Cars in books
This author has a happy knack of introducing little-known or long-forgotten facts into his histories—a case in point being Palmer Phillips' defence of the original Vauxhall Ten when it was receiving unwarranted criticism in 1937. There is also the story that Vauxhall's bought ex-aircraft carburetters for the first post-war 30/98s, at two shillings each. Indeed, most that many people will enjoy reading about Vauxhalls, ancient and modern, is contained in this commendable little book. A pity the Anchor Press proof-readers let the author down, on page 24.–W. B.
Putnam & Co. Ltd. have issued a second edition of "Bristol Aircraft Since 1910", by C. H. Barnes (415 pp., 8-3/4 in. x 5-1/2 in.), to bring this comprehensive history up to date, by the inclusion of developments which have already produced the Anglo-French Concorde and which may yet contribute to V/STOL inter-city transport. Although the Bristol Aeroplane Company no longer manufactures, this book marks the Diamond Jubilee of continuous aeroplane production at Filton. We reviewed the first edition, published in 1964, but have greatly enjoyed re-reading the informative text, which covers very fully the immortal Bristol Fighter, the earlier Scouts and the remarkable Bristol Braemars and Pullmans, the latter originally destined for steam turbine propulsion to humour the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. That in 1919! Here, then, is the entire Bristol story, in Putnam's inimitable format, from Zodiac to the Britannia, helicopters and turbojets. My only regret is that with this book, which costs 84s., Putnam have departed from the use of high-gloss art paper to the detriment of the book's "feel" and the clarity of its enormous number of illustrations. –W. B.
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A useful present for young enthusiasts would be "The Clipper Book of Motor Racing Facts" (120 pp., 10-1/2 in. x 8 in., colour plates), published by Clipper Press, 31, St. George Street, London, W1. at 16/-.
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Those tourists going to Europe for holidays could find their journeys enhanced by study of "Great Houses of Europe", edited by Sacheverell Sitwell, which describes forty houses of Western civilisation, with splendid illustrations, some in colour. This is published as a 59s. edition (formerly 6 gns.) by The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd., HamlyH house, Feltham, Middlesex (320 pp., 12-5/8 in. x 9-5/8 in.).
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The Bugatti OC has published a comprehensive index to every issue of its magazine Bugantics ever published, in corresponding format. It costs 40/-.
Cars in Books
EOIN YOUNG (whose earlier phophecy about Ferrari winning an F1 race before the end of 1970 was so absolutely right!) kindly lent me a copy of "Wild Irishman" by Peggy Hamilton (A. H. & A. W. Read, Australia, 1969), which is the story by his wife of Bill Hamilton's adventurous life, especially in relation to the New Zealander's farming and pioneer jet-boat activities. It is an extremely readable account, moreover. There are many intriguing references to cars in this book, although the rest of it is just about as interesting! Bill Hamilton's father is described as buying his first motor car, a Darracq, in 1908. He had learnt to drive on a two-cylinder Darracq and then travelled by horse and-gig and train to Timaru to take delivery of the newer model, which he drove home, although obviously still unacquainted with the niceties of control. Later there is mention of a six-cylinder Darracq chassis capable of 60 m.p.h.; this was around the year 1906. Darracqs seem to have been popular in Hamilton family circles, for a 16 h.p. Darracq, luggage and camping equipment strapped to its running boards, driven habitually at 18 m.p.h., was owned by the father of a school friend of Bill Hamilton's. This was another driver who couldn't master a downward gear-change; if the car stalled on a hill it was backed down for a lower gear to be engaged!
The description of how Peggy Hamilton, then Miss Wills, worked in munitions factories in England from patriotic motives during the 1914/18 war is tremendous stuff, a true reflection of what those years were like. Anyone who slaved at Machinists Limited in Oozells Street, Birmingham, in those grim days should try to read this book. There Miss Wills was trained to operate lathes before being sent to Southampton, where Sir Arthur Duckham had started a scheme for shell production to feed the Russian Front. These Government rolling mills, still in process of construction in 1917, with traction engines and steam-rollers in evidence on the site on the Woolston side of the Southampton ferry, are likewise splendidly described.
While there, Miss Wills and her girl friend rode to and from their digs in Hamble on bicycles assisted by autowheels, with frequent clashes with the police, until the autowheels wore out. The same thing happened when they substituted a Rudge Motorcycle—magistrates had little sympathy with girl munitions workers in 1917. Later still, Miss Wills worked at the London and Scottish Engineering Co.'s toolroom in Bow.
