Book Reviews, March 1964, March 1964
“Auto-Universum: 1964.” 244 pp. 12 7/8 in. x. 9 1/4 in. (Arthur Barker, 20, New Bond Street, London, W.1. 52s. 6d.)
This, the 7th edition of an annual formerly called “AutoReview,” produced by Arthur Logoz, might be termed the poor man’s “Automobile Year,” were not both these annuals of approximately the same price. “Auto-Universum” sets out to review the World’s automobiles in picture and tabulated specification. The majority of the illustrations, virtually one for each make and model of almost every private car that matters, are reproductions of colour photographs, although some of the lesser makes have to be content with black-and-white pictures and the Wartburg and Trabant models are shown as colour drawings. An artist also depicts the Mercurys and some Dodge models.
Naturally, the pictures consist mainly of manufacturers’ handouts, as otherwise the cost would be prohibitive. Therefore, the illustrations will be of interest to professional photographers and publicity consultants, as well as being a nice way of presenting the World’s cars. It is interesting that cars now seem n to have to be driven on the seashore or close to static water or down in the woods, to attract attention. In a great many Cases joyful men and women are depicted with the cars, the motor car clearly assisting the theme of happy domestic existance or exciting love affairs, depending on the ages of the human models available to the photographers of the latest automobile models. It is noticeable that Rootes and Ford seem to be able to find particularly attractive model girls, but the only ones who have taken off their clothes and put on swimsuits are employed by Studebaker and apparently you need an Avanti to woo them.
It is in this spirit that “Auto-Universum” should be regarded – a very pleasant browsing book rather than an essential work of reference. Its specification tables are mediocre compared to the data available in the new “World Car Catalogue,” and bore and stroke and engine capacity are given in inch measurements. True, there is also a World specification table with metric data, and the usual miscellaneous road-test reports on the more exciting new cars are included. There is also a beautifully-illustrated article on Henry Ford and the History of the Ford Motor Co., including details and aerial colour photographs of Ford’s River Rouge (Dearborn), Cologne and Dagenham plants, and details of futuristic Ford emanating from Dearborn’s styling laboratory. Racing, rallies and the 1963 GT Championship receive superficial coverage and P. C. Vincent contributes an article on modern piston, rotary and gas-turbine engines.
In its new form, with larger pages, and those innumerable colour illustrations, that the Swiss do so well, “Auto-Universum” is a worthwhile prestige addition to the bookshelves of those who do not have to budget themselves when purchasing their automotive literature. The quality of the art paper and of the colour reproductions is outstanding – “Automobile Year” will have to watch out! – W. B.
G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., have added “Motoring on Scottish Byways” by Christopher Trent to their series of touring books. It costs 25s.
CARS IN BOOKS
What a remarkable coincidence! Having, last month, recounted how I took down by chance a non-motoring book and, flicking the pages, came upon a picture of a Coupé des Voiturettes Lion-Peugeot, the very next book I picked up also contained photographs of a rare racing car.
It was “Adventures on the Western Front” by A. Rawlinson, C.M.G., C.B.E., D.S.O. (Andrew Melrose, 1925), who was a Lt.-Col., R.G.A. and a Comdr., R,N.V.R. during the First World War. The book describes, very graphically and excitingly, Col. Rawlinson’s experiences between August 1914 and June 1915 as a member of the exclusive R.A.C. Volunteer Owner-Drivers corps.. The car used was none other than a special Hudson which Col. Rawlinson had entered for the 1914 T.T. It failed to start due to an accident in practice but was in perfect condition and ideal for the strenuous tasks that lay ahead of it on the Western Front. I knew that a Hudson was entered for this T.T. race but do not recall ever having seen a picture of it – and here, facing page 6 of this non-motoring book, was a fine study of it, bearing racing no.10, stripped for practice, with two spare tyres behind its bolster tank.
Several other pictures of the car are in the book, including one of the T.T. Hudson as it appeared when Col. Rawlinson brought it to London for a short leave late in 1914, complete with mudguards, acetylene lamps, bullet-holes, the machine gun (brought from Le Personne & Co. of Cannon Street) with which it fought several actions and brought in prisoners, curly bulb-horn, damaged step, tattered Union Jack and a German helmet mounted on each front mudguard – a rare picture indeed!
The book opens with a fascinating account of how Col. Rawlinson drove the Hudson from near Birmingham to London and later to Southampton, via Basingstoke and Winchester, to enrol as a member of the R.A.C. Volunteer O.D. corps, and embark for France. The author, then 47 years of age; had been accepted because of his association with “a well-known British motor manufacturing company whose principal factory was, situated on the outskirts of Paris”. . ” that had specialised for years in the production of racing motor-cars, and had taken a prominent part in all the great road-races which had been held in all parts of the World,” and his duties in this connection had given Col. Rawlinson an intimate knowledge of the highways and by-roads extending from the Forest of the Ardennes to the sea and from Paris to Antwerp. The factory isn’t named, but was obviously Darracq.
