Book Reviews, July 1966, July 1966

“Father’s First Car,” by Hugh Tracey. 85 pp. 6 3/4 in. x 4 1/4 in. (Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 68-74, Carter Lane, London, E.C.4. 10s.)

Rather superficial, indeed, a bit expensive, there is nevertheless charm about this brief, non-technical account of the struggles of a country doctor to keep himself mobile in a twin-cylinder 10/12-h.p. Peugeot, later supplemented by a 8-h.p. Peugeot bought from Friswell’s, “the Peugeot people … [who) had then £30,000-worth of Peugeot cars in the warehouse, from the autumn of 1907 through 1908.”

The book is compiled from the doctor’s diary, is indeed presented mainly in diary form, and as it can be read in a very short space of time and the eight illustrations are only just adequate to convey the atmosphere of the times, there will be those who will brush aside this slender volume as just another quick leap onto the lucrative bandwagon of motor-book publishing.

This wouldn’t be entirely fair, however, for anything which reveals a little more about the Edwardian era of automobilism should have a place, no matter how humble, in the historian’s archives. The experiences of Dr. Tracey—the breakdowns, the innumerable punctures, the professional drivers and mechanics, the elation of long outings successfully accomplished and of speeds of over 40 m.p.h. being reached—are no different from those of other early motor owners, and one suspects that the book covers less than 16 months of motoring experiences only because that is all that has survived of the author’s father’s notes in the “small, green, leather-bound notebook, tastefully lined with marbled flysheets, and with the single word MOTOR in Roman capitals, impressed in golf leaf on the cover.” ..

Even so, the outspoken exposure of unsatisfactory tyres and components from manufacturers famous to this day, the good doctor’s arguments in favour of a car as more economical than the second dog-cart, the landau, the double harness and two horses that it enabled him to dispose of, not to mention oats at £10 per bushel and hay at £4 a ton, has a certain charm, which may part you from ten bob to acquire this tiny thing, describing motoring in Devon and Somerset nearly 60 years ago !—W.B.

Aeromarine Origins,” by H.F. King, M.B.E. 93 pp., 8 3/4in. x 5 1/2 in. (Putnam & Co. Ltd., 42, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 30s.)

This is a specialised but clearly compiled book about the beginnings of marine aircraft, air-cushion craft, hydroplanes, hydrofoils and associated forms of transport above water.

It is a unique work by one of Britain’s most respected aviation writers [who went to the same school as I did, incidentally, but was far more studious !—Ed.] and contains a survey of developments never previously attempted and embracing some quite sensational findings unknown even to many of those who have spent their lives in close association with aeronautics, the science of which did not, as Mr. King shows, develop as is commonly supposed but is far more closely related to an extension of water craft than has previously been accepted.

Chapters relating to lighter-than-air craft, flying over water, flying from water, flying in water, winged hulls, hydrofoil boats, planing boats, air lubrication and air cushions indicate the scope of a book which is printed on glossy art paper, illustrated with many exceedingly rare pictures, and represents a very valuable addition to Putnam’s long list of aviation history and reference works.—W. B.

“Airway to the Isles,” by Philip Cleife. 223 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 2/3 in. (Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., Warwick Lane, London, E.C.4. 30s.)

It is easy to sum up this book about how Sqdn. Ldr. Philip Cleife formed his one-man, one-aeroplane airline to the Scilly Isles—one of the most remarkable and absorbing aviation books I have read! Unusual, written so very frankly in the crisp English of the flying man, “Airway to the Isles” takes the reader step by step through the enormous difficulties, the innumerable details, the almost unbelievable fights with bureaucracy that were necessary before the lone D.H. Rapide Lima Mike was permitted to carry passengers over the prescribed route. His subsequent account of how Capt. Cleife ran his airline between Plymouth to tiny St. Mary’s Airport on the Isles of Scilly with a regularity which surpassed that of B.E.A., whose Rapides were hampered by difficult weather conditions at Land’s End, helped only by his wife and the keen owner of a minibus who met the Rapide at its destination, makes an enthralling and inspiring tale of adventure. The author’s description of badweather flying is superb—if those who have been passengers in small aeroplanes in bad visibility (as I have!) do not mind getting their spines chilled!

There is an interlude to cover participation in the Daily Mail’s “Get Ahead” Contest in 1962, with television interviews in a bid to win the £10,000 prize, and then the author outlines his future plans for the expansion of his air-line, which now operated a second Rapide and was making a profit. It was not to be, because a burst tyre, due to faulty tube fitting, happened in the one place on the runway at St. Mary’s where it could cause disaster on take-off, and the Rapide crashed and caught fire, with no loss of life but extreme injury to its gallant pilot. The hospital treatment which the author had to endure closes this unusual but very worthwhile book on a sad note—and half the royalties on its sales go to the Philip Cleife Burns Fund for the relief of those suffering from financial distress arising out of accidents in which victims have been badly burned. Motor racing is not immune from such accidents, so you may care to buy the book, thus giving yourself some very interesting reading and at the same time contributing to a worthwhile cause. As the author comments, he is quite sure he is the last of his line, the one-man founder of an air-line, even though Mayflower still operate the ex-B.E.A. Rapides Kilo Uniform, Sierra Hotel, Charlie Lima, and their own Uniform Lima to the Isles. Thus this book, while dealing with some very recent aviation, belongs to history—a brave attempt at individualism in a World that daily becomes more stereotyped, in which single-minded endeavour is rapidly being stifled by Government control.—W.B.

