Book Reviews, June 1956, June 1956

“From Veteran to Vintage,” by Kent Karslake and Laurence Pomeroy, F.R.S.A., M.S.A.E. 353 pp., 10 in. by 7 1/2 in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London. E.C.1. 42s.)

This long-awaited study of “a history of motoring and motor cars from 1884 to 1914” does not come into the common category of being just another from the sausage machine. It is a work to read carefully, study and treasure. Naturally, it cannot fail to repeat material which has appeared already in other recent books, and we get the accounts of early horseless carriages (including pioneer steam cars and early American vehicles), and of early small cars redolent of Karslake’s other fine book on voiturettes, while the underlying theme clashes to some extent with that of Scott-Moncrieff’s book on veteran and Edwardian motor cars. But each chapter of “From Veteran to Vintage” is compact yet complete.

Beyond this, however, the present volume is more informative, better illustrated and delightfully written, conveying the personalities of its famous co-authors. Laurence Pomeroy sketches the atmosphere of the old motoring days and works into the first part of “From Veteran to Vintage” many delightful anecdotes, notably in his accounts of great designers of that era, his venerable father naturally included.

Kerslake takes the reader historically through the golden years from 1884 to 1914 in characteristically readable style, outlining which cars were of importance and why, and showing that early races and competitions most certainly improved the breed.

Particularly acceptable, Kerslake concludes with personal accounts of 25 veteran and Edwardian cars of which he has had recent experience, ranging from an 1895 4-h.p. Lutzmann to Pomeroy’s 1914 Prince Henry Vauxhall, “the first of the vintage, the last of the veteran cars”. These studies are similar to, although naturally more condensed than, the “Veteran Types” series of articles which Karslake contributed to Motor Sport at fairly regular intervals from 1930 until a year or so ago. They are typical of this writer’s approach to old cars as they exist today, and dispel any possible idea that such vehicles are “old crocks”. Karslake makes it clear that a proper understanding of this fascinating subject is no mean art, and the beauty of the whole of “From Veteran to Vintage” is that pieces of information are found only from careful and complete reading of its every page.

The present reviewer is particularly interested, however, in the third part of the book, because he was responsible for bringing from obscurity at least two of the old cars featured therein, and it was he who took Mr. Kerslake to Yorkshire to try the 1897 4 1/2-h.p. Panhard et Levassor and was present when he drove the 1908 Type de Course de Dion Bouton and 1909 30-h-p. Napier. Mr. Karslake’s descriptions of the characteristics of running, control and performance of these 25 typical veteran and Edwardian cars set the seal to a splendid book on a now-popular subject. Only two things surprise me – that Kerslake does not comment on the strength of the clutch spring of the 1908 G.P. Itala (!) and that apparently Count Eliot Zborowski has been confused in the index with his son, Count Louis Zborowski. An error seems to occur when Kerslake claims for the 1911 5-litre Bugatti “Black Bess” a considerable career at Brooklands, for it ran only at one meeting there, unsuccessfully, in the hands of a little-known driver, although it did have a more successful career in English sprints when driven by Miss Ivy Cummings.

Clearly the co-authors derived a lot of fun from writing this book, just as you will have a lot of fun reading it, but it is also highly informative and full of significant quotations and facts – if  the reviewer had to write out one thousand lines from any book on veteran and Edwardian motor cars, for a misdemeanor such as over-publicising the VW or for telling the truth too openly, this is the book he would choose. It is notably an important addition to old-car bibliography and deserves to become the standard work on the subject. – W.B.

” ‘The Motor’ Year Book, 1956,” by Laurence Pomeroy and Rodney Walkerley. 244 pp., 10 in. by 7 1/2 in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London. E.C.1. 15s.)

This exceedingly useful reference work takes its usual form, the contents covering descriptions of new and modified 1955 British cars, a specification table of all 1955 British cars, articles on British and European automobile developments, a world specification table, road-test commentary and figures, and full coverage of the Sport, including accounts of last year’s Grand Prix cars, last year’s races, results and drivers’ records of 1955, obituaries, and a reprint from The Motor of Paul Frere’s article on driving a Grand Prix car.

This year’s Year Book is dedicated to Rodney Clark as managing director of Connaught Engineering and the contents are enlivened by some of Brockbank’s best cartoons. – W. B.

” ‘Motor Cycling’ Year Book, 1956.” 206 pp., 8 3/4 in. by 5 3/4 in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1. 10s. 6d.)