The Hudson was tested by the War Office and found entirely acceptable and Rawlinson recounts how it was allowed to exceed the speed limit, on the way to Southampton, protected by its official status. He describes it as “of a strength to defy any kind of rough usage,” the light racing parts having been changed for heavy ones.” At the same time, it was still capable of a speed upwards of 80 m.p.h. on any decent road.” In 1914, even loaded with spares and four extra wheels, this grey racing Hudson was regarded as a small car.
It certainly served quite astonishingly well in the arduous months of the war. With 25 other volunteer owner-drivers (the only cars named are Rolls-Royces) it was immediately driven to Amiens to report to the G.O.C. of the British Lines Of Communication. A dangerous unofficial race took place front Neufchatel to Poix, but Rawlinson soon put a stop to that and the column proceeded at a more moderate speed to Amiens. Six of the cars were immediately told to go on to Le Cateau, another 200 km. away. This initial 312-mile journey took about 15 hours inclusive of all stops, under war conditions in a strange country.
To attempt to describe the usage the I.o.M. T.T. Hudson had thereafter is impossible, but the mileage it covered under conditions of extreme hazard appears to have been prodigious. I have tried to make a very rough estimate, although without time to consult maps, and the very lowest figure for the 10 months exceeds 6,000 miles. It could well have been considerably more. Even when he returned to England on leave, Col. Rawlinson drove the car fast from Folkestone to London, up to Northampton, then to Salisbury Plain to take part in aeroplane “spotting” exercises. Apart from damage caused by having to leave the road hastily to avoid a tank advance or blown bridges, the only troubles mentioned are loss of a front wheel at speed coming into a village 10 miles from Ostend, and a broken water pipe.
Rawlinson thought nothing of making out-and-home journeys of up to 600 miles at racing speeds to obtain information about troop movements; there was no weather protection on the Hudson and he frequently had to sleep all night in its bucket seat. No wonder he was laid up for a week with pleurisy! I doubt if many present-day vintage-car exponents appreciate the hardships of early motoring, in peace as well as in war.
Apart from mention of various Rolls-Royces, another car named is a little Mathis (then German) commandeered by a British dispatch rider in the Forest of Mormal and sold by him in Guise, probably for the £350 Rawlinson estimated it was worth.
There is a story of the Hudson having an inadvertent duel with a Rolls-Royce limousine doing “quite 60 m.p.h.” on the road from Compiegne to Dammartin where it runs between the River Oise and the Forest of Compiegne, the Hudson forcing its way past at a good 70 m.p.h., only to find that the other car was occupied by the C.-in-C., Sir John French. It is also recounted how the Prince of Wales in a huge Daimler gave Marshal Joffre’s splendid limousine a hearty bump as the procession moved off after a ceremony at Merville. Joffre’s car is described as driven “by Ballot, the famous racing-driver, whom I knew well. “He, not realising that the Prince of Wales was driving the Daimler, and that he had, in any case, pulled out in front of it, let fire a fine volume of abuse.” The name Ballot is repeated, but could be a misprint for Bablot, as Ballot was an engine manufacturer before the 1914/18 war.
Towards the end of the book there is a fascinating description of how Col. Rawlinson converted ancient French mortars, found in the Versailles arsenal, into efficient weapons with which to combat the German meinenwerfer attacks. During these experiments the Hudson made constant night journeys of well over 250 km. between Paris and Merville, where an old farm had been made into a Mortar battery training unit. When ice was about, the Hudson had the utmost difficulty in getting up the exposed hill between Doullens and St. Pol. Mr. Ribeyrolles, who had been head draughtsman and manager of Darracq in Suresnes, gave valuable help with these mortar experiments and an old foundry was obtained in Nanterre, where, years later, Simcas were made.
The Hudson was still going strong when, in 1915, after the War Office had shown singularly scant appreciation of Col. Rawlinson’s services, he transferred to an R.N.V.R. armoured-car squadron. His later experiences formed the subject of another book, for which, needless to say, I am avidly searching. Meanwhile, I wonder if any readers have read his “Adventures on the Western Front” ? Students of armaments used in the 1914/18 war would do well to seek copies, while Col. Rawlinson’s descriptions of that war are more graphic than anything contained in official histories. The biggest surprise, however, was to find a 1914 racing car featured in its pages. – W. B.