After the war was over the writer of this fascinating—and commendably accurate—book met Bill Hamilton when he was on holiday in England, which gives rise to a nostalgic account of how she first met him at the Old Rectory at Finchampstead, where Bill had his 1914 TT Sunbeam, "battleship grey, with two straps over the bonnet and a great exhaust pipe running the length of the car . . .". The year was 1923, so the racing car was already almost vintage. (It had been preceded by a Bugatti.) The girls, in spite of long evening dresses, climbed into the Sunbeam, with Bill's brother-in-law clinging on to the spare wheel over the petrol tank, for an evening run in the local lanes. In 1923 one was quite likely to meet a 1914 racing car and perhaps think little of it. A picture shows how stark the car was—mudguards, bulb horn, aero screen, but not much else. But it was used for a journey to London, was taken to Devon, and from there on a holiday tour of Scotland in company with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. In Scotland the car caused so much interest that crowds formed; "She had no fan and boiled rapidly when standing with the engine running, which would not idle under about 2,000 revs, so that when held up in traffic for long Bill had to stop the engine and hop out again to crank when the traffic started to move. Then, of course, she was reluctant to start, and Bill cranked and cranked, to a chorus of hooting cars and buses." Incidentally, Bill Hamilton was working at Fuggle's Garage in Bushey Heath at the time. He married Peggy Wills in 1923 and they sailed for New Zealand in the P and O liner Moldavia.
At their home in Irishman Creek, where a steam traction engine is pictured towing a year's stores in 1922 and where the truck driving a sawbench from its exposed flywheel looks surprisingly like Bell's father's 1908. Darracq, transport was provided by an old Hudson, adept at wading streams.
There is an interesting account of the 1914 TT Sunbeam being prepared for beach racing at Muriwai, in company with Irving's Brescia Bugatti and Hope Bartlett's 30/98 Vauxhall, the Sunbeam setting the Australasian speed record of 100 m.p.h. In 1926 they were at it again, in company with Peggy's brother's straight-eight Sunbeam, and on through 1927 and 1928, the big Sunbeam breaking a valve, the TT car an oil-pipe, to let a Stutz win. In 1928 the TT Sunbeam was electrically timed at Oreti Beach, Invercargill, to do 109.9 m.p.h. There is a picture of it in the book in beach trim.
In 1930 the Hamiltons returned to England on holiday, Bill's wife having sold her Alvis, taking a second-hand 4-1/2-litre Bentley. They spectated at Le Mans, then entered for three races at the Brooklands Easter Meeting. Hamilton had been allowed to prepare the car at the Bentley works and won the Bentley Handicap, the Sussex Long Handicap and the Bedford Long Handicap, apparently having caught "Ebby" napping! He paid especial attention to the car's trackholding and in the book there is an excellent picture of the stripped 4-1/2-litre in the Paddock—BDC library, please note! The car's speed, 109 m.p.h. [Actually, 107.8 m.p.h.—Ed.], is described as the best put up by an unsupercharged Bentley. The rest of this remarkable book is about Bill Hamilton's many mechanical inventions. The writer is commendably accurate in technical matters, although I cannot accept her bore and stroke dimensions for the 1914 Sunbeam of "31-1/2 x 156" [Actually, 81.5 x 156 mm., but this looks like a mis-print and gives us a clue suggesting that Peggy Hamilton reads Motor Sport.—Ed.]
A thoughtful visitor to the Motor Sport stand at the Earls Court Show handed in for me a little book, "The Escape from Monotony'', by L. H. Lovegrove. This is most interesting, coming so soon after I had read of that Cubitt's journey to Venice, because it is about a Continental tour in the nineteen-twenties (the actual year isn't quoted) in a 12 h.p. Star. The book, although printed in Glasgow and not Wolverhampton, may have been a form of advertising promotion, for the car is liberally praised. The sub-title is "A Record of a 3,000-mile Run Without Aim or Care in France" and it is emphasised that what the Star accomplished mass-produced cars shouldn't be expected to do ! The book is 'dedicated to "J. Lisle, Esq., of Wolverhampton, the English builder of the English car which enabled me to boast so hardily in France". They were proud to be English in those days ...
After slating the British for being for less touring-conscious than Americans, the author cleaned up his year-and-a-half-old Star and set off, in earlyMarch, accompanied by one called George. They drove at 45 m.p.h. along the new Folkestone arterial road, disregarding police traps or the thought of breakdown. The crossing. to Boulogne cost £7, again £4 10s. and a night's hotel bill saved by going Southampton-Le Havre—but "Folkestone is more decorative than Southampton". Incidentally, flappers bloomed in the streets of the Leas, "flesh-coloured pairs of legs of all shapes ranging from Chippendale to M'Corquodale" pleasing George, who I hope is alive to enjoy the mini-skirt years. It was 45 m.p.h. again along the non-picturesque RN1 to Paris.
