“The Story of the British Light Aeroplane,” by Terence Boughton. 320 pp., 10 in. x 6 1/8 in. (John Murray, 50, Albemarle Street, London, W.1. 42s.)
This is a simply splendid book, for those in whose breasts there beats even the faintest degree of enthusiasm for light aeroplanes and private flying. The author, who learned to fly with the Brooklands Flying Club and dedicates his book “To my understanding parents for happy memories of the Brooklands days,” has done an excellent job. He has written his long story of the British light aeroplane so well that it never becomes boring, although practically nothing is left out and the book is, indeed, a very comprehensive history indeed, being both an account of how private flying developed over this green and pleasant land and a comprehensive catalogue of all the many small aeroplanes built between 1918 and last year. Appendices give the specifications of the entrants for the undermentioned competitions, of the Moth types from 1925 to 1928, of light aeroplanes built from 1926-62, details of record-breaking flights, Club statistics and a list of the existing flying Clubs. There is a bibliography and a good index.
There are detailed chapters describing the gliding meeting at Itford in 1922, the fascinating motor-glider competition at Lympne in 1923, the 2-seater light ‘plane contest of 1924, and the subsequent Lympne competitions of 1925 and 1926. In these very welcome chapters the author not only describes the rather light-hearted happenings but goes into some detail about the competing machines, drawing what conclusions he feels necessary and putting each in its right perspective, as, indeed, he does for all the British light aeroplanes that came after.
Reading these chapters, which are supported by entry lists and maps, you enjoy again the pungent wit of the late C. G. Grey, then-Editor of The Aeroplane, who was obviously read eagerly by Boughton, as was certainly the case with this reviewer—for example, of one of those 1922 gliders, The Aeroplane is quoted as saying that “To make it lighter it has its ironwork painted with aluminium” and that “Viewed as a mechanical proposition it seems to be several hundred per cent. better than standing in a clothes basket and lifting oneself by the handles.” Would that motoring journalism could attain such standards!
“The Story of the British Light Aeroplane” goes into considerable detail about a form of high adventure and sport which has vanished forever—the long-distance, often solo, endurance and speed records across half the globe by pilots of pre-war light aeroplanes. These chapters, recalling the astounding feats of men and women of the calibre of Hinkler, Lady Heath, Lady Bailey, Jim Mollison, Amy Johnson, Jean Batten, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Mrs. Victor Bruce, and particularly the very gallant Francis Chichester, again accompanied by maps and appendices, are exciting, nostalgic reading. As the author remarks: “Except perhaps in the fields of mountaineering and single-handed sailing, the particular flavour of the performances of the long-distance solo pilots has almost been entirely lost today, and it has certainly long since vanished from aviation. The first travellers into space need qualities of a different kind, for they stand at the summit of a fantastically complex pyramid of expensive communal effort which can leave little room for personal idiosyncrasy. Whatever their achievements, it will never be possible to regard them in quite the same light as the men and women who climbed into their own small aeroplanes in the dark of the morning to fly to the ends of the earth.”
Certainly Mr. Boughton vividly, but without laboured wordage, recalls the flights of these lone pilots of Moths, Avians and Bluebirds, Desoutters and Vega Gulls, etc., and anyone who, as I do, perhaps because I am a coward, admires bravery above almost any other human quality, must buy the book for these fine chapters alone.
But this volume offers much more—the story of how the flying Clubs came to be formed and how they managed to expand, how engines like the Cirrus, Hermes and Gipsy were improved stage-by-stage, the various Mks. being described, of the Hanworth Air Park and Heston Airport ventures, of the attempts to popularise amateur flying, and a pungent review of the present position, which in England means many controls and restrictions and all too few British light aeroplanes. Naturally, the D.H. Moth gets a chapter to itself and this excellent book leaves almost no gaps in an absorbing and important story, except an account of home-built light ‘planes, a couple or so of which can be found in isolated back numbers of Motor Sport.* All manner of memories come crowding back as the pages are turned, even for this reviewer, who never owned an aeroplane or held a pilot’s licence. There is an account of the 1930 King’s Cup Race which exactly catches the aviation atmosphere of those times and reminds me of how I once drove through the night to Bristol in a borrowed Austin Seven to cover happenings at the Bristol Control for The Aeroplane, as a very “green” aeronautical journalist; just as the account of Amy Johnson’s flight from England to Australia recalls my surprise, on returning from Brooklands by train, at finding Streatham High Road almost uncrossable on account of the crowds waiting to welcome her on her drive from Croydon to Park Lane.
