Book reviews, July 1975, July 1975

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“A Century of Steam-Rolling” by R. A. Whitehead. 192 pp. 9½ in. x 7 in. (Ian Allan Ltd., Terminal House, Shepperton, Middlesex, TW17 8AS. £7.95.)

A book such as this can have but a limited appeal for the bulk of our readers and my first impression was “how dull” and “how expensive”. Having read this remarkable book, such thoughts were proved to be premature and, if pursued, would be most unjust. Steam fanatics will find this a thoroughly absorbing, competent and comprehensive study of a specialised subject, which I read with increasing interest, about a mile from where the Powys CC’s Aveling & Porter steam-roller was at work.

The author has been associated with roller-hiring most of his life and was thus just the person to write what must become the standard reference work on steam-rollers. The book contains 140 highly appropriate illustrations which assist in tracing the full history of these machines. Apart from giving us an authoritative account of how it all began and developed, Mr. Whitehead devotes some of his text to road repairing and building techniques, which cannot fail to interest those of us who take our pleasure on roads. He also has some excellent anecdotes contributed by dedicated engine-men, which exactly portray the conditions under which such employees used to toil, how little they were paid, the problems they encountered, leading sometimes to the inevitable accident (and a stricken steam-roller is a heavy device to recover!), and particularly the very long journeys round Britain that they were required to undertake in these vehicles, at a very few miles-per-hour. Another excellent aspect of “A Century of Steam-Rolling” is the brief history of the 21 makes of steam-roller, from Allchin to Lamberton, with the author’s comments about the good and less-good qualities of each. The book also covers machinery used with steamrollers and the cost of operating and repairing rollers and ancillaries, not as rally heirlooms but when such was working equipment on our roads. Some 5,750 such rollers were built in the British Isles up to 1930, with perhaps 220 more up to the end of the line, which came in 1950. Of these, two out of every three were Aveling & Porters, the bulk of the remainder being Fowlers, Marshalls and Wallis & Steevens. This book, with its clear and fascinating illustrations, is about these and other British steam-rollers and, as I have said, it must be recognised as the standard reference work on the subject, by those Librarians who will order it.—W.B.

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“Sixteen-Cylinder Motorcars” by Roy A. Schneider. 240 pp. 11¼ in. x 8½ in. (Heritage House, 430, West Longden Avenue, Arcadia, California. Available from Transport Bookman Publications, Syon House, Brentford, Middlesex. £12.50 inc. p. & p.)

Subjects for motoring books take a curious turn, these days. Here is one about 16-cylinder motor cars, done as reproduced tearouts from the American magazines Motor and Automobile Topics, catalogues, and so on backed up by many fine photographs, dimensioned drawings, advertisements, etc. The makes covered are Cadillac, from 1930 to 1940, Marmon, Peerless, Bucciali, with brief coverage of racing sixteens such as Bugatti, BRM, Miller and Auto-Union.

The book is superficial as history but essential to those with a special passion for big American automobiles. It stands or falls by the pictures and these are very compelling. It also includes the V16 Cadillac chassis papers, published in 1933, of which only 5,000 copies of this David R. Hollis publication were issued. The book is of pre-war quality and should do well, in its very specialised field. Incidentally, one reproduced article states that whereas there were 14 four-cylinder chassis, 60 sixes and 18 with eight-cylinder engines available in the USA in 1925, and no 16-cylinder cars, by 1926 the respective figures were 10, 56 and 18, changing to 6, 59 and 28 by 1927, to 6, 52 and 33 in 1928, and to 4, 49 and 37 by 1929. In 1930, the last vintage year, the count was respectively 3, 42 and 57, with the Cadillac joining-in as the lone V16.—W.B.

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“The Classic MG Yearbook-1974.” Edited by Richard L. Knudson. 140 pp. 11¼ in. x 8½ in. (Classic MG Yearbook, Oneonta, New York, USA. Available from Transport Bookman Publications, Syon House, Brentford, Middlesex. £6.35 inc. p. & p.)

This is one for MG enthusiasts who like lots of good pictures of MG cars of all kinds, from the so-called “Old No. 1” onwards, so long as they are of real MGs. There are photographs and drawings of MGs performing all over the World in various 1974 events, together with reproductions of pre-war advertisements. Another specialised one!

W.B.

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“The Austin Seven—A Pictorial Tribute” by R. J. Wyatt. 79 pp. 9½ in. x 6½ in. Soft covers. (Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 70, Chiswick High Road, London, W4 1SV. £2.70.)

Nice to have, this one, but offering very little that is new. The Austin Sevens of 1922 to 1939 have mostly been depicted before, notably in Wyatt’s excellent Austin Seven history “The Motor for the Million”. So this little work, which is a sort of stop-gap until the same author gives us his full history of the Austin Motor Co., seems very expensive and we feel compelled to say that the Grenville Austin 7 book, with plenty of “meat” in the form of text, at a modest 75p, strikes us as far better value and a more realistic introduction to the famous British baby car.

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Another Shell Guide has been published by Osprey Publishing Limited, under the title of “The Shell Guide to Viewpoints of England”. It is Garry Hogg’s 70th book, runs to 316 pages measuring 8¾ in. x 5½ in., and is packed with maps and information for those exploring Britain. The price is £3.95.

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The 1975 edition of the ever-useful reference work “World Cars”, which contains detailed specifications and pictures of the World’s production models, is available from booksellers or from the publishers, Herald Books, Kershaw House, 3, Henrietta Street, London, WC2E 8LU, for £7.50. This well-established work weighs 4 lb., has over 1,000 illustrations, and this year extends its coverage to South Korea, with the Hyundai Pony. Other new cars included are the FNM from Brazil and the Bricklin from the USA. The performance figures run from 196 m.p.h. of the Lamborghini Countach LP400 to the 43 m.p.h. of the Lawil Varzina, and 1975 car prices run from £475 for the Lawil City to £29,250 for a Rolls-Royce Camargue. Long may the AC of Italy produce this unique 440-page book.

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There has been a spate of annuals devoted to reviewing the 1974 motor-racing season. “Formula One—’74” by Pete Lyons and Vin Gillgan, a soft-cover 158 pp. publication costing £4.95, is rather different, confining its data to colour pictures and tables, and substituting chapters on relevant subjects, mainly about the leading drivers and teams, for the more usual lap-by-lap account of each race. It is distributed here by PSL of Barr Hill, Cambridge.