BOOK REVIEWS, June 1958, June 1958

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“British Aeroplanes-1914-18,” by J. M. Bruce. 742 pp., 11¼ in. by 8 9/10, in. (Putnam & Co. Ltd., 42, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1. £12 12s.)

This is a really fantastic work, perhaps best described as being to students of aeronautical history what ” The Grand Prix Car ” is to disciples of motor racing. J. M. Bruce covers in painstaking detail the aeroplanes, both famous and obscure, of the 1914-18 period, and apart from the wealth of historical and technical detail included, the author has managed to supplement the text with a splendid collection of pictures which show prototypes and variants of almost all the aeroplanes encompassed in his book.

The subject matter is dealt with alphabetically, from A.D. seaplane to Wight quadraplane, and it is apparent that Mr. Bruce has achieved a high degree of accuracy. It is pleasing to find that while offering all relevant data, he manages to vary his approach so that his descriptions of individual aeroplanes are never tedious. He does not attempt a full description of each but, instead, sets down data relevant to obtaining a proper appreciation of the aims and attainments of each type. Particularly interesting are the notes on modifications incorporated throughout the life-span of the aeroplanes described.

After each description the most comprehensive tabulated data is given, covering general specification, dimensions, armament, Service use, production and allocation, serial numbers, notes on individual machines and even the price of airframe and engines for each aeroplane in the book. When it is emphasised that these statistics include the numbers of each aeroplane delivered and their allocation split-up and the number on charge to the R.A.F. at the end of the First World War, it will be appreciated just how comprehensive and painstaking Mr. Bruce’s research has been. Incidentally, not only military aeroplanes are covered: every known British aeroplane of the period finds its place in this unique book.

Combat reports are quoted where relevant, which enlivens the references to such famous aeroplanes as the S.E.5, Sopwith Pup and Camel, R.E.8, Handley-Page 0/400, Vickers Vimy and Bristol Fighter, etc., etc. We are even told how type names originated, nor does the author omit to include details of unsuccessful airframes and of engines that failed.

Contractors are quoted for each aeroplane, and it is fascinating to see how the Government contracts of the period were allocated and the number of motor-car firms involved. In some cases once-Top-Secret flight test reports are published in full.

In short, this is a fantastically comprehensive work, beautifully printed on art paper, magnificently illustrated and very efficiently indexed. In it Putnam offer an everlasting source of reference to one of the most fascinating and epic eras in British aviation history. ” British Aeroplanes-1914-18 ” should be in every aviation reference library. It is also a valuable export commodity, for there is little doubt but that it will be eagerly sought after in America, where works of this kind are no doubt rare. Altogether a book which justifies the price asked for it.—W. B.

“The History and Development of Light Cars,” by C. F. Caunter. 120 pp., 9¾ in. by 6 in., soft covers. (The Science Museum, South Kensington, London, S.W.7. 8s 6d.)

This is a welcome introduction to the economy car, a subject of very considerable fascination, which other publishers have eschewed. Mr. Caunter has set down a very complete and readable history, from the earliest times to the present day. He takes the student from the advent of the original small cars introduced before 1900, through the tricars and quadricars of 1898-1910, the cyclecars of 1910-18 and the pioneer small cars of 1912-18, down through later light-car developments to the modern minicars and small cars.

In his book Mr. Caunter contrives to refer to a great variety of cars and binds his account with a fascinating thread of development. Unfortunately, in a work of this nature only brief references are possible and occasionally in tracing a line of development an obvious link seems to have been omitted, while sometimes an obscure car is included for no very apparent reason. However, as a broad canvas this is a very adequate picture of bow light cars came into being and evolved. A publication from H.M.S.O, should be 100 per cent. accurate but in this case some errors have crept past the Science Museum readers. Thus the little Bugatti of 1911 is credited with winning the G.P. de France of that year; in fact, it finished second to Hemery’s 10-litre Fiat, although awarded a class prize. The Salmson of 1925 is quoted in conjunction with push-rod o.h.v. engines; it had twin o.h. camshafts. The present-day Berkeley and Unicar are described as Anzani-engined, whereas they now have Excelsior engines. The Fiat 503 is referred to but not its forerunner, the famous 501.