The miniatures news of the month is undoubtedly the introduction, by Playcraft Toys, of their new Corgi “Classics” series. These models of famous cars of the past have been introduced after careful consideration of the problems involved. The aim is to provide historic models of smaller size and less flimsy than those built from plastic kits, yet sufficiently large to enable a remarkable amount of detail to be incorporated.
The Swansea factory of Playcraft has been enlarged to cope with production of the new “Classics,” which are made largely with specialised tools designed and made within the Corgi organisation, with final assembly by female operatives seated at a conveyor belt (not quite in keeping where vintage cars are concerned!). In the case of the first two Corgi “Classics” seven die-cast and six plastic mouldings are involved and drawing-board preparation alone occupied over a year, while tool-making took over 13,000 hours, at a cost of sonic £13,000 in moulds alone.
The first pair of Corgi “Classics” are the 1927 Le Mans’ winning 3-litre Bentley and a 1915 model-T Ford tourer. In his speech introducing this new Playcraft departure to the Press, Mr. Harold Fairbairn, Engineering Director of the Mettoy Co. Ltd., remarked that this choice was fairly easy, because the model-T perpetuates the name of the greatest production engineer of all time, and in the Bentley “we have the first British car to win, in 1927, one of the greatest motor sporting events – Le Mans.” (In saying this Mr. Fairbairn did an injustice to the late John Duff, who, with Clement, won this race in a Bentley in 1924. – ED.) Mr. A. Katz, O.B.E., Managing Director of the Company, added a touch of humour when he said that he understood it took Fords, with all their production capacity, 15 years to turn out 15-million model-Ts; adding “A fantastic figure but one which we at Mettoy are somewhat blasé about; we know that we can do this in a very much shorter time!”
The realism and detail of these exciting new Corgi “Classics” are largely in the hands of George Oliver and, as ever, where such miniatures are concerned, he will face plenty of comment, if not criticism. Is the green of the Bentley the right shade ? Was the model-T radiator quite so thick ? And so on. But there is no denying that these are fine models, of a worthwhile size.
The Le Mans Bentley (No. 900) is 4 in. long and there is such fidelity of detail that even the exhaust pipe is hollow and finished to represent burnished copper. The hood is erect and snaps correctly onto the special racing windscreen, of which the off-side top panel is open, and this realistic hood can be removed if desired. “Wire” wheels, separate ribbed (if rather too small and too wide) brake drums, tool and battery boxes, quick-action filler cap, Klaxon horn, head and sidelamps, outside handbrake lever springs, bonnet strap, slatted rear tank, spare wheel, treaded tyres, stone guards, upholstery and cockpit items add to the realism. There is a removable white overalled driver in white linen helmet (Sammy Davis ? – he was present at the unveiling party. More probably Benjafield, as Davis wore a crash-hat) behind the wheel. Under-chassis details of sump, exhaust system, cross-shaft, tool-box, etc., are included. The price of this fine model is 12s. 6d. In the condition in which it is modelled it is before, the White House crash in the 1927 Le Mans race – or perhaps some people would prefer to regard it as rebuilt after its victory, because as raced the long mudguards were unfianged and the hood was higher – but don’t let that stop you from buying this delightful miniature Bentley. Even the lead ballast across the front of the chassis is there, and it carries the winning race No. 3.
The model-T Ford (No. 901) is equally detailed, even down to tyre valves, minor controls, “button” upholstery, starting handle, and “underneath” items such as prop.-shaft, radius arms to the transverse-suspension, epicyclic gearbox, back axle, lamps, spare wheel, etc., although the two correctly-clad occupants seem quite unconcerned that their Ford has apparently never been registered for the number plates (the back one of brass!) are devoid of digits.
But screen, spare wheel mounting, coil-box, Ford name scroll, etc., are truly realistic and, the finish, naturally, is black, with “brass” radiator shell and lamps. But why no bulb horn ? This “Classic” costs 10s. 6d. and is 3 3/8 in. in length. These new Corgi “Classics” should prove extremely popular, although Lesney, who pioneered this class of historic miniature, albeit in less-expensive, smaller sizes, may raise an eyebrow at them. Half the output is destined for export; so it would be as well to buy yours today. There is a description of each model, by George Oliver, in every box. These models are on sale at all good toy dealers and model shops. It seems a great pity, however, that the same scale cannot be used for all models in this new series; the Bentley is to a scale of 42:1 while the Ford is 40.3:1.
A beautifully detailed plastic replica of one of the World’s, first cars, in the form of Gottlieb Daimler’s 1.1 h.p. carriage of 1886, formerly only available in Germany, is now available in this country from the Mercedes-Benz Gift Shop, Great West Road, Brentford, Middlesex. It is mounted on a stand in a Perspex case and the front-axle pivots about the centre mounting point. The price of this historic replica is £1 2s. 6d. – W.B.