This is a really complete work of reference, excellent for keeping the motoring enthusiast in touch with what is happening in the two-wheeler (and three-wheeler) sphere. It covers the sport of motorcycling in all its varied aspects, including a review of International racing by Geoff. Duke, O.B.E., and reference to the American scene; it reviews scooters, mo-peds, motor-cycles and sidecars, with tabulated specifications and road-test data; it deals with personalities and circuits, with accessories and forthcoming events; and there is a chapter on what took place in vintage circles last year. Altogether a very good half-guinea’s worth for motor-cyclists and car enthusiasts who wish to keep in touch with motorcycling. – W.B.

“A Fool on Wheels”, by Barbara Toy. 256 pp., 8 3/4 in. by 5 3/4 in. (John Murray, Albemarle Street, London. W.1. 18s.)

Travel books, like motoring books, flood from the publishers. Usually they follow a stereotyped pattern. A personality, either very young, very female, or very unorthodox, probably all three, decides to make a difficult, probably adventurous journey in either a very unusual or else eminently practical vehicle, which invariably necessitates the author making a nuisance of him or herself in endeavouring to obtain visas in half-an-hour which he or she must have known perfectly well would require half-a-week, then to depart on a journey and write a book-length description of it as if the peoples and places passed by and through were a faintly-unreal, inevitably humorous panorama laid on for the especial benefit of the particular pen-pushing traveller concerned.

From this recipe are produced travel books bad, indifferent and good. Barbara Toy’s, while following closely the stereotyped pattern, Isn’t any of these – it is very good.

She makes a journey from Tangier to Baghdad and because she makes it alone and presses-on in sandstorms, trying the four-wheel-drive of her Land-Rover for the first time when stuck in a difficult predicament, this becomes adventure to be admired as well as travel-tale well told. lncidentally, she once again proves the worth of that excellent cross-conntry. general-purpose British vehicle, the Land-Rover, and she won our admiration as early as page 17 by spelling correctly that make of car so troublesome to lay-writers, the Peugeot.

In the opening chapters Miss Toy appears to be too innocently feminine to undertake such a journey but as her story progresses and she visits a brothel in Kasbah and skilfully fends-off the amorous intentions of Frenchmen and others she encounters, the reader feels she will come through unscathed to Baghdad, even though she gives no clue in her absorbing account as to where, when and how she accumulated the necessary driving experience.

Add this book to your library by all means and watch for further true adventure stories by the same author. – W. B.

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Solex, Ltd., has issued a booklet describing in elementary language why an engine runs badly with a worn-out carburetter, and describing the reconditioning service they offer. It is illustrated by four of those priceless Brockbank cartoons featuring the flying horse, boxer’s glove, tiger, Mr. Mercury and other petrol trade mark characters, as well as some more technical illustrations, and is obtainable free from the Solex Works., 223/231, Marylebone Road, London, N.W.1, on reference being made to Motor Sport.

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“This May Happen – To You” is the title of an interesting booklet issued by the M.A.M.A. explaining the consequences of monopolies practised by the big petrol companies. It is of especial interest to owners and managers of filling stations but it also contains much which will make the motorist, who is the chap who buys petrol at the roadside, think hard. Copies are available free of charge from the Motor Accessories Manufacturers’ Association, 67, Grosvenor Street, London, W. 1.

In their noble fight against the tied-petrol-stations which are monopolising petrol, oil, tyre, battery and accessory sales in the U.S.A., the M.A.M.A. is engaged in a clash with Shell-Mex and B.P., and “This May Happen – To You” provides the M.A.M.A. answer, in a dignified and respectful way, to the Shell-Mex and B.P. defence of their policy.

M.A.M.A. now has a membership of 25 important companies, including C.C. Wakefield & Co. Ltd., makers of Castrol oil, three other independent oil refiners, the Avon India Rubber Co. Ltd., and manufacturers of brake linings, electrical equipment, polishes, etc. We wish them well in their bid for freedom for the filling stations to sell what they want where they wish, and motorists can help by patronising “free” (at distinct from “tied”) service stations. (My conscience is clear on this point, because on my office route to and from London I have found an excellent non-tied garage where I can buy Cleveland Discol, Cleveland Benzole Mixture, National Benzoic, Shell or Esso Extra petrol, Castrol, Mobiloil or Shell oil, as the mood moves me, and postage stamps, chocolate, and seeds for the garden as well, if I so desire. I am all for freedom and the exposure of restrictive practices and wish the M.A.M.A. success in their campaign. – Ed.]