Books for Christmas
The Rolls-Royce 'Wraith' by Tom C . Clarke 24.5 pp. 10'x7'. (R-R.E.C Publishing, The Hunt House, Paulerspury, Towcester, Northants NN12 7NA. £23.50 plus £2.00 postage)
John M. Fasal has undertaken the publication of this specialist Rolls-Royce history, about the last post-war car of this illustrious make, which means that the entire book is most beautifully produced, by Burgess & Son of Abingdon, for Fasal is a perfectionist if ever there was one. This means that Tom Clarke has been able to offer the story of the Rolls-Royce Wraith in a form that matches that of John Fasal's own inimitable study of the Rolls-Royce Twenty, using art-paper, beautifully reproduced pictures, and highclass binding.
It is a reflection on the intense interest now shown in all aspects of motoring history, and especially that devoted to the products of Rolls-Royce Ltd., that this book is already attracting much acclaim, in spite of the fact that only 492 Wraith chassis were made and the model had a production-run of little more than a year. Against this, there is the claim that the Wraith was one of the quietest and most refined cars to emerge from the Derby factory, which is saying quite something!
Tom Clarke tells it all — how this 25/30hp Rolls-Royce was developed and why, the social background to it, the experimental cars leading up to its production and how these were tested, how you ordered your Wraith, and soon, with particular interest attaching to the bodywork put on this chassis, because this marked virtually the end of coachbuilding as it had been known since coaching days.
The book goes into how the new Rolls-Royce model was received, with reproductions of contemporary Press descriptions (although this model was not actually roadtested by the Press), and it acts as an extension of Fasal's memorable discourse on the R-R Twenty, of which the 25/30hp car was the continuation, the book being not only about the cars themselves, but about the Company, the personalities, the buildings and departments, not overlooking the R-R Chauffeurs' School, etc., and including a long piece about how Park Ward made bodies for the Wraith this section being a most informative and amusing study.
The book, however, goes even further than that. It contains a full list of all Wraith cars, with chassis and engine numbers, first owners, body make and type, body and design references, and Registration numbers, and what is more, it has some chassis servicing data, factory depot sheets issued from the Chief Engineer's office, lists of publications and books appertaining to this classic Rolls-Royce model, and much more besides, together with innumerable excellent photographs. There is even a large picture of the Wraith toolkit, with a list of tools and spares carried on the Wraith, coachbuilders' drawings, and much else besides, the whole, as I have said, most beautifully produced typical Fasal high standards—one might say a veritable Rolls-Royce of books, irresistible. I would have thought, to all followers of Sir Henry, and an essential possession for every remaining Wraith owner. WB
Rolls-Royce and Bentley Experimental Cars by lan W. Rimmer, BSc. 372 pp. 10'x7' (R-R EC Publications, The Hunt House, Paulerspury Towcester, Northants NN12 7NA. £28 or £30 post paid.)
This is the book all Rolls-Royce and Bentley followers and historians have been awaiting. Because however fascinating the production models are, it is the normally unheard-of experimental and development cars from the Manchester, Derby and Crewe factories which intrigue one. Now Ian Rimmer has revealed a veritable wealth of information and absorbing detail on the subject, in a book very beautifully produced by Burgess & Son Ltd of Abingdon, matching the R-REC's book on the Wraith.
I recall that in the very first Rolls-Royce history, by Harold Nockolds, published under the title of "The Magic of a Name" (Foulis, undated), the chapter on the experimental cars occupied less than 3½ pages in this 225-page book. Ever since one has been curious about these elusive one-offs, the little 15 hp chassis, the Hawk aero-engined Royce, etc, and although some information on the subject has filtered through since then, in what Lt-Col Eric Barrass, Secretary of the R-REC, calls "the vast conglomerate of Rolls-Royce books spewed out over recent years", the secretive manner in which R-R built these experimental jobs, the unusual code-names used for them, and the frequent rebuilding of them for sale to customers, has, until Rimmer, fogged much of the story.