The remarkable Flying Flea era gets fair treatment, but I notice that in the chapter on “Flying for All?” there is no reference to the Community Flying Club of Reading formed by my friend Jill Donisthorpe, nor of the later, now defunct, Vintage Aeroplane Club. But almost everything else that matters seems to be there, delightfully described and explained, in this most attractive book, which is very nicely illustrated with beautifully-reproduced half-page photographs. John Murray must be glad to have beaten other publishers to Terence Boughton’s valuable mss.! The pre-war Civil Air Guard Scheme is explained and I am thereby reminded that I let this golden opportunity of training to become a pilot slip away, when I had all the time in the World for it, ironically because my weekly mentor, C. G. Grey, wrote scathingly against it! It enabled flying training costs to start at 2s. 6d. an hour—the cost of hiring an R.A.F. ambulance helicopter today, although not directly comparative, seems very costly at £38 an hour, or at the £91 12s. an hour charged recently by R.A.F., Anglesey!
Even if you are earthbound, any enthusiasm you express for transport history will not be justified unless you spend Christmas browsing through this nostalgic study of private flying and light aeroplanes innumerable. For, as the author says, “We can only look back with regret on the years when the light aeroplane was still the key to high adventure, when even commercial flying had about it something of the feeling of the pioneering days, and when the military pilot had not yet become primarily the agent of mass destruction on an unimaginable scale.” Anyone who shares Boughton’s regret that there now exists “a popular notion, fostered perhaps by the immense expenditure on such vast undertakings as the invasion of Europe and the atom bomb, that any technical goal is capable of achievement in more or less automatic and soulless fashion provided only that the necessary millions of money and man-hours can be allotted to it, and provided also (the cynic must add) that the objective to be achieved is sufficiently inimical to the interests of mankind as a whole” will hardly be able to resist returning with him to the realms of leather coats and flying helmets, open cockpits, Castrol “R” and the challenge of the Timor Sea.—W. B.
” . . that nothing failed them—Testing Aeroplanes in War,” by Air Commodore Allen Wheeler, C.B.E., M.A., F.R.AE.S. 243 pp., 9 in. x 5 3/4 in. (G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C. 1. 35s.)
Air Commodore Wheeler is associated in the minds of the lighter-hearted aviation enthusiasts with the restoration and flying of historic First World War aeroplanes. He wrote a very fascinating article for me, under the title of “Veteran Types With a Difference,” about where such old aeroplanes were discovered and how they were restored, which was published in Motor Sport for December 1950.
His present book is sterner stuff. The theme is unique, because this is not autobiography so much as an account of how experimental establishments set about ensuring that the aircraft of the wartime R.A.F. were in every way superior to enemy machines, written by a test pilot who took over command of the Performance Testing Squadron at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down in 1941, later became Commanding Officer of the R.A.E. at Farnborough, and in 1944 took command of Airborne Operations on the Rhine.
*Like the lash-wing monoplane S. L. Buckle built for £17, using D.H.10 longerons. a Sopwith Snipe wing, a 45-h.p. 6-cyl. Anzani radial engine that cost £4, a cut-down propeller from a 1912 Short tractor biplane and undercarriage parts from a Sopwith Camel, and an Avro 504 petrol tank and joystick. The machine had flown 3 1/2 hours, piloted by J. S. Tanner, when it was described and illustrated in Motor Sport for June 1930.—Ed.
Although it may now be mainly of academic interest to study the many wartime reports, published in full, and read Air Commodore Wheeler’s own reminiscences of how he and those test pilots who worked with him ensured for the R.A.F. “that nothing failed them,” it does make extremely interesting, often highly exciting reading, especially to those who worked on or flew some of the 50 types of aeroplane from Airacobra to Whitley, not forgetting the Tiger Moth, Gloster Whittle E28/39 and four gliders, with which this unusual, very welcome book is concerned.
