The Austin Seven Book

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“The Austin Seven”. Edited by W. Boddy. 95 pp. 8 3/5 in. x 5¾ in. (Grenville Publishing Co. Ltd., Standard House, Bonhill street, London, EC2A 4DA. 75p.)

Reprinting past articles from a monthly magazine into a 95-page, soft cover book, may seem at first sight the epitome of jumping aboard a vintage band wagon; however. in the case of Motor Sport’s “Book of The Austin Seven”, published to neatly coincide with the Golden Jubilee of the car’s introduction, this is certainly not the case. The selected material has been freshly set, and the attractively embossed covers contain paper and printing of a very reasonable quality for the impossibly low price of 75p. Photographs, diagrams and contemporary advertising literature are mostly remade from original documents, although in several cases the pictures, reconstructed from printed pages, have suffered more than a usual loss of clarity; better something indistinct than nothing at all, however. Several of the illustrations were new to this writer, and the majority of today’s youthful Seven fanatics will find plenty of fresh material for their magnifying glasses to scan.

The emphasis throughout is naturally of a sporting nature, although by no means overplayed or reminiscent of those ritual accounts of racing processions which ruin so many otherwise enjoyable books. The original authors were those actively participating in the “events” described, and they bring into focus many lessons of maintenance and driving technique which can still be found viable today by those running any type of older car. Who, for example, would imagine that a new, presumably works’-prepared, Gordon England Cup Model being driven through the 1926 Land’s End Trial could contrive to loosen its foot-brake pivot bar, and consequently lock the steering and brakes in the middle of an observed section ? Evidently the disgruntled journalist driving could not, for he acidly commented: “Car manufacturers . . . used to gain valuable experience by participating in trials. In future such things will be discovered by novices and the coroners will make suitable comments”—well, do you check every nut and bolt ?

Happily, Mr. Boddy has left the articles untouched, although in one case has seen fit to include something which was originally left out, thereby displaying both a remarkable memory and an awareness that moral indignation is not so quickly aroused now, as then.

Mistakes naturally remain, but for the expert this can only lead to euphoric feelings of cleverness as he finds them one by one, and the beginner will have to suffer as we all did by following the paths of long discredited mythology. The stories thus retain a very strong period character, and show the Seven in the unique views of expert and enthusiastic owners who had the chance to sample the car when it was “new”, and of all the book’s values, this is the one to regard most highly. The material follows no chronological sequence, and is on balance the better for it; not one of the tales can be described as dull to read or tedious of content and fact, and the variety of outlandish activity surrounding such a small and prosaic car is further enhanced. The famous Holland Birkitt “Paper” is there, and must still provide essential reading for any novice; road-tests of the “65”, overhead-valve converted Boyd Carpenter, Unblown Ulster, Super Sports, Seagull Motor Launch and G.E. Brooklands Super Sports are included, together with a substantial article which traces the racing development of the Seven, a compact recipe for a 70-m.p.h. Chummy, John Moon’s valuable observations on the esoteric points of owning a Nippy and interviews with works drivers Pat Driscoll, Charles Goodacre, etc., etc.

If you own a Seven which never moves from the motor house, or are the type to take on ‘Nashes in VSCC events, this is a book which I am sure you will enjoy. — Tony Griffiths.