Automobile Electrical Trouble Shooting,” by S. G. Munday. 263 pp., 8 3/4/ in. 5 3/4 in. (George Newnes Ltd., Tower House, Southampton Street, London, W.C.2. 45s)

Here is a book which, after explaining the fundamentals of electricity, magnetism and induced currents, covers the whole field of checking and tracing troubles in the electrical installations of a motor car. It should be of very great benefit to those studying the subject professionally and to professional and amateur mechanics who hope to cope efficiently and effectively with the many and invariably puzzling maladies which afflict those parts of a car dependent on “electrikery” for their effective functioning.—W.B.

Those who want their wives or girl-friends to understand how a car works have two books available which should do the trick. There is “The Shell Book of How Cars Work,” by Gordon Walmsley (100 pp., 9 3/4 in. x 7 1/5 in.), very clearly illustrated with excellent colour diagrams available from John Baker, 5, Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, S.W.1, for 5s. The other book for beginners is more detailed, and illustrated with ninny line diagrams. It is “Beginner’s Guide to the Motor Car,” edited by A.T. Collins (149 pp., 7 1/2 in. x 5 in.), and published by George Newnes Ltd., Tower House, Southampton Street, London, W.C.2, at 15s.

Chapman & Hall, 11, New Fetter Lane, London, E.C.4. have issued volumes two and three of C.H. Fisher’s standard work on “Carburation,” respectively sub-titled “Spark-Ignition Engines : Fuel Injection Development” and “Spark-Ignition Engines : Fuel Injection Systems.” These two 8 3/4 in. x 5 5/8 in. books, respectively of 224 and 220 pages, contain a wealth of data about petrol injection of the greatest value to students of i.c.-engine design.

Shell-Mex & B.P. Ltd. have issued the “Graham Hill Grand Prix Racing Book,” in which the B.R.M. driver describes his life, his approach to racing, the new 3-litre F1 Formula, and takes the reader round Brands Hatch in a modern racing car. There is a big cutaway drawing of the 3-litre B.R.M. and an instructive page in colour showing how the suspension of a modern racing car is set-up to control its handling characteristics, in this popular approach to a popular subject, which costs 2s. and is obtainable from some Shell garages.

In the May issue we remarked that in the Varta Guide Germany has the equivalent of a Michelin Guide. This does less than justice to Michelin, for the Michelin Guide to Germany, a red guide called ”Michelin Deutschland,” is in its third year of publication. It has 671 pages, 84 more than in 1965, awards “stars” for particularly good food, and includes 1,600 new addresses of selected hotels and restaurants. It costs £1 and is distributed in the U.K. by The Dickens Press, 4, Upper Thames Street, London, E.C.4.

The 750 M.C. has issued the third edition of its “Special Builders’ Guide,” or more correctly has brought this exceedingly informative work out in a new form, called “Design for Competition.” It concerns building a “special” conforming to 750 M.C. rules and covers about every possible thing anyone needs to know on this subject, written by practical members of the Club. Anyone with mechanical ability and an Austin 7 or Ford Ten-engined car they wish to make faster and safer will derive endless enjoyment from this unique publication, not to mention more sound constructive information than they can obtain from any other source.

The sections take in design, construction, engine tuning, preparation and modification, racing and trials, and the 1966 750, 1172, Mini 7, 750 Trials Formulae, etc., are listed. eleven typical “specials” are described and illustrated and matters like tubular chassis building, fibreglass bodywork, a full resume of the Reliant 600 o.h.v. engine, wooden construction, Austin 7 engine bearings, lubricants, slip angle and over-understeer characteristics, gaskets, alloy heads, S.U. carburetters, swing-axle i.f.s. etc., etc., are dealt with by experts like Jack French, Arthur Mallock, J.S. Moon, Mike Eyre, M.J. Forrest, D.E. Boorer, to quote at random and again, etc., etc. The fascination of the thing is that nearly all are contributors who are building to a strict price limit, who have done it themselves, and who love “special” building, and who, moreover, wrote most of this gen.-stuff for the 750 M.C. magazine for the benefit of fellow builders, not as blasé professionals. So this 252-page soft-cover, 8 1/3 in. x 5 7/8 in. publication represents tremendous value. There is much new material and all the drawings are now by one person. It is published by the 750 M.C., costs 16s. 6d. post free to members, and you apply for it to Colin Peck, “Dancers End,” St. Winifred’s Road, Biggin Hill, Kent. The Foreword is by Denis Jenkinson.—W.B.

Cars in books

The unexpectedly frequent references to motoring in “The House of Elrig,” by Gavin Maxwell, were not found in “The Rocks Remain,” by this author (Longmans, 1963), although his well-known Safari Land-Rover is mentioned and there is a fascinating account of how his Mercedes-Benz 300SL (XBL 511) was stolen by an over-enthusiastic young German in Palma and crashed in unusual circumstances. Then, in “A Highland Boyhood,” by Donald Cameron (Longmans, 1966), there is a tantalising reference to the “large open motor car” driven by two sisters who had a house in Sussex and an estate in the Scottish Highlands around 1925. It had a “rubber horn” which the sister who rode as passenger continually pumped [which make had this warning device situated where it was accessible to the occupant of the left-hand seat ?—Ed), but this “had no effect on the township hens. They often became victims of the ladies’ car as it shot along the shore road. With the General on board, posted royally among the tartan rugs on the back seat, there was no doubt a justifiable excuse for speed.” Alas, the make of this speedy car is not disclosed. . . .—W.B.