Such matters as flying into balloon cables, testing captured German fighters against British fighters, photographic reconnaisance, test flying the first jet, investigating airborne forces work, bomber strikes and glider operation by going on full-scale operations, including gliders to Sicily and the D-Day and Arnhem operations, are all covered in absorbing detail, assisted by the aforesaid complete reports, and leavened by the author’s dry wit.
This is a book which will command respect for the experimental flying establishments and their personnel and be read with intense interest by a great many people who served with the R.A.F. and R.A.E. during the war years. The concluding chapter deals with the author’s flight from Portreath to Gibraltar in just under record time, in a Spitfire XI, in October 1944, when Air Commodore Wheeler was posted to India. It is followed by a long Appendix on Coastal Command reports.
Air Commodore Wheeler has flown over 300 different types of aeroplane from 1909 Bleriot to the supersonic Hawker Hunter, and is a trustee of the Shuttleworth Trust. Let us persuade him to write one day a pure autobiography about his experiences in these aeroplanes. Meanwhile I can recommend highly his present book and shall have even more respect for this versatile pilot when next I see him climbing out of the cockpit of an S.E.5 or Sopwith Pup.—W. B.
“The Messerschmitt 109 Fighter,” by Heinz J. Nowarra. 184 PP., 11 1/5 in. x 8 3/5 in. (Harleyford Publications Ltd., Letchworth, Herts. 60s.)
This is another of the famous Harleyford historical aeronautical publications so avidly sought after in their specialised field. The anticipated three-view 1/72-scale tone paintings, 23 in number, the hundreds of unique photographs, many of which are published for the first time, the tabulated data on every conceivable aspect of the 109, and the beautiful colour frontispiece painted by J. D. Carrick, come fully up to expectations.
Produced by D. A. Russell, M.I.MECH.E., and published also in America, this fine book covers the operation of the German fighter which our Spitfire and Hurricane pilots had to engage, in every theatre of war, including the African, Russian, Greek and Yugoslavian campaigns. The account opens with the “M”-line aircraft which led up to the Bf108 “Taifun” and goes on to deal with the various experimental versions of the Messerschmitt 109 until, in 1937, the B-2 appeared in Spain with the Condor Legion.
How this experience led to the so-called 109R is explained and then the reader is in the thick of the fight, at the height of the Battle of Britain. Technical progress of the 109, 109T, tropical E and F versions is certainly not neglected; indeed, Herr Nowarra goes on to describe further developments, such as the G, H, and Z versions and the Me209 and 309 prototypes.
Not the least interesting part of the book is that which discusses how Hitler’s interference caused difficulties for the Luftwaffe Commanders. The final operational mark, the 109K, is discussed, as are the 2-seater training version, the 109 in its night-fighter role, and its use by Axis allies, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Finland. The demise of German fighter strength through a breakdown in pilot strength and aircraft production is not shirked by this well-known German aeronautical historian. Experimental 109 derivatives and projected designs are included, together with models constructed in Spain and Czechoslovakia after 1945. This is a great book!—W. B.
“‘Autocar’ Road-Tests, Autumn 1963.” 144 pp., soft covers. 11 1/2 in. x 8 1/4 in. (Iliffe Books Ltd., Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E.1. 7s. 6d.)
Students of modern car performance and everyone who cares to keep abreast of current trends will welcome this inexpensive collection of recent
“My Life on Wheels,” by Maurice Wiggin. 142 pp., 7 7/8 in. x 5 1/4 in. (John Baker, 5, Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1. 16s.)
Maurice Wiggin has a flair for writing and is able to interest the reader in any subject to which he sets his pen, so that although there is nothing particularly outstanding about “My Life on Wheels,” which is a sort of “Cars I Have Owned” padded out to fill a small book illustrated with moderately accurate thumb-nail sketches by Will Nickless, it is nevertheless difficult to put down.
