The Rootes brothers

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Story of a motoring empire,
by John Bullock. PSL, £16.99.

Here is a book to enjoy the account of the great Rootes Empire told by one who has so much inside information about it, because author John Bullock worked for the company for nearly 30 years, becoming PR chief in the 1950s and 1960s and holding the same position at Chrysler International SA in the 1970s. The opening part of his book is more or less history, but as you read on the story becomes more intimate, the personal memories making fascinating asides. There is also fresh information, enhanced by the access Bullock was given by the Rootes family to personal and company material dating back to the 1890s.

So this is a book for both historians and pleasure seekers.

Space prevents me from disclosing some of the “plums” in this welcome book, but it is fascinating to learn how new Rootes models were not always kept secret, how Churchill demanded a Humber Pullman from Billy Rootes after it was well out of production and, at much expense, got what he wanted and to read Bullock’s tales of the great rally days with the Sunbeam Alpines and other cars.

There are errors, though: Campbell named as the first to do 200 mph on land, instead of Segrave, Thrupp & Maberley on early pages, when Maberly is the correct spelling, a car quoted as a “Rode Rour” which must be a Rhode Four.

However, Bullock’s stories of Billy Rootes’ strong personality, how he and Lady Rootes were imprisoned in Paris for assault, and how the Halkin Street service depot became a brothel for a while, with the back seats of Humber Pullmans pressed into service, are more than adequate compensation. W B