The author has obviously sought to cram in all possible data, even racing successes, so that only a few words are available about each car. Under these circumstances it seems odd to include cars such as the Type 37 Bugatti, straight-eight racing Bugatti, F.W.D. Citroen, M.G. Magnette, Porsche and Ford Consul in a book devoted primarily to economy cars, especially as the Gilette and Waverley £100 are omitted. There is reference to the four-cylinder Hotchkiss engine but none specifically to the V-twin Hotchkiss light-car engine. Because of this cramping the significant and fascinating points of difference between, for instance, the Harper, Gibbons and Adamson cyclecars are omitted entirely. These criticisms apart, this is a useful book for those who like economy cars and are economy-minded.—W. B.

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The National Benzole Company, Ltd., has issued Volume 5 of their series ” Our National Heritage,” those beautifully-illustrated books. The latest deals with Britain’s golden heritage of poetry and contains pictures of scenes associated with our National poets. The price is 7s. 6d. Order from Wellington House, Buckingham Gate, London, S.W. I.

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Graham Scott Ltd., 122, Wardour Street, W.1, have produced ” Scott’s Guide to Kent,” first of an attractive new series of guides to the counties of Great Britain. With map, 24 street plans and much useful information contained in 2,000 recorded facts, these guides are a useful investment for motorists on pleasure or business. They cost 4s. 6d., or 5s. 6d. post free.

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A good motor-racing mystery yarn, suitable for passing on to wife or girl-friend after you have read it, is Douglas Rutherford’s ” A Shriek of Tyres ” (Collins, St. James’ Place, S.W.1; 10s. 6d.). It contains authentic detail, is a good story and you can recognise well-known personalities therein, as, for example ” the diminutive, bearded foreign correspondent of MOTOR SPORT.”

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A useful new book in the Ian Allan ” A.B.C.” series is ” Continental Sports Cars,” by J. Kroonwiel. It illustrates and describes the pick of the world’s—to us, foreign—cars and costs a modest 2s. 6d.

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A pictorial guide to the circuits of Europe is offered by Batsford in ” Motor Racing Circuits of Europe,” by Louis Klemantaski and Michael Frostick. Priced at 21s., it contains a generous selection of some of ” Klem’s ” best and more intimate ” shots,” together with full-page circuit maps and accompanying descriptions of these courses from the pen of Frostiek.

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STIRLING MOSS WANTS AIR-COOLING AND FOUR SPEEDS

Writing of the need for Britain to build miniature cars like the German Goggomobil, Stirling Moss, in the Sunday Express of May 4th, concludes : ” An air-cooled engine at the rear makes the car simpler and cheaper to make; also it won’t freeze up even if you leave it outside all night. I would like to see a four-speed gearbox so that we can keep economy and performance with slightly less power.”

AND SO SAY ALL OF US . . . .

Concluding words in an article on Fangio, by Marshall Smith, in Reader’s Digest : ” What frightens the world’s safest driver more than anything else is encountering that special breed of maniac motorist who can be found the world over, careering round corners and bouncing off the kerbs. He is afraid of meeting one of those drivers who thinks that he is driving like Juan Fangio.”

GRAND PRIX MERCEDES-BENZ AT OULTON PARK

As we close for press we learn that two pre-war G.-P. Mercedes-Benz, a 1937 straight-eight 5.6-litre and a 1939 V12 3-litre, will appear at the Vintage S.C.C. Race Meeting at Oulton Park on June 28th. As these cars are capable of some 200 m.p.h. and the larger develops 485 b.h.p., as they will be handled by the best drivers available, and as these cars were the most exciting in pre-war racing, this should be something no one will want to miss—unless they prefer the ” 500 ” at Monza.