“Lost Causes of Motoring—Europe: Volume 1”, by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, 258 pp. 8½ in. x 5 3/5in. (Cassell and Co. Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1 50s.)
Lord Montagu’s first “Lost Causes” book, which went into a second edition, was one of the most interesting and fascinating motoring books of all time. He has now embarked on the formidable task of compiling similar history relating to the more important defunct makes of European cars. Volume One has now appeared, covering representative German, Austrian, Dutch, Italian and Swiss cars. The chapter headings include the names of the cars dealt with but if I quote them without these readers who have yet to buy the book might have fun deciding to what the sub-titles refer, while being able to appreciate from studying them, just how comprehensive the coverage is. The chapters, then, deal with “The Eagle and the Typewriter”; “The Solid Saxons”; “The Great Independent”; “Too Many Speeds”; “The High Tory from Berlin”; “The Peculiar Pomeranian”; “Stalwarts of the Dual Monarchy”; “The Dustless Dutchman”; “Up the Airy Mountains to Oblivian”; “The Italian Aristocrat”; “Italian Tradition” and “Why Put the Camshaft Upstairs?”
I like particularly “The Peculiar Pomeranian”, which sounds as if Lord Montagu has adopted the mantle of Sherlock Holmes in undertaking the detective work necessary to writing a book of this kind! There is an enormous amount of “meat” in it, especially as cars not imported into this country are dealt with as well as those which found their way to English buyers. It has been said that Britain is blessed with the best technical Press in the World and I think it can be said that we have some of the finest motoring historians to be found anywhere in the World. This is true of the author of the latest “Lost Causes”, which may be of even greater interest abroad than in the country of its origin.
I confess I found it less absorbing than the first of its kind, presumably because it is easier to visualise, for instance, the “Jam Factory” at Maidenhead where odd cars were made than some factory in, say, Gaggenau or Zschopau, more fun to unravel the obscure history of cars remembered, seen and even encountered at today’s V.S.C.C. events than to study the same aspects of makes like N.A.G. Maybach or Stoewer. However, I am sure the contents will grow on me with the passage of time, although naturally the stories of each make are not so intimate as was possible in the book on British lost causes.
It should be appreciated that this is not a book which stops at the end of the vintage era; the makes dealt with are described up to the time of their final demise. The opening chapter on rationalisation versus nationalisation is of much interest and compares favourably with the discourses on National motor industry ramifications as attempted in Nicholson’s vintage-car book. There are extracts from contemporary road-tests, opinions about obscure makes and models by Continental collectors who own them, accounts of such cars in present-day environments, and so on, to carry the book along. I find that the problem of why Itala set up a factory in remote Surrey in 1905/06 is unsolved, so this book is not infallible, but I was interested to learn that the engine in the Spyker which S. F. Edge made a “Double Twelve” record at Brooklands in 1922 was a Maybach, for the contemporary Press says it was a Mercedes. Having seen Borgwards being made since the war I am not sure I quite share Lord Montagu’s enthusiasm for them, and I would have preferred more photographs in this book, whereas much use is made of sketches.
What errors there are can be laid mainly at the doors of the printers and proof-readers, such as Ceirano being rendered as Geirano on one page, the capacity of Cambell’s big Sunbeam being given as just over 18 c.c. instead of 18,322 c.c., and a gentleman who was presumably Humphrey Symons appearing as Humfry Symms. There is some confusion as to whether the London Motor Show was re-opened to German exhibitors in 1926 or 1927 (it was the latter year, although the Austrian-Daimler was at Olympia in 1926), and it is unfortunate that Lord Montagu quoted Capt. A. G. Miller as an exponent of old chain-driven Mercedes chassis powered with aero engines at Brooklands, because Miller was the exception who used a shaft-drive Napier chassis when building his giant hybrid. I would have liked more information about the association of Beardmore and Austro-Daimler after the war and although Sasha racing cars are mentioned, there is nothing about the handsome 3-litre Targa Florio car raced at Brooklands by Clive Dunfee, which I believe went later to Australia.
But make no mistakes, this is a unique work, extremely worthwhile and now one looks forward to Volume Two, which is to deal with representative lost causes from France, Belgium and Spain, which should be even more intriguing.—W. B.
“Bentley—Fifty Years of the Marque”, by Johnnie Green. 295 pp. 9 9/10 in. x 7 2/5 in. (Dalton Watson Ltd., 76, Wardour Street, London, W.1. 105s.)
This is a companion book to “Those Elegant Rolls-Royce” by the same publishing house, a fine pictorial record of Bentley motor cars through the half-century of their existence, compiled by that great expert Johnnie Green.
A beautifully-produced book on skiny paper, a book which smells good, it packs in nearly 600 photographs of Bentleys, from the first 3-litre of the 1919 to the latest T-series cars. Many of these are hitherto unpublished pictures and they take in over 250 vintage Bentleys, more than 200 Derby models and over 100 of the Crewe-built cars. Bentleys in competition, including Eddie Hall’s T.T. cars, and even the “Crewe Cuts” are included, but mainly this is a presentation of the various forms of specially-built coachwork put on Bentley chassis. The lengthy picture captions give much intriguing information about owners, history and bodywork on each car. True, there is no bibliography of coachbuilders as found in the Rolls-Royce companion volume and the author has not contrived to tie chassis numbers to the cars he depicts, there is an index of bodybuilders related to the cars pictured, and otherwise this is every bit as good and necessary a record as the earlier one. Whether it is Bentleys racing at Brooklands and Le Mans or at Silverstone today, specials or fine original coach-work, Bentleys on Show stands, in the works, in Kensington Gardens, at Concours d’Elegance, posing for publicity shots of from catalogue pages, you seek, they are all in this unique book, which is up to date to the extent of including Schellenberg’s Marathon 8-litre.
