Book Reviews, July 1979, July 1979

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“The Rolls-Royce Twenty” by John M. Fasal. 560 pp. 10” x 7”. (Burgess & Son Ltd., Station Road, Abingdon, Oxon. £28.50).

John Fasal, who runs a company devoted to repairing and restoring them, fell in love with the Rolls-Royce Twenty in 1964 and has been devoted to them ever since. So devout has been this love-affair that he knows more about them, and about the Rolls-Royce Company itself I would think, than any other historian. He examined every Twenty and its derivatives that he could discover, which took him as far afield as America, Australia and even to remote palaces in India. This remarkable accumulated knowledge has now surfaced in this unique book, which must be the ultimate in Rolls-Royce history.

There have been plenty of books on this ever-fascinating and once seemingly inexhaustible subject; John Fasal numbers them as at least seventy. Yet in his own work he discloses so many new facts and facets about the cars and the Company that made them that words almost fail this reviewer in contemplating the impact “The Rolls-Royce Twenty” is going to have onthose Rolls-Royce fanatics fortunate enough to read it, and on motoring historians in the years ahead. Because the author, when not driving his own collection of the smaller Rolls-Royce motor-cars, has spent seemingly all his time uncovering the hidden details of the Rolls-Royce story that so many of us had wanted to know, and which we will now hold dear.

I find it difficult to know where to begin. For instance, Fasal has listed every Rolls-Royce Twenty made, this table occupying 55 close-packed pages of his book, a table which lists the engine number, chassis number, type of coachwork, the coachbuilder, the car number, Reg. No., name of original owner, location, and (where known) the present owner of all the 20s, from the first eleven experimental cars through the production models, to the last 20/25. A formidable slice of history in itself.

As the chapters unfold, more such detailed information is included. Some of the early Company history and the reasons leading up to the introduction of the 20 h.p. model in 1922 have naturally appeared elsewhere, notably in the great Batsford and Ian Lloyd Macmillan Rolls-Royce books, etc., but it is the little (and not so inconsiderable) additions that make Fasal’s work so enthralling. He includes intimate items from Rolls-Royce Board minutes and when, for instance, he covers the Design-Team based at West Wittering he lists all the personnel, from F. H. Royce downwards, with details of where they came from before joining Rolls-Royce, and their respective task. It is the same all through the book – everyone listed, photographs of almost everything relevant, with almost endless data about the development and testing of the Twenties. The Rolls-Royce Schools of Instruction and Repair Depots (even to plans of the actual premises), and so on, are just a fascinating part of the whole story.

The book carries interior pictures of the Derby factory that are new to me and, as I have said, it lists almost all the Rolls-Royce personnel of the 1920s, even those in the London Sales Department, reveals what befell some of the Rolls-Royce Travelling Inspectors and how they induced fresh sales (I would have enjoyed more of this), reveals how chauffeurs might expect to be reimbursed if they were able to persuade their employees to invest in a new Rolls-Royce (!), and in every way it rounds off the Rolls-Royce story so that any writers who hope to obtain anything to add to the past history of Rolls-Royce will have to be extraordinarily industrious – and then I expect John will beat them to it’; he is already at work on a book about Rolls-Royce in India . . .

One comes back again and again to the completeness of this work and not only from the aspects of the Rolls-Royce Twenty. There are photographs of all Royce’s houses, of Royce in experimental Rolls-Royce cars, portraits of the Rolls-Royce Directors and others who were at the helm of this remarkable British institution, of Overseas Depots, and of course, every facet of all the Twenties seems to have been illustrated. It is incredible – there is even a photograph of a Roll-Royce Company envelope (which, like the cars, had character), there is a colour-plate of heraldic devices and monograms used on Rolls-Royce cars, there are even lists of the numbers of pupils who attended the Rolls-Royce Training Schools, and some of the chassis record-card and a picture of the nickel chassis-plate of Sir Max Pemberton’s famous Twenty are there. I really am obliged to add “etc., etc.”, if I am to end this review – for the book even has the list of all the guests at the retirement luncheon for Basil Johnson, a “family tree” of every member of the Rolls-Royce London Repair Depot “N” at the relevant time, details of bodywork on the early “Goshawk” cars, minutes from “R” to his engineering staff, while coachwork on the Twenties gets almost a separate book on its own account.