Now you have it almost all, in the fullest detail, each car's history dealt with separately, why it was built, the troubles experienced, Royce's opinions, comparisons with other makes of cars, non-R-R components sometimes incorporated, and no on. Rimmer is honest when little or no data is available and generous with the rest, his book illustrated with a great number of unique illustrations, scale plans and styling studies as well as photographs, and he lists some 180 experimental cars apart from those, also listed, used for development purposes. It is an incredible feast for anyone under the magic spell of Rolls-Royce and Bentley ...
I became quite absorbed, amazed at how many cars met with accidents, suggesting they were driven hard, as when one got into a broadside skid on the banking of frequently used Brooklands Track, at how many electrical problems had to he solved in the early 1920s in spite of Royce being an electrical engineer, and pleased to find that the three test-hills near Derby are named, and figures given for some of the times achieved, which may well send the more avid R-R owners seeking them, stop-watches aboard . . . I wonder, too, whether other makes, Daimler-Benz for instance, had as many experimental cars and how they were used; but perhaps from lack of records we shall never know? Incidentally, a surprising number of the experimental and development R-R and Bentley cars described so fascinatingly in this book have never since been accounted for, which may sustain the hopes of dealers and enthusiasts that these may one day be discovered, and clues are in the book! What a splendid present Rimmer's magnificently researched book would make, either self-presented or from a loving spouse! Given it, you will no longer be ignorant of what constitutes a Bentley Clipper, Cornichon, Bentlet, or an R-R Myth; and what of the Bentley Blizzard or full details of all that is known about the earlier "Goshawks"? Unquestionably, one of the best pieces of R-R history so far available. WB
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu's book Jaguarhas gone into its fifth edition, in a large page style (11" x 10), which does much for the illustrations. This was the first, and in many ways the best, of all the books about Jaguar, and it remains excellent overall coverage of this famous make, from the original ventures by the late Sir William Lyons in sidecar manufacture and the SS cars, to the present. The history is told in 256 of those big, picture-packed pages, with Appendicies covering the different models, and SS and Jaguar competition successes, brought right up to date, so this is a fitting present for any Jaguar enthusiast, in this year of the new X J6. Lord Montagu was himself a Jaguar user and he appears on the dust-jacket with a new Jaguar Sovereign outside Sir William Lyon's house. The Foreword is by HRH Prince Michael of Kent, who enthuses over driving a 1953 C-type Jaguar on this year's Mille Miglia Commemorative Run. Jaguar costs £20.00 and is published by Quiller Press Ltd, 50 Albemarle Street, London W1. WB
Picture postcards from the past are now collectors' items apart from which, those depicting cars and/or the kind of places one used to motor to in days gone by, are pleasing in themselves. But individual cards can be difficult to find, so a worthwhile present occurs in the big book of reproductions of such cards covering the SW London suburb of Balham, from Marion Gower's collection of postcards from 1900 to 1925. Some of them show early cars, others the sad horses that trudged those streets before the motor era. For example, what looks like a Darracq tourer, struts supporting its windscreen, leads a Renault and other cars past horses and a tram, along Balham High Street, circa 1906. A De Dion can be spotted in another postcard, one of those single-cylinder carriers' tricycles in another, and a Model-T Ford van, what I think is a Rover and other vehicles form part of a 1920's scene. What I take to be a White steamer (or am I wrong?) is seen passing the Palladium cinema and an early touring-car the circa-1923 card, although I would date this one a bit earlier. There are other cars to identify, and trams, even a traction-engine in Balham's main road, 116 cards in all; Balham is published by the Publicity and Print Section of Wandsworth Borough Council and is obtainable from Tony Shaw, Battersea Library, 165 Lavender Hill, Wandsworth, London, SW11 1JB for £2.25, plus 40p for postage. WB
An unusual title is How to get SPONSORSHIP for motorsport. If you are hoping to squeeze some lolly out of someone to help along a motor sporting project, however, try the tips given by June Laird, in this 101-page book from G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd. of Yeovil. It will set you back £7.95 and Derek Bell must presumably believe in it, as he contributes the Foreward. WB
