Austin Seven Specials by L. M. (Bill) Williams. 160 pp. 81 in. by 5 in. (G. T. Foulis Ltd.. 7, Milford Lane, Strand, London, W.C.2. 21s.).
This is an excellent book, of value and absorbing interest to all lovers of the pre-war Austin Seven and particularly to those who crave extra performance from these famous and long-lived little cars. One wonders whether it has not come rather late in the day, however, because interest in the fascinating subject of tuning the Austin Seven probably reached its peak about ten years ago and has since tended to decline, as Ford Ten specials and other more potent approaches to the amateur-built special take their place. However, lots of young and not-so-young enthusiasts still modify the humble Austin Seven, aided today by commercially-available glass fibre bodies, for the problem in the old days was not so much pepping up the engine as making a body for it when the desired performance and controllability had been achieved.
For such enthusiasts Bill Williams’ book is going to prove indispensable. Williams has been tuning and improving Austin Sevens since time immemorial and no one was better fitted to write this book. Before the war Motor Sport’s present Editor obtained some Austin Seven tuning notes from Bill Williams and one of the most popular articles we have ever published was that on the Austin Seven Special by Holland Birkett in the issue of May 1950, long since out of print. Indeed, much that was in this erudite article re-appears in Williams’ book.
Consequently, we predict a very ready welcome for “Austin Seven Specials” with its detailed and comprehensive data on all aspects of the standard Seven down the years and how to convert it into a better motor car.
The author points out that pre-1931 models are not much use to the special builder, so his book does not cover the vintage Austin Sevens in detail, although worthwhile data on all models from 1923 to 1939 are included.
The opening chapter is titled ” Austin Seven Engines” but deals also with chassis modifications to the production models down the years. The subtle differences between the “Gordon England Brooklands,” blown and unblown “Ulster,” “Nippy,” and “Speedy” sports engines are especially well described. Chapter 2 very sensibly deals with overhauling the engine, because there is no point in tuning or “hotting-up” a worn-out power unit. This chapter will be useful to persons wishing merely to overhaul “Chummy” and saloon Austin Sevens, as distinct from tuning these cars into sports specials. This and subsequent chapters are adequately illustrated, but the drawings showing correct and incorrect steering-arm angles appear to have got transposed.
The chapters on tuning are very comprehensive and overhauling back axle, brakes, wheels, steering, etc., is not overlooked. Even the electrical system is covered and the subject of making a sports car body gets a chapter to itself. We at Motor Sport get so many enquiries about how to register a home-built special and what is the purchase-tax position that we are pleased to find this cleared up at the end of this book. Engine/road speed charts are also included.
Reading this book made the grey hairs of this reviewer recede, as he recalled the heyday of the Austin Seven special! Williams’ book should produce a fresh crop of such vehicles and perhaps some hotter-than-standard “Chummys” and saloons.
L. M. Williams, of course, ran a business selling special parts for Austin Sevens before he retired, but although he mentions many other sources of supply in his book, unless it has escaped these eagle eyes he never once refers to his own firm. Indeed, the author makes no attempt to publicise himself, although we recall that he was in at the beginning of the 750 M.C. when this reviewer, having “invented” the club, wanted to use the title eventually adopted, as having a sort of amusing “night club” twang, he had a stormy session with L. M. W. who thought “Austin Seven Club” would suffice…
We would not attempt to challenge any of this expert’s statements but one or more interesting general points arise. We are glad to see that the existence of the early 4.4 to 1 Austin Seven back axle is confirmed, because many authorities deny its existence. Mr. Williams states that the now rare or completely obsolete “Brooklands” model Austin Seven had a side-draught Solex carbaretter — this is quite true but the original versions had two down-draught Zenith carburetters. He quotes the speed which Gordon England guaranteed as 70 m.p.h., but these cars were offered with a Brooklands’ certificate for 75 m.p.h. One 1924 owner claimed 80-83 m.p.h. stripped, 70 in road trim and about 30 m.p.g. The year of production is given as 1926 but the first of these well streamlined cars appeared in 1924. The author also says they had standard exhaust manifolds, but surely an enlarged manifold was used ?
The book only professes to deal with production models in standard form and tuning of same, so the early works racing cars are ignored and the twin-cam racer is merely mentioned in passing — past articles by the Editor of Motor Sport cover these pretty effectively, however. Where there is an omission is in respect of the 1924/25 sports model, which was made at Longbridge. It was really only a “Chummy” with flared wings and little pointed tail replacing the back seats but almost everyone seems to have forgotten it, so it would have been nice if it had been included in the table of production Austin Sevens of 1923-1939. Incidentally, it is nice to see Mr. Williams calling the tourer Austin Seven a “Chummy,” as we do ourselves, but is it a four-seater–surely two-/three-seater is more accurate ? And the “Open Road” model has been omitted from this table. The tabulated specifications of 1923-39 models is exceedingly welcome and perhaps it is splitting hairs to remark that the claimed power output of the first models was 10.5 and not 13 b.h.p. A publisher’s error concerns the indexing of Appendix 3, which is the aforesaid table of production models and does not deal with “Some Austin Seven Specials” as the. list of contents implies.
The illustrations, 88 in all, include many seen previously, some pictures of Williams’ own Cambridge Specials which recall the carefree Dancers’ End and other sprint events of the nineteen-thirties, other Austin Seven specials and Williams’ ambitious LMW Special gran turismo coupé which few would guess to be built front humble Seven components. The photographs of different versions of the same component, such as crankshafts, pistons, valves, etc., is a particularly inspired touch.
Altogether, as good a book as you could wish to find on a specialised subject. — W. B.
Motor Car Electrical Systems by Robert Newman, M.Inst. B.E. 318 pp., 8-11/16 in by 5-3/8 in. (G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 7, Mlford Lane, Strand, London, W.C..2. 30s.)
This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand both the theory and practical repair aspects of motor car electrics. Robert Newman is a Squadron-Leader Engineer in the R.A.F. and has apparently gleaned much practical information by completely re-wiring many of his own vintage and thoroughbred cars. His book covers all aspects of the subject — dynamos, cut-outs, voltage regulators, batteries, starters, ignition systems, lighting equipment and wiring systems being dealt with in separate chapters. Miscellaneous equipment found on today’s cars is also covered and re-wiring processes given special attention.
The book contains a great many clear illustrations and is strongly recommended for those who want to save money by knowing how to do electrical repairs themselves. — W.B.
Particularly topical in view of the disgraceful disaster which has befallen the Preston Motorway is a booklet “Stitch in Time” dealing with Government grants for road maintenance. From this eye-opening book we find that in spite of the enormous increase in the volume of traffic on our roads Government grants for road maintenance have never exceeded the 1939 value, except in 1957-58. There were small increases from 1950-51 to 1957-58 but in 1958-59 there was a reduction. Every motorist taxpayer should study this book, available free of charge from the British Road Federation Ltd., 26, Manchester Square, London, W.1 (Welbeck 0221) on mentioning Motor Sport.
Ian Allan have issued another edition of their 2s.6d. illustrated reference works, “British Cars” by John Dudley.
Trico-Folberth, Ltd., Great West Road. Brentford, Middlesex (Ealing 6963) will supply free a useful Continental Driving Guide, for attachment to a car’s sun visor, which gives conversion tables, petrol prices, radio station locations and a currency converter in slide-rule form covering eight Continental currencies, if you quote Motor Sport.