A reader having recommended me to read Wiggins’ account of a youthful escapade on an Allon two-stroke which appeared in “In Spite of the Price of Hay” but that book being unobtainable, I was glad to find it reproduced in full in the present work, and I found the author’s memories of other vintage motorcycles, the family model-T Ford, his personal pioneering with Morgan 3-wheelers, Austin Sevens, Singer, Standard Avon and the like, not forgetting a 1921 Morris-Oxford part-owned during Wiggins’ last year at Oxford, bought for £2 in 1933 and abandoned in a farmer’s stockyard between Worcester and Pershore, entertaining.
This motoring Wiggins is right up to date, covering as it does his later 3.8 Jaguar Mk. II. in which he never once exceeded 100 m.p.h. because he was obviously fearful of it, exchanging it indeed for a Sherwood green 2.4 Automatic which he liked far better, as being better balanced, “really rather a sweet car . . . despite the fact that it had about as much sheer poke as an air-pistol.” Apparently it was faster than his Riley Farina 4/68, which Wiggin describes as “without doubt one of the most characterless and undistinguished cars I ever ran for 3,000 miles. There was nothing actually wrong with it, except that mine just wouldn’t go.”
As with some of our “Cars I Have Owned” articles, the cars enthusiastic motorists of long standing enthuse over in their later years are often pathetic and better left out. Wiggin’s early reminiscences are fun, if rather laboured, but one could have done with a shorter book, sparing us his drooling over his A.C.-Bristol, bought after he and his wife had dismissed the Daimler 250SP as “hideous” and the Sunday Times TV Critic had been out more than once in a Porsche “to persuade myself that it was as noisy as an old sewing machine, dreadful to get into and out of, and not all that hot on the road anyway.”
After the A.C., Wiggin took unto himself an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Bertone coupé. You might say he was growing old sensibly, but no—of this Alfa Romeo he writes: “I never had the slightest feeling for it, except perhaps disdain.” So, after considering 2.6-litre Alfa Romeo, a Ferrari, a Bentley, an Aston Martin and an Alvis, Wiggin settled for—an Austin 850, which he calls a Seven, and a £60 Land-Rover. I am afraid they are called, respectively, “Smiff” and “Nellie,”; we are told in the blurb that he lives in an isolated old cottage in Sussex, is fond of his wife and cats, his food and drink, his growing collection of Leica camera gear, his friends and his freedom, which is summed up as a rum and enviable life.
It is rather surprising to find a Sunday Times critic calling an engine a mill and a Jaguar a Jag., incidentally.
As light reading over the holiday, this little book can be recommended, except that at 16s. it. is terribly expensive; Motor Sport, in which more than fifty “Cars I Have Owned” articles have appeared, costs 2s. and contains much more besides. These articles have never been as long or as wordy as Wiggins’ wheeled reminiscences but such accounts are often the better for that!—W.B.
“The Enzo Ferrari Memoirs,” by Enzo Ferrari. 164 pp. (Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 90, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 30s)
This is one of the more important of the many recent motorracing titles. “My Terrible Joys”—or should it be “My Terrible Toys”?—his been translated in the English edition by Ivan Scott. What Ferrari has to say, even if he writes as a sentimental old gentleman continually regretting the demise of his only son Dino, to whom the book is dedicated, is of outstanding interest, especially as Enzo Ferrari does not attempt to conceal his opinions, as his disregard for Ricard, who took over from him as manager of the Alfa Romeo racing division in 1939 and his outspoken comment on the Tipo 512 Alfa, the Alfa Romeo radial aero-engine and the Pegaso, for all of which this Spaniard was responsible.
It must not be forgotten that Ferrari, today at Modena the manufacturer of the World’s outstanding G.T. cars and until a few seasons ago of World Championship G.P. racing cars, was once a racing driver. He tells in these memoirs of how, after testing war-disposal trucks such as the Lactia Zeta in Turin, he began to drive racing cars for C.M.N. of Milan, under Ugo Sivocci, killed at Monza in 1923 while practising in an Alfa Romeo. Ferrari quotes his racing career as fourth in the 3-litre class in the first Parma-Berceto race, ninth in the 1919 Targa Florio, both times in a C.M.N., second in the 1920 Targa Florio in a 4 1/2-litre 4-cylinder Alfa Romeo, under Giorgio Rimini, firsts at Ravenna, Rovigo and Pescara in 1924 with an Alfa Romeo RL, leading to his first big victory, in the Acerbo Cup, when Campari retired but Ferrari’s Alfa Romeo went on to beat the Mercedes team.