Unlike the Cubitt, this Star was held at 45-50 m.p.h. whether the roads were good or bad. In Paris George passed the RAC test, on the Star, the luggage grid let down to act as a rear bumper! At Orleans the bad jolting split the porcelain of an American sparking plug in the Star's engine. Otherwise, the impeccable running of the car from Wolverhampton was praised, where "a lighter car with cheap springs, no shock-absorbers, small wheels and tyres and flimsy parts" would have had to do 10 m.p.h. or face an early dissolution. Beyond Bourges the road grew worse, the luggage fell off the grid, and steering was a real strain, even the Star now apparently reduced to cruising at 40 m.p.h..
It was, here that a large French car was encountered, inert. It was thought that the ignition had failed and George set off in the Star to get help. The author then discovered that the girl driver had failed to switch on.
This necessitated starting after George and the girl, and in driving the French car Lovegrove found it "a beast of a car, noisy and harsh, with a sticky gear-change, and what is known as an absolute cow to handle". He discreetly does not quote the make, but obviously preferred his Star!
There was a day of 240 miles of frosty motoring, from Montlucon to Lyons, via Clemont-Ferrand, to see a Michelin director, who was absent. They raced a French sports car, they sped up a steep hill at Thiers, causing George to add his words of praise for the Star, and then, directed to a by-road 35 km. from Lyons, the bad going put out all the lights.
The journey was resumed in rain, the faithful Star now "mudcoated from dumb-iron to grid". Attention to the Palace of the Popes strayed with the arrival of "a very pretty Belgian lady belonging to a cheery party proceeding to Nice in a bright blue Belgian saloon", whether Minerva, FN or Imperia isn't stated. To race this car over muddy roads the Star was pushed to 48 m.p.h., on the run to Marseilles.
Marseilles caused the author to recall the first car he ever saw, presumably an Arrol-Johnston, on the docks there, and it was there that the Star was vetted by a garage, whose proprietor after trying it found nothing amiss and added his praise to that of the owner: "M'sieu Lovegrove, you have here a car of a marque of which I have never even heard. It has done 14,000 miles without requiring a single spare part and without even a puncture. It accelerates like the devil, is smooth, easy and noiseless as a swallow and climbs like a Chasseur Alpin. If there was no duty on that car I would sell very many more right here in Marseilles. Nowadays, very many American, French and even British manufacturers are turning out what I call 'one-year' cars, automobiles that look like the real thing, especially in the case of American productions, but which are apparently carefully constructed to stand up intact for one year's use and no more. After that comes trouble and spare parts. Your car is not of that type, and is so solidly and beautifully built that I consider it almost too well finished to meet the competition. It will probably last for many years without trouble, and is an engineering joy that will eventually save many thousands of francs to its purchaser. But how can you explain all that to a fool of a public which notes only that one car resembles another?"
A remarkable speech for a French garage man! The Star PRO could hardly have done better. Yet a few days after I had been given this book I had staying with me a great Star fanatic and collector of Star Miscellanea, but he had never heard of Mr. Lovegrove's book. One hopes, anyway, that the Marseilles' garagiste, if still alive, has been made a Life Member of the VSCC.
I need scarcely conclude that the Star went gallantly on, appearing "to develop further engine flexibility and speed daily", climbing Mont Vinaigre entirely on top gear. They got to Nice and beyond, the car climbing continuously for five days without attention, later to show a speedometer 60 m.p.h. on the level, 58 up a slight incline. The huge signs to the aerodrome at Bouche du Rhone are mentioned. So home, a meal that would have cost £2 in London coming. to 1s. 8d. in Chartres, the first puncture in the car's career happening at Albi–calling for praise for the Dunlops. At the end of the tour the author asks: "Why does a car smell sweet in Paris and poisonous in London?"
The Star suffered only broken luggage straps, fractured wing stays, disconnected wiring, petrol pipe solder shaken loose, broken porcelain in three of the American plugs and one puncture—"I do not know exactly what difference exists between Dunlops of a few years back and those of today, but the iron wear of my own year-and-a-half-old covers is very remarkable." Run at 35 lb/sq. in. front, 40-50 lb. rear, they were pumped up but twice in France. The concluding chapter said four-wheel-brakes and four-speed gearboxes were not so necessary in France as in England but woven luggage straps were recommended and dust coats and goggles were essential. The author ended with the advice: "And when you finally return to England and find the roads narrow, dangerous and stuffed with vehicles, the prices high and the hotel accommodation poor, why, just remember what a good time you had in France!"
Perhaps thinking his Star praise too obvious, he remarks that the facts of the tour were written "at a time when the white milk and the white egg are collected" and are equally as fresh, pure and free from guile. Ugh! Oh, and this is yet another book in which the Track is mentioned, the Star's pace being "reminiscent of Brooklands."!
Finally, readers contribute the following interesting letters to this feature.—W. B.