Doing justice to such a comprehensive tome on such a high-category subject demands a top-class publisher. Burgess & Son have done a magnificent job for John Fasal in this respect. “The Rolls-Royce Twenty” is printed clearly on glossy top-quality art paper and it contains an enormous collection of photographs, beautifully reproduced, so many that even the most avid Rolls-Royce fans must surely find many that are new to them – like Royce’s set of drawing instruments (now in John’s ownership), a reproduction of an original 1924 Royce memo. from Le Canadel, and pictures of all the 20s imaginable, even to near-derelict specimens found in post-war days. It is not possible to list here all the tables and diagrams – the Rolls-Royce Patents, listed improvements to the Twenty, the notes on “Goshawk” modifications that over pages and pages, etc. The original road-test report from The Motor is reproduced, together with an early one from The Auto (but not the one from The Autocar, because IPC wished to reserve this for their own Rolls-Royce book), as are later impressions of the Twenty, for example Cecil Clutton’s article in Motor Sport of 1942. There are some fine colour-plates, pictures of the Rolls-Royce tool-kit, coachwork drawings, shipping details, lists of Rolls-Royce publications from 1922-1930, of Press road-test reports on the 20 h.p. cars and chassis, body mounting and spares details, a bibliography, list of sources, material on individual cars, and an index. Comdr. Hugh Keller, RN, Rtd. has contributed an appreciation of the Rolls-Royce Twenty.

I may well return to this book in more detail at some later date. For the moment, the only adjective I can think of is “Magnificent”. – W. B.

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“Packard – A History of The Motor Car And The Company.” Edited by Beverly Rae Kimes. 828 pp. 8” x 9”. (Automobile Quarterly, New Jersey, USA. Distributed by E. P. Dutton, 2, Park Avenue, New York. £45.85)

This is the Packard enthusiast’s dream to end all paper dreams. There has been one good history of this top American make previously, “The Packard Story” by Robert E. Turnquist, published 14 years ago. But the new Automobile Quarterly volume, to which much is owed to so many contributors, leaves that one looking like a slender prayer book to the Bible. That remarkably talented girl Beverley Rae Kimes has brought together a strong editorial team to write the definitive history of Packard cars and the Company that made them. Names well known here are included in her list of writers, art folk and consultants. The result is this formidable 350,000-word tome about a fascinating quality automobile, copiously – that seems an effective word – illustrated, indexed, tabulated and beautifully bound.

The chapters take the reader in enormous detail through the entire Packard saga, from the Packards of Warren, the first of a marque that appeared in late 1899 and became the premier US make along with Cadillac and Lincoln in the majority view, right up to the end of that great and enthralling era which ended with the last of these cars in 1958.

Having said that, it is unnecessary to add that every Packard is described in detail, from those horseless-buggies along to the better-known Twin-Sixes and the Twelve, the 120, the Six, the Clipper, and the 19th-series and 20th-series cars, and on through a welter of fine Packards, to the war years, and the post-war models. The Liberty-engined record-car and the other racing Packards, the Packard test track and proving methods, the commercial vehicles that carried the proud name, Packard advertising, badges, mascots, it’s all there and more besides, as the fascinating tale unfolds. This is a book which no serious automotive historian can afford to overlook and it will give endless enjoyment and encouragement to those who own, who are restoring, or who have owned Packard products. Just to browse through the almost endless selection of 1,000 pictures, is to bring on a severe attack of Packarditis. The make had many famous adherents, many of whom are depicted riding in or driving their cars in this book.

The writers who have been selected to do the individual chapters have obviously been chosen as experts on their subject; they include Terry Martin, James J. Bradley, Don Weber, Richard M. Langworth, Stan Grayson, I. Morgan Yorst, Dwight Heinmuller, W. C. Williams and many more, too long a list to include. There are colour portfolios of typical Packards of various periods (80 of these pictures), tabulated specifications of all the models from 1899 to 1958, both of chassis and coachwork production figures, ditto, a section on the make’s performances in the competition field, on land, water and in the air, and a bibliography. All in all, a stupendous work and a model of one-make history presentation. It comes in a packaging-case, each copy individually numbered. – W. B.

* * *

“The Motor Car – 1946-56” by Michael Sedgwick. 272 pp. 9½” x 6¼” . (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W1H 0AH. £15.00).