A good present for a keen 2CV Citroen owner who doesn't take his car too seriously would be the republished version of Ernst van Altena's Citroen 2CV — The Ugly Duckling, which came out originally in 1983, and in large format covers about every aspect of this lovable flat-twin, in colour plates, drawings, cartoons, news pictures, etc, with emphasis on the "ugly duckling" aspect but with a serious side to leaven the humour, for example coverage of 2CV endurance runs that rival the vintage journeys of the Citroen Kegresse expeditions, all this with splendid pictorial backing. For me the best of the colour plates is the one showing a 2CV van being loaded with milk-churns in a farmyard, as typifying the deux chevaux's true purpose; except that the vehicle is too clean for it to quite ring true! The poster used to publicise the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only' might have come from Mayfair, and this light-hearted look back is most appropriate, at a time when, alas, the 2CV has ceased production. The Haynes Publishing Group of Yeovil do this one, at £9.95. WB
Glass's Used Car Guide, which gave the values of cars that came into the Trade, and thus the prices which should be charged for them, was once a publication jealously guarded by the secondhand motor dealers, to be kept out of reach of those outside this ring. In more recent times the proliferation of auction sales of cars of all ages has called for a quick reference to prices likely to be realised at such sales. Coys have met this demand, it seems very successfully, by getting Dalton Watson to publish the huge Coys Complete Collectors CAR VALUE GUIDE. The 1986/87 edition, which we have only just seen, apparently sold 86% in two months, to a total 95% sell-out, according to Dalton Watson (Advertising) Ltd. , so it is not surprising that a 1987/88 issue is in course of preparation, expected by March/April 1987. The first edition attempts to be more than just a list of prices obtained in car auctions by Christies, Coys and Sothebys. It is a vast publication, packed with pictures of cars from 1895 to 1975, a sort of "Georgano ghost", giving the engine size and number of cylinders of each car priced, and pithy comments on each. In some respects the effect is rather droll.
For instance, in an endeavour to pack in as many makes as possible the anonymous author has included some rare cars, even the Astral being included (see MOTOR SPORT. November 1986) this one with the rather dubious comment "A rare car with OHC and 4 wheel brakes, but few were made". But were they, and how many? And how can the price of £4,000 to £7,000 be fixed if no Astral has ever come up for sale since 1924? That rather sets the limits to this book! The impression is that the comments have often been written with someone's tongue in cheek — "Better than some" for instance suffices for the 1923 BAC and that goes for too many of these comments! For instance, is the straight-eight Beverley Barnes really "Rare and totally delightful"? And I am sure Brian Demaus will be interested to read that the engine of his Arab is like a Stutz, but Michael Worthington Williams may be less pleased with an Angus Sanderson entry "Best forgotten", or the 12/50 Alvin Register to learn that the 1922-25 12/40 Alvis is "mundane". The pictures are prolific and entertaining, but too many of the car values appear to be guesswork and thus valueless. Shall we leave it at that? WB
Another tribute to the motor-car's 100th birthday comes from the Irish V & VCC, their soft-cover magazine-size A Century Motoring costing £2.00 and being naturally mainly Irish-orientated history, aimed at the lay-reader but with chapters on the first garage and petrol pumps in Ireland, etc. WB
As "stocking-fillers the little Shire book should not be overlooked, including as they do Veteran, Vintage and Classic Car titles and a new one on 3-wheelers by Ken Hill, at £1.25 each from most bookstalls. WB
As an alternative to books for Christmas presents, the rally enthusiast might interested in Rally Round, a board game based on the hazards and pressures of rallying. Competitors (and the game can be played solo or with up to six people) weave their way around a large map-board according to the predetermined performance of their car and the hazards on each stage. For those who have competed or marshalled on real rallies, the accuracy is remarkable, even down to the timing which can be to fractions of a "second", and care is needed to avoid an accident and keep to the target time.
No dice are used, judgement being all, and every route should turn out differently. Either road or stage-rally rules can be chosen but because of the various tables and simple mathematics required, I suspect that no rally people may be rather daunted by the instructions. Once learnt, though, it is entertaining. It costs £14.95, and is available from games shops, or Saracad Marketing Warwick Ho., 48 Collingwood Road, Witham, Essex. (P&P £2.95). GC