Early days on the road

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“Early Days On The Road” by Lord Montagu and G. N. Georgano. 220 pp. 10 3/4 in. 8 1/4 in. (Michael Joseph Ltd., 52, Bedford Square, London, WC 1B 3.E.F. £7.50.)

Usually the arrival for review of yet another pictorial motoring history gives rise to feelings of “Not again” . . . and some are so trite, expensive, or both these things, that I do not review them. Very different is this book based on negatives from the National Motor Museum photographic archives. Because these are contemporary, not modern, pictures, very few of which I can recall having seen before in this context, they are extremely fascinating, all 400 of them, and the colour reproductions that precede them are also very well chosen. Then there is the further point that this hook is intended to be informative to those seeking an introduction to road scenes as they were from 1819 (for non-mechanical bicycles, tricycles and quadricycles are included) up to the outbreak of the Second World War. To this end there is an informative and accurate text, contributed by Nick Georgano and other specialist writers, and the book is divided into chapters covering passenger cars, all manner of commercial vehicles, with sub-divided sections about lorries of all types, traction engines, steam waggons, fire-engines, municipal vehicles; taxicabs, ‘buses and trolley-buses, charabancs and coaches, etc.. motorcycles and tricars, and the aforementioned pedal machines. The result is a useful work. although I confess I liked it for its “browsing” quality and was greedy in wanting even more pictures. What there are, however. are clearly reproduced and captioned and of great interest.

There are very early horseless-carriages, glimpses of competition events (but only two shots taken at Brooklands), many American automobiles, fascinating street. town, and garage period-pictures, and cars rare as well as popular, including a 4-litre Beardmore Thirty that I mistook for an Excelsior.

The whole of this book is great fun, to he looked at again and again, and is thus good value. Only one Sentinel steam waggon is from a modern rally, the colour reproductions of old advertisements arc very good stuff, and my only criticism is that the one 3-litre Bentley is hardly representative, having been somewhat modernised and tatted up, although probably before the war. As I have said, the supporting text is well worthy of the illustrations. The Introduction is a brief survey of private-car evolution down the years, although its brevity has caused mention of the first stirrings of independent front suspension to be omitted. other chapters have similar introductions, from Which fresh facts emerge. as diverse as the arrival of sleeper coaches in Britain to the employment, particularly in America, of electric commercial-vehicles. Some rare makes are expanded upon. the text often enhances the interest in the pictures by giving locations and dates when these were taken (for instance, of the only, car-at-Brooklands illustration, we are told that it is of A. C. Fairclough with his 1931 Chummy Austin Seven which he ran in a Novices’ Handicap at an Inter-Club Meeting—wisely he has removed the screen but retained a folded hood), and all through the hook there are interesting facets of history and information.

There is a 40/50 Rolls-Royce Springfield chassis with 4.v wheels to gaze on, if your tastes lie that way, with a companion picture, as it were, of a six-wheeler Model-T Ford truck, splendid “shots” of family motorcycle combinations, contrasting with far more sporting (even racing) motorcycles, a 1920 six-ton White truck moving a house in 1947. pictures of a Fiat 501 taxi on a cab-rank with its driver using a convenient ‘phone, of a Fiat 509 in use as a combined car and commercial, of that straight-eight Panhard-Levassor used in the East End of London as a laundry-van (the chassis still exists and was mentioned in Motor Sport some time back), of a Bedford 30 cwt. mobile-shop, of a Model-AA Ford six-wheeler transporting new Model-A Fords, of a 100-ton Scammell artic. of Pickford’s, moving a heavy load through St. Albans in 1951, of a Waukesha-engined Doane low-platform truck, one of eleven still in Use in the USA as late as 1953 (so these pictures are both contemporary and up-to-date, so to speak. and, among the cars, masses of pictures just as unusual and interesting—to take one, at random, a 1939 I 1/2-litre Riley, with touches of Rover and Wolseley about it, is seen taking part in a Brighton concours d’Elegance. Impossible to list them all, but see for yourselves. Recommended—W.B.

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