAA surveying aerodromes and dropping messages in 1928, an MG M-type Midget at the Heston Broadcasting station of the AA, and broken down cars, including an Austin twelve and an Armstrong Siddeley 12 receiving assistance (how the makers must have blushed!), the latter from an AA Austin 7 van — it’s all there, right down to the AA’s present day Cessna Golden Eagle ambulance aeroplane. Before this, the Auster Alpine had been exchanged fora second hand DH Rapide — G-AHKV — which was in the AA’s Air arm from 1957-1963. My space has run out, but buy the book for yourselves, or obtain one from any good bookshop or AA office. — W.B.
“Morgan 1910-1980 — 70 years of Morgan motoring.” 57pp. 111/2″ x 8″. (The Morgan Club, “Fairways”, Field Barn Lane, Cropthorne. near Pershore, Worcestershire, £2.00)
This pleasant soft cover book is the Morgan Club’s way of helping with their commemoration activities during this 70th year-of-the-Morgan. It contains all manner of worthwhile articles by such well-known Morganists as Chris Chapman who also contributes an introduction. Brian Watts on how he met Clive Lones, and on the Harold Beart racing 3-wheeler, “Joe” FIuxham’s Morgan memories, John Lindop on his 1950’s Morgan experiences, Bob Anall on racing a Morgan 3-wheeler in today’s events, and much more in this vein, together with lots of pictures. The foreword is by Peter Morgan, the congratulatory preface by Bill Buddy, and there is a list of 55 World’s records still held by Morgan 3-wheelers — but it’s a pity SCH Davis is rendered as “Davies”.
Buying this book will aid Morganing and owners of both the tricycles and the 4-wheelers will be dull fellows if they don’t enjoy it!
If ordered by post, the postage and packing costs 75p in the UK, £1.50 to Europe, £2 elsewhere. — WB.
“Lancia — The Shield And The Flag” by Nigel Trow. 270 pp. 91/2″ x 6″. (David & Charles Ltd., Brunel House, Newton Abbot, Devon. £12.50).
Following the publication of “La Lancia” by Motor Racing Publications last year one questions the need for more coverage of this admittedly famous and well-liked make. One might even have thought that the one-time liaison, or underground knowledge, among publishers might have applied, to prevent close release of two books on the same one-make subject. However, whereas the first release was mainly about Lancia cars and commercial vehicles, this one is aimed more at unravelling the story of the Lancia family. The author’s first experience of the make seems to have been in 1965, when he was deflected away from an intended Alfa Romeo Giulietta by a conversation at Brands Hatch with Bobby Bell, who advised a Lancia, leading to Nigel Trow going to Harry Manning’s place near Farnham, which I well remember, and then on to Gerald Batt, who sold him a 1954 Fourth-Series Lancia Aurelia 820. His book has crystalised from that and its chapters cover the Lancia family, and all the models they made from pre-war to the Flaminia. There are also tables quoting technical data and figures for Lancia cars from Alpha to 2.8 Flamini, with engineering drawings to delight the engineers, this forming Part Two of the book, together with Roland Grazebrook’s Appendix of Lancia competition successes from 1908 to 1956. There is also a Select Bibliography, from which some of the material was no doubt culled — I see that the description i wrote for Motor Sport of a visit to the Lancia factory in Turin in the winter of 1957 is quoted in full. Lancia’s part in Grand Prix racing gets a separate chapter and the illustrations are a mixture of historical and recent prints. I wonder how the fanatical Lancia Clubs will react to this one? — WB.
Students of body design and styling should note that Albion Scott Limited, Sermon House, York Road, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 0QP, have published “Carroucria ltaliana”, depicting the art and science of automobile design in picture and text, at £15.95. All manner of cars from all period are included and a useful part of this 137 pp., 101/2″ x 91/2″ book is a list of Italian coachbuilders and bodywork professionals.
John Bartholomew Ltd. of Edinburgh have issued a useful “New Fold Atlas” of Great Britain with a number of clear town plans. We tested it and found it worked, on a recent call in the city of Worcester.
“Porsche 356” by Denis Jenkinson. 135 pp. 81/2″ x 7″ (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP. £5.95).
Osprey have released three new titles in their likeable Auto History series. The first of these is this look-back at the Porsche 356, in all its forms, a car long out-dated, as the author would admit, but in its day quite outstanding. Jenkinson departs from the strictly historical format of earlier books in this series, recalling his own experiences of driving a Porsche 356 coupe over mainly Continental roads for nearly 300,000 miles, in pursuit of race reports and other stories for Motor Sport. Indeed although he naturally regards the car as “his porsche” it was originally supplied to him by Motor Sport to replace his ageing Lancia Aprilia.