There is a pleasing attention to detail about Ferrari’s writing—he remembers that the President of Italy used a De Dion Bouton limousine (a V8?) to attend the first post-war Targa Florio, and of how Rimini sold him his first racing car, a 6-litre Alfa Romeo G1 without ever delivering it!
In this part of the book the reader encounters many illustrious motor-racing personalities—men like Merosi, designer of the first racing Alfa Romeos, Luigi Bazzi, Vittorio Jano, who were with Ferrari when he formed his famous Scuderia Ferrari racing team, Ing. Quaroni, General Manager of Alfa Romeo, a position held earlier by Ugo Gobbato, Gioacchino Colombo, designer of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 158, the draughtsmen Nasi and Federico Gilberti, of the Alfa Romeo technical staff and still with Ferrari today.
Ferrari has seen some of the greatest racing drivers in action and known them intimately, both in his Scuderia Ferrari and Ferrari Company roles, so naturally his opinions of them are of more than passing interest. They will be found in Chapter 2— personal recollections and prowess-estimates of Antonio Ascari, Guiseppe Campari, Tazio Nuvolari, Archille Varzi, Guy Moll, Fagioli, Nino Farina, Tonino Brivio, Count Carlo Felice Trossi, Franco Cortese, Gigi Villoresi, Tarufli—what music there is in their names, what memories they stir!—Alberto Ascari, Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Musso, Mike Hawthorn, Juan Manuel Fangio, Peter Collins, Froilan Gonzales, Wolfgang von Trips, Phil Hill, Baghetti, Bandini, Mairesse, Olivier Gendebien, Ricardo Rodriguez, Moss and the present G.P. drivers. The way in which Enzo Ferrari deals with criticisms made about his organisation by Fangio in his memoirs is worthy of the best of the slanging matches sometimes indulged in between retired Army Generals when they write books of this nature! I do not believe the stories Ferrari relates of his drivers. For instance, if Campari really did as described while practising for the 1928 Mille Miglia he must have had an abnormally big bladder and been rather special in the biological department, while my eyebrows haven’t yet descended after reading of Nuvolari’s concern for some newly-hatched quail, immediately after wrecking a valuable Alfa Romeo and nearly killing Campari and himself in a Targa Florio—unless a blow on the head was responsible!
Little matters of poetic licence of this sort, however, should not deter the reader, and the text may well be different in its Italian form. Certainly Ferrari on the personality of the late Marquis de Portago, on Dunlop versus Pirelli as makes of racing tyres, and of the customers he has received at Maranello, from royalty downwards, for Enzo Ferrari has met even Benito Mussolini and Italo Balbo and other great political figures, and contrives to mention his impressions of them in his book, along with those of actors, actresses and other personalities. He classes his customers as falling into three main categories: sportsmen, fifty-year-olds (80% of Ferrari owners are 50 years of age or older) and exhibitionists, of whom the Marzotto brothers and Prince Bernhard being representative of the two first-named categories.
On the whole, this is an informative and controversial book, well but not generously illustrated with good pictures of cars and personalities. There is a Foreword by—guess who? Stirling Moss.—W. B.
“A History of the World’s Classic Cars,” by Richard Hough and Michael Frostick. 190 pp., 10 in. x 7 1/2 in. (George Allen & Unwin Lid., Ruskin House, 40, Museum Street, Loudon, W.C.1. 42s.)
Undeniably the great cars out of the dignified past hold many people enthralled, even though to drive such cars today can be to suffer partial disillusionment, for steering described as extremely accurate, brakes depicted as light and powerful when such vehicles were new may seem sadly lacking in top-bracket qualities in 1963. However this may secretly affect those who own and restore such cars, authors who drool about them are exempt from having to confess to the great cars of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties having any shortcomings, unless they are exceptionally honest historians.
