New Year Profiles

As is traditional, six more Profiles arrived early in January. Of these, perhaps the most interesting is No. 45, dealing with “The M.G. Midget M-type,” by F. Wilson McComb. It gives a very clear account of the introduction and development of this famous small sports car without complexity of text, sorts out the differences between the ordinary and Double-Twelve models and quotes numbers produced and the competition successes the M-type achieved. The illustrations are nostalgic. It might have been better had James Leech’s excellent colour pictures depicted both catalogue and competition versions, as the differences could have been compared by flicking from inside front to inside back cover. As it is, the artist has drawn a 1930 Double-Twelve car and the M.G. Midget that was driven at Le Mans and Spa that year by Samuelson. Unfortunately the captions have been transposed, and that for the latter illustration is not even on the same page as the incorrect colour picture, nor on the facing page as quoted, which doesn’t exist, so confusion is created. High pressure production is probably to blame, but it will be a great pity if the accuracy and high standard of these Profiles is allowed to suffer from this cause. Incidentally, the new list of distributors printed at the bottom of the last page detracts considerably from the appearance of this set of Profiles.

No. 43 deals with “The Horizontal-engined Wolseleys, 1900-1905 ” and is written by Anthony Bird. He is, as ever, interesting to read, and sets out the reasons why the horizontal engine wasn’t a success for Herbert Austin. But the juxtaposition of early single cylinder cars with the later powerful Wolseley Beetle racers makes this rather a hotch-potch and as the latter never achieved very much; more important cars might profitably have been included in the series before this Profile was embarked upon. The colour pictures of 1904 single and twin-cylinder Wolseleys by Gordon Davis have definitely come off, however, but I cannot believe that the B.M.C. picture of a Wolseley Beetle on page 9 is other than an artist’s impression, although it is labelled as a photograph.

No. 44 is called simply “The Lancia Lambda” by D. B. Tubbs, who takes us through all the fairly well-known facts and legends about these advanced vintage cars. The author seems to be indebted to Lancia publicity hand-outs and articles in back issues of Motor Sport for much of the information but covers the subject very thoroughly in a rather ponderous (for Tubbs) fashion. I am glad he recalls the delightful gear change of the Lambda as well as the virtues of its i.f.s., although the point that this was an early ball-gate change on a European car, with short rigid lever, is missed. There is interesting reference to the so-nearly-successful Mille Miglia Lambda and a reminder that for a time cast-iron instead of aluminium pistons were tried in the V4 engine. The colour plans by Kenneth Rush of Adamson’s 1928 8th-Series torpedo admirably capture the style of the Lambda but the full front view of Turner’s 1929 8th-Series saloon is ghastly, although no doubt accurate. The camera, one feels, would have been kinder to the car and as Rush has departed from strictly side views with an attractive downwards view of the car, he might surely have depicted the frontal aspect from off-centre. A pity, too, that the last photograph, used to show the layout of the Lancia i.f.s., is of a car with non-standard headlamps, and that there is no picture specifically showing the detachable saloon-top of the early Lambdas. However, the views of Lambdas in contemporary trials fully compensate.

Mark Howell does an excellent job in Profile No. 46 of describing “The Stutz Vertical Eight” even if he does not explain why the car’s straight-eight-cylinder engine was called vertical! There is an interesting reference to Ettore Bugatti taking cognisance of Moskovics’ method of driving overhead camshafts and giving advice about how to keep the exhaust valves in the Stutz engine cool, which should give Bugatti historians something else to bite on. The Hispano-Suiza/ Stutz challenge race at Indianapolis is given a new image and the Stutz appearances at Le Mans in 1928-1932 are covered in text and picture. This is a most useful introduction to a famous American car, the author obviously being a Stutz enthusiast without appearing to write in a too biased manner about these cars.

Profile No. 47 is about “The Six-Cylinder Hotchkiss, 1929-1954,” Michael Sedgwick doing his customary thorough job with this complex story, which also touches on vintage four-cylinder and later flat-four Hotchkiss-Gregoire cars. Three of the pictures recall Hotchkiss’ victorious participation in pre-war and post-war Monte Carlo Rallies.

Finally, for January, comes No. 48, “The Lotus Elite” by David Phipps, which includes pictures of this Lotus in races, and line drawings of its unique construction. The whole of the centre-spread is devoted to colour drawings by Walter Wright of the 1959 Le Mans car, there is a very complete specification, and Motor’s performance figures. This one is likely to be appreciated even more in ten or twenty years’ time when the Elite has become rare and those who have them will probably be trying to turn them into gold at Sotheby’s.

My minor criticisms show the esteem in which I hold these fascinating Profiles. To date the authors’ score is: Bird, Tubbs, Sedgwick, four each; Oliver, Boddy, three each; Appleton, Nicholson, Jenkinson, Davey/Pritchard, McComb; Buckley, two each and one Profile each by Betts, Eaton, Hull/Fusi, Barker, Post, Pomeroy, Berthon, Stone, Tours, Hodges, Howell, Phipps, Armstrong, Conway Stanford, Coram and Kinsman.

In the next two months Profiles are scheduled covering the 1905 3-cylinder Rolls-Royce, the touring G.N.s, the F.W.D. Alvis, the I, 2 and E-Series Morris Eights, the 3-1/2-litre Delahaye, the Mercedes Benz 300SLR, the 1897-1903 Stanley steamers, the 3-litre Bentley, the Model A Duesenberg, the 1-1/2 -litre Meadows-H.R.G., the 1934 G.P. Auto-Unions and the A.C. Cobra. So the variety is infinite and if the present high standard is maintained there is much enjoyment in store at 2s. a time. —W. B.