Book reviews, March 1977, March 1977
“Royal Daimlers” by Brian E. Smith. 455 pp. 9 1/2 in. X 7in. (Transport Bookman Publications Ltd., Syon Pork, Brentford, Middlesex. £10.00.)
This is an important addition to one-make histories and a significant and unique book in its own right, because the author, who is President and Historian of the Daimler & Lanchester OC, was graciously granted permission by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to consult the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle and at The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace Mews when compiling material for his book. He also had much help from members of the Royal Household in London and at Balmoral and Sandringham, and HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, also graciously assisted. Thus, rnuch new material and accurate reporting make .Royal Daimlers” an outstanding contribution to motoring history. Incidentally, the author is a Solicitor and Notary Public by profession, and the owner of some fine Daimler motor-carriages by inclination. His ability to sift ancient and important documents and his enthusiasm for his chosen subject were thus assured before he embarked on his weighty task.
Having made the best possible use of this unprecedented opportunity, it would have been a disaster if “Royal Daimlers” had emerged in inferior print and picture. Fortunately, the publisher has made an excellent job of producing this big volume, with its great wealth of quietly-presented illustrations, reproductions of many historic documents, and its colour dustjacket. Indeed, there is just an appropriate trace of dignified remoteness about it all, befitting to a work of this’ nature.
“Royal Daimlers” stay not appeal to all our readers, dealing as it does almost entirely with landaulette, limousine, and saloon-bodied cars, in which the last requirement was speed and performance as we know it. Yet the subject itself will be fascinating enough to draw, I feel, many of those who think only in terms of sports-cars, and the book should appeal especially to the older generation, who toll discover so much British history therein reflected and find in the very generous quantity of illustrations and well-balanced, earnestly written text a joyous tribute to our Royal Family and its great heritage. Moreover, because HRH the Prince of Wales had Ins first taste of what the motor car could do before the turn of the century, with three Royal Daimlers being delivered in the year 1900, and because Brian Smith has been able, from the Royal Archives, to correct false impressions and put right errors that have existed for so long in connection with the obviously-popular subject of how Royalty was introduced to the horseless-carriage, his book must be of vital interest to all rnotoring historians.
It has been reported that King Edward VII Proclaimed that he proposed to make his country motor-conscious and cause every gentleman in the land to take the motor to heart. So, from the start, there was a close association between Royalty and motoring and “Royal Daimlers” records it all. Some may find the intimate descriptions of an endless succession of stately Daimler limousines and shooting-brakes, etc., tedious. But for those who aim it is all there—listed specifications, details of colour and fittings even complaints made by the Royal customers down the years to the chassis-maker and the coachbuilders, about faults; faults that had presumably tube rectified quickly and entirely free-of-charge! In fact, even the prices paid by Royalty for their special kind of motoring have not been shirked by this industrious author. The Daimlers used on The Royal Tours Overseas are naturally fully dealt with.
The book abounds in dignified chapter headings, learned footnotes, and is complete with an Appendix listing 106 Daimlers built for British Kings and Queens, from March 1900 to 1970, a long bibliography, and an index. Other makes besides Daimler are mentioned where appropriate and while a little of what appeared in an earlier Book On Royal motoring that was published in 1962 is naturally repeated, “Royal Daimlers” is complete in every detail, and the finest possible coverage of its subject. With Brian Smith’s other book