This is an erudite yet readable book which only Michael Sedgwick could have written. It is a follow-up, beautifully produced in the Batsford tradition, to the same publisher’s books about the cars of the vintage years (T. H. Nicholson, 1966) and cars of the 1930s (Michael Sedgewick, 1970). The two previous histories cover the cars catered for by the VSCC and are therefore of interest to many, but I suppose it will be said that the third volume in this trilogy is about vehicles that are “collectors’ pieces” and “speculative investments”. These are now, the so-called “classic cars” and the tin-wear that kept them company.

Those studying such cars will find them all there, arranged under National divisions and chapter headings, the latter embracing, for instance, “A Dinkum Car at Last”, “Power Assistance for Everything”, “Goodness and Garden Shed”, etc., etc. If these journalistic titles suggest a superficial book, you couldn’t be more wrong. What Sedgwick has done is to survey the complicated decade his book covers against its social and economic background. Only he, perhaps, could have made this effective, with the help, as he freely acknowledges, of some of the World’s automotive specialists. The result is a useful information look-back in this context at the post-WW2 period. The treatment at once renders the book more interesting than the two companion books, which tended to look at the cars of their respective periods make by make, model by model. Of course, and more especially because Sedgwick has put in almost every car remembered by him – most of us will have forgotten more makes than he includes in one chapter!) the book leaves room for one-make histories containing more detailed accounts of individual cars. For instance, the Triumph Mayflower, although in fact it gets quite good coverage, is at first dismissed with the comment “The less said of it the better”, which wouldn’t suit Graham Robson and Richard Langworth!

It must be appreciated that Sedgwick covers cars from Great Britain, America, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Australia, Japan (a country which hadn’t got into its stride in 1946-56!), and the Argentine. No mean task, yet he manages it more than admirably, not just listing the products of these nations and countries and their outstanding features, but showing why and how they came into being, how one compared to another, why there was success with one, failure with another, including comparisons based on prices, production outputs and performances. Sports cars are included, but also sports-racing cars, but a model of the latter “only if it was intended for street use” – and most of these cars were for the road or track. Altogether this is a formidable work, enthralling to read and a valuable contribution to automobile history. Sedgwick explains all the cars of this difficult and already faraway-seeming decade, from the “Suez-Scooters” to the British luxury cars fitted into the chapter headed “You Can Only Hear the Clock”. The book is just adequately illustrated, but with 50 clear monochrome pictures, and it has an attractive dust-jacket depicting in colour a 1947 HRG 1500 and a still-extant Chrysler Town & Country convertible of the same year. The mixture is rather expensive, but books usually are, these days. – W. B.

* * *

“World Cars 1979” Edited by Annamaria Losch. 440 pp. 11” x 9½”. (Herald Books of London, 109 Great Russel Street, London WC1B 3ND. £13.95).

Where would any motoring journalist be without this great, annual tome, the best, indeed surely the only, totally comprehensive, generally accurate survey and catalogue of all the world’s cars in any particular year? The specifications of current production models of each and every country – even the USSR, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China – are fully detailed in this heavily illustrated work, which no “nuts” for modern cars, be they professional people like ourselves, car traders or enthusiasts, ought to be without. Additional to the specifications in this year’s beautifully printed and bound work are features on current trends in “skirted” Formula One, special bodies cars, the Japanese and American motor industries and electric cars. A complete automobile reference library in its own right. – C. R.

* * *

Adrian M. Feather has published the third volume of his collections of Aston Martin Road tests. This one, “The Aston Martin – A Collection of Contemporary Road Tests 1948-1959”, contains road tests of Aston Martins from the 1948 2-litre prototype to the 3-litre DB Mk III. For the first time road tests from American magazines have been included. A limited edition hard back version is available to AMOC members. Paperback editions are available to the public through Connoisseur Carbooks. Both cost £5.50.

* * *

“Historical Transport”, the annual Transport Trust’s magazine-size guide to transport museums, steam and other small railways, cars, aeroplane and railway collections, etc., divided into counties, is available for £1 from newsagents. It is published by the “The World’s Fair”, Oldham, 0LI 1DY.

* * *

Those who fancy themselves as motor racing artists will find a few sketches of drivers like Nuvolari, Phil Hill, Graham Hill, Fangio, etc., and their cars, together with some rather lurid text, in “Champions At Speed” by Richard Corson (Dodd Mead, 79, Madison Avenue, New York. 5.95 dollars). – W. B.