There is an appreciation by Stanley Sedgwick, President of the Bentley D.C., and a colour frontispiece of W. O. Bentley, from a painting by William Dring, R.A., R.W.S., commissioned by the Bentley D.C. Fascinating!—W. B.
“World Car Catalogue, 1969”, edited by Sergio D’Angelo. 626 pp. 10 7/10 in. x 8 7/10 in. (Iliffe Books Ltd., 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1 70s.)
This is quite the most comprehensive, best produced and most lavishly illustrated annual reference to modern cars available. The 1969 edition follows the format of previous editions reviewed in these columns. Apart from a detailed reference to the technical specifications, dimensions and performance figures of the World’s automobiles, this great directory covers such matters as prototypes and special-bodied cars of last year, car manufacturers with an outline of their history, activities, and structure, and a section devoted to a more detailed appreciation of certain selected cars, with test impressions, this year’s choice for this treatment being the Alfa Romeo GT1300 Junior, the Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina, the Autobianchi Primula 65C, the Auto Union Audi 60L, the B.M.W. 1500, the Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado, the Citroën DS21 Pallas, the DAF 44, the Ferrari 365GT, the Fiat 850 Sport coupé, the Fiat 124, the Fiat 125, the Fiat Dino, the Ford 12M, the Ford Escort GT, the Innocenti Mini Minor Mk.2, the Innocenti IM3S, the Lamborghini Miura S, the Lancia Fulvia Rallye coupé, the Lancia Flavia LX 1.8, the Maserati Berlina, the Maserti Ghibli, the Mercedes-Benz 250, the NSU Ro80, the Opel Olympia, the Opel 1900GT, the Peugeot 204, the Porsche 911S, the Renault 4, the Simca 1100GL, the Simca 1510S, the Vauxhall Viva SL, the VW 1500, the VW 1600TL, the VW 411L and the Volvo 164.
this section is illustrated with line drawings but the main section of the book contains photographic reproductions, many in full colour, of the cars concerned and their outstanding mechanical or structural features. The reference pages are indexed under makes, nationalities, maximum speed and price, and there is a supplement which brings the contents up to date, including, for instance, the Ford Capri, etc. Every firm in the Motor Industry and all motoring writers will require this catalogue. Incidentally, it contains no advertising.—W.B.
“Marathon—Around the World in a Cloud of Dust”, by Nick Brittan. 158 pp. 8 4/5 in. x 5 5/8 in. (Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 62, Doughty Road, London, W.C.1 30s.)
When the London-Sydney Marathon competitors left the Crystal Palace at the start of their long journy, with an enormous and excited crowd milling around them, one of the cars carried an advertisement for a book on the adventure, even naming the title and the publisher.
This book, which Innes Ireland was writing, has been overtaken by Nick Brittan’s account, although in the event Brittan drove his Ford into a DAF truck on an icy road near Tehran, whereas Ireland and his crew in the Mercedes-Benz finished 19th at Bombay, but afterwards retied. Some drive faster than they write, and vice versa.
Brittan’s account is readable, each chapter being divided into route sections, prefaced with distances and scheduled times, and the book concludes with full results of the Marathon, which will be studied by the more intense historians.
Because the book is about the adventures of a husband and wife crew, Jenny Brittan being a co-driver so inexperienced that she took the B.S.M. high-performance course beforehand, it should be of general interest and there is sufficient about other drivers and cars to make it a useful account of the event as a whole, especially as after the accident the author could cover it as a reporter instead of a competitor. The end papers are maps of the 10,000-mile route and there are some quite good pictures. The business background to a contest of this magnitude and how the Brittans trained beforehand round off good coverage.—W. B.
When we picked up a copy of “Games to Play in the Car”, by Michael Harwood (Rapp & Whiting Ltd., 76, New Oxford Street, London W.C.1, 15s), we feared that pornography was afoot again. But all is well—it is a little book of games which may keep kids amused while travelling by car, amusing illustrations by Susan Perl.
* * *
James Leasor has written another thriller. This one is called “They Don’t Make Them Like That Any More” (Heinemann, 25s.), and is about a dubious dealer in the rarer used cars, whose mind runs mainly on money and sex. He drives an S.S.100, so any real-life dealer who advertises such a car is forthwith in danger of having his leg puller or of being associated with Leasor’s sleazy hero. The fiction is interwoven with facts about the sordid tricks of the used-car trade and bits of pukka vintage car-history. Maurice Wiggin, reviewing it for The Sunday Times, wrote that it should sell as many copies as Motor Sport and Playboy combined. Probably! It is an exciting tale involving a Mercedes-Benz 540K and a girl, whose morals are surprisingly never in question but Leasor has stooped to the crudest type of writing in the expectation of increasing his royalties.