So this book by Hough and Frostick, recalling as it does the great British, Continental and American automobiles of the vintage and p.v.t. periods, makes fascinating reading and provides some nice pictures, nearly 200, in colour as well as black-andwhite, to look at.
The serious historian, however, will find very little that is new information and quite a few fascinating items left out. The authors have cribbed a great deal of already published information, acknowledging most of it, and the use of the words “Classic Cars” in the title is surely a sop to the book-buying public across the Atlantic?
I am not saying that this is an unappetising book but I deem it a somewhat unnecessary one, remembering that “Cars of the Connoisseur,” which goes into greater detail in respect of the more important makes, was published only three years ago. The author’s choice of subjects, too, seems rather odd. For instance, Lagonda gets no individual attention, whereas the 4.3 Alvis has a chapter to itself and the Sunbeam model described is the Twin-Cam 3-litre, whereas the larger Sunbeam sixes, if not the straight-eights, might have been more appropriate amongst the Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Cadillac, Daimler Double-Six and other staid but dignified cars in other chapters. Quite why Lanchester is ignored but the Siddeley Special given a place to itself is obscure, but it is interesting to find the 40/50 Napier and the Roesch Talbots included.
The many pictures, including reproductions of contemporary colour-plates, advertisements and makers’ badges, together with the authors’ lively writing, just saves the situation, otherwise “A History of the World’s Classic Cars” would have to be written-off as another unnecessary motoring book. American “classics” are well covered, the Voisin, 8/40 Minerva, Renault 45, Lago-Talbot, D8 Delage and, of course, the Bugatti Royale (featured on the coloured dust-jacket) get in from the Continent, but the 22/90 Alfa Romeo is surely more sporting than classic? A superficial book, especially the “Coachwork Miscellany,” but a fascinating one. I am amused to see that in the opinion of its authors anyone who dares to suggest that any other automobile has ever equalled the Rolls-Royce is foolish and irresponsible!
“The Car Makers,” by Graham Turner. 262 pp., 8 1/4 in. (Eyre & Spottiswoode (Puklishers) Ltd., 22, Henrietta Street, Strand, London, W.C.2. 25s.)
The initial impression of “The Car Makers” might be that it is a dull book, of little interest to those to whom the motor car itself and to some extent how it is produced and tested (hence Motor Sport’s special articles on visits to many British and Continental factories, which we have published in recent years) is what matters and to whom industrial relationships, the complex structure of accessories suppliers, the politician and domestic aspect of the factories are of no moment.
In fact, this is one of the most interesting books I have read for some very considerable time. For it not only pinpoints what a vast and complicated Big Business the modern Motor Industry is, but goes a long way to discuss why the strikes that so frequently afflict Ford and B.M.C. come about and explains why so many basic faults are found in new cars.
The author, who came to the B.B.C. from The Sunday Times, is concerned primarily with the Big Five, devoting a chapter to the happy management/worker relations existing at Luton, the “turnip patch,” for which Vauxhall’s Management Advisory Committee, created in 1941 by Sir Charles Bartlett, is responsible, and another to the very tricky situation at “the blasted heath” of Dagenham, a soulless town around the soulless Ford empire. But he is also extremely interesting about such matters as how General Motors in America has as many people (4,500) developing shock-absorbers as Rolls-Royce has producing cars—one every two or three months, says Turner.
“The Car Makers” is right up to date, so that the new Rootes’ factory in Scotland and the new factories at Liverpool and Llanelly are discussed, and it is also frank to a degree, witness the statement “Several of the assemblers were not happy with Hardy Spicer,” which led to Ford and Rootes encouraging. GKN to set up the firm of B.R.D. in Birmingham.
