Book Reviews., March 1955, March 1955

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64

“The Kings of the Road,” by Ken W. Purdy. 216 pp. 5 1/2 in. by 8 1/2 in. (Hutchinson and Co., Ltd., Hutchinson House, Stratford Place, London, W.1. 15s.)

This book, well known in the U.S.A., has now come to this country. It is a study by Ken Purdy, Bugatti enthusiast and keen motor-minded Editor of the American monthly True, of all the more worthwhile motor cars and their reason for existence. Indeed, in Purdy’s own words, “those fabulous cars that have been conceived not as sources of commercial profit or mere means of transport but as instruments of pure sensuous pleasure . . .”
The chapter titles largely describe the contents. Thus we have “The Fabulous Bugatti”, “Of Ghosts and Wraiths,” “The Mighty Mercer,” “The Flying Mantuan” (Nuvolari), “The Big White Cars” (Mercedes-Benz), “With Body by Zagato ” (Alfa-Romeo), “Pull Instead of Push” (Cord, mainly), “The Hallowed Bricks of Indianapolis,” “The Green at Le Mans,” “D for Duesenberg,” “Hisso and Isotta, Isotta and Hisso,” “The M.G. and How it Grew,” “The Odd Ones,” “The Vanderbilt Cup,” “Why Not Steam ? ” and “Who Invented the Thing, Anyway ? ” Backed up by such controversial Purdyisms as “What We Have Lost,” praising the old automobiles, “Is It Safer than the Horse ? ” and “What Hope for the Future ? ” The Kings of the Road is a beautifully produced book in spite of its modest price by today’s levels. It comes to you in a jolly coloured dust-jacket depicting a Jaguar XK120 fixed-head coupe on the front, Birkin’s famous Brooklands blower-4 1/2 Bentley single. seater and a Le Mans Duesenberg on the back, and Mercedes-Benz, Bugatti and TF M.G. Midget converging onto the spine.

The interior photographic illustrations are generally excellent. with pictures of racing drivers as well as of cars, Nuvolari’s portrait forming the frontispiece. Nevertheless, manufacturers’ hand-outs have crept in here, as elsewhere. The back-fold of dust-jacket depicts a selection of car and car-club badge reproductions. The text is lively and informative, using quotations from appropriate magazines and books in places, but it suffers, as so many recent motoring books have suffered, from inevitably repeating technical and historical data which have appeared elsewhere rather recently, especially in the periodical motoring press of the last decade. This criticism is only just if the book is read by a knowledgeable enthusiast, and even he may not object to having previously assimilated facts re-presented between two covers, nicely printed.

The Editor of Motor Sport has been responsible for revising the text of “The Kings of the Road “for publication by Hutchinsons in this country, correcting a few dubious technical statements and translating Purdy’s excellent book from American into English. Two chapters in the book are reprinted from Atlantic Monthly and six from True.