This sort of personal diary of how Jenks became infatuated with the original concept of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s sporting coupe and his subsequent long love-affair with it — shunts, breakdowns, fast runs, dices with rival makes, and all, is compulsive reading. I suppose it meant something a bit special to me, knowing DSJ as I do and having had an early ride in UYY 34 and seen him “wishening” around Silverstone in it. But any enthusiast for these original Porsches will enjoy the story. It is as well illustrated as one has come to expect from these Osprey books and although this is largely the personal account of long and enthralling experience with one car, in the end-tables and in other places DSJ. contrives to include all the variants — cabriolet, roadster, speedster and Carrera. There is, indeed, no need for a long account of these, with so many full Porsche histories available. This book certainly takes me right back to that first ride with our Continental Correspondent — our ankles were roasted until he showed us how to close the foot-level heater-slides — and to subsequent road-tests of the later Porsche models and visits to the unique factory in Zuffenhausen, with blasts up the autobahn in the latest exciting Porsches.
I had wondered how DSJ would explain his change-over from air-cooled, rear-engined Porsche to the front-engined, water-cooled, multi-litred Jaguar E-type with which Motor Sport later provided him, after his 100% fanaticism for Porsches. In his characteristic style he shrugs this off at the end of this book, and even explains why the Porsche mystique no longer attracts him as once it did.
In this same series, at the same price, Chris Harvey covers the Jaguar XJs and Ian Webb the Ferrari Dinos, in more conventional form. — WB.
We are sorry to hear that the Editors of The Motor Racing Armory (reviewed in this column in February) will not be able to produce a second edition because they have been unable to find sufficient financial backing.
The last few copies of the current edition are available from the publishers, Mike & Jan Kettlewell, The Mill House, Station Road, Eastville, Boston, Lincs. PE22 8LS at half price —£3.95, plus £1 P&P.
Cars in Books
In spite of its tile -“The Wheel of Things”, I did not expect to come upon references to motoring in Mollie Gillen’s biography of Maud Montgomery, authoress of “Anne of Green Gables” (Harrap, 1976). However, my expectations received a jolt, because not only is there a brief account of how the Montgomerys went motoring, but there is a picture of their car.
We learn that they had their first car, a “five-passenger Chevrolet”, in 1918, and that “Maud became a back-seat driver, not without some justification.” This was due to her husband being an unskilled driver, so that she was involved “in her share of car accidents, some of them not Mr. Mac’s fault; but there were many minor mishaps.” It seems that Mrs Macdonald had endured this bad driving over Canadian roads from the horse and buggy days. Consequently, when the Chevrolet came along she confessed: “I content myself with poking Mr. Mac in the back with my parasol if I think he’s going more than 20 m.p.h., and saying ‘Beware’ in a sepulchral voice when I see him preparing to turn a corner.” Poor man!
The picture shows a side view of the car used in 1924 for “an unforgettable trip to the Mammouth Cave in Kentucky.” It is a typical American tourer of the period, hood up, with front bumper, detachable rims, a windscreen of which both panels could be opened, and a painted radiator. It was photographed on the way to Kentucky, with the Macdonald family and Maud Montgomery’s cousin, Beatrice McIntyre. The driver is wearing a trilby hat and they were a party of three adults and two children. Most of the less-expensive American tourers of this period were so similar in appearance — Chevrolet, Dodge, Durant, Dart and the rest — I can only assume, short of expat evidence, that the photograph shows the 1918 Chevrolet. If so, it survived all those accidents very well in seven years, but perhaps the primitive front bumper is significant! What is interesung is that in a photograph taken in 1924 the car is seen to be standing in front of a glass-globed petrol pump.
By the time of the trip to Mammouth Cave they encountered traffic cops and there were other disasters to add to the memories. They got lost in Detroit, met bed-bugs in Hicksville, Ohio, found Indiana monotonous, with its mile after mile af little villages, and there was a “terrible, endless detour” of 45 miles of dust and potholes over the red roads of Kentucky — this in 1924. As an aside, it was a car crash in 1920, when the Rev Ewan Macdonald collided with the Sunday School Superintendant of the Methodist Church in Zephyr, and losing the subsequent lawsuit, that soured this gentleman against methodists and the United Church! “The novelty of radio” was first experienced in 1923. . . .
In “Shackleton in The Antartic” (Heinemann, 1910), kindly donated by a reader, there are interesting references to the motor-car that the great explorer took with him on this 1907-1910 expedition. It was “a 12/15 hp New Arrol-Johnston, fitted with a specially designed air-cooled four-cylinder engine and Simms Bosch Magneto ignition.” Price and Company prepared a non-freezing oil for it. There are photographs of the car which show it to have no coal-scuttle bonnet like a normal Arrol-Johnston of the period would have had, the air-cooled engine being quite exposed, but the car was kept in an improvised garage at the camps. One picture shows it towing two sledges carrying stores to a depot across the ice. It was little more than chassis with seats and was apparently on pneumatic tyres. It was carried on the coal-burning Nimrod enclosed in a large case, made fast with chains, on the after-hatch when it could be transferred easily to the ice. It proved of interest to the Emperor penguins encountered on the journey. — WB.