The early Vauxhall Victor is called a “bad model,” causing trade to slump, and the early faults of the Mini and Herald are referred to. Particularly interesting, in the chapter headed “The Hazards of Car Production,” are the comparisons of test-methods in the different factories, and the ratio of inspectors to production workers. Space precludes a summary of the former; the latter is quoted as Jaguar 1 in 9, Rover 1 in 3, Rootes 1 in 15, Standard-Triumph 1 in 10, while Ford’s SQUAP inspection system, formed in 1961, and Rootes’ C.I.D. system, are explained. “Vauxhall,” says Turner, “has taken perhaps the most drastic steps of all,” with its Reliability Division, also introduced in 1961.
The author draws attention to the critical Which? reports, but Motor Sport’s Readers’ Survey of last year, which did not suffer from taking but one example of each car, also did a great deal to emphasise the poor quality of modern volume-production cars and, in fairness, told what the makers were doing to rectify customer complaints. But this book is unquestionably thorough, even the connection between the large fleet of Rootes’ cars operated by Shell Petroleum and the significance of the endorsement of Shell oil found on every Routes’ filler-cap not escaping Turner’s attention.
His interviews to car-factory workers, their move out of the working class towards the American-pattern blue collar middle class, their insistence on having as much as possible of the best in their homes, cars and holidays, necessitating great dependence on overtime working, and the constitution of the many Trade Unions operating within the Motor Industry may not appeal to young sportsmen about to lap Brands Hatch in a Lotus, or to those who can appreciate the subtle qualities of a Ferrari, but these chapters do make more interesting the all-to-frequent newspaper headlines “Stoppage at Fords” and show how the factory workers on whom we are dependent for our cars and our National prosperity tick.
Graham Turner’s comparison with strike-free happy Luton and the conditions prevailing at Ford’s Dagenham plant are absorbing, and his description of the latter town—”Road upon road of drab grey houses have been set down there with uniform benevolence and appalling monotony by the L.C.C. Dagenham is houses, council houses, acres and acres of them…. The only relief amid the vistas of identical houses is the occasional mild rash of shops, garnishing the burial mounds thrown up to allow the District Line tube to pass beneath them. Wet or fine, the wind blows down the broad avenues across the litter-laden open spaces. It carries the smoke and the smells from the factories by the river and deposits them among the houses. On a Sunday morning there are dustbins at the front doors and men in blue suits strolling about like miners in some northern town, dressed up for their day-off”—is worthy of Sir Hugh Casson himself. He says that “stronger than this straight-jacket, there hangs over this fossilized community a towering sense of insecurity,” which should cure us of any Christmas envy we may otherwise have felt for the car-workers and their £30-a-week pay packets.
Very interesting to a wide section of Motor Sport readers is the chapter “Why the Quality of Our Cars Suffers,” and this unusual, well-timed and instructive book concludes with a chapter on the leaders of this great industry, with its 850,000 workers, its great export prizes, making products from which the Government extracts over £700-million a year in taxation. Here we meet Harriman and Issigonis of B.M.C. (“B.M.C. distrusts eggheads, lssigonis apart: Ford collects them”), Barber and Raviolo of Ford, the Rootes brothers and Peter Ware, Swallow of Vauxhall, Markland of Standard-Triumph, Sir William Lyons of Jaguar.
Volkswagen, Fiat and Renault have a chapter to themselves, future markets are discussed, and Peter Ware of Rootes contributes an appendix on the difficulties to be faced by a car designer.
If you have any interest at all in the many fascinating, vital, complex and “impossible” factors behind the modern car itself, this book is recommended with sincerity.—W. B.
American Robert Daley’s pseudo-Hemmingway approach to Grand Prix racing, which attempts to prove that motor racing is a cruel sport, has appeared in an English edition of “Cars at Speed” (Foulis, 225. 6d.). It is not important.
Oxfam will benefit if you buy the illustrated paperback edition of “Fangio” published by Trust Books at 3s. 6d. All publishing profits of this Lourain Trust go towards their target of £20,000 a year for Oxfam; other titles include “Lawrence of Arabia,” thrillers and TV titles. Details from Lourain Landsborough Ltd., Trust Books, Dorset House. 13A, Old Burlington Street, London, W.1.
Open Car Motoring
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The Type 38A Bugatti
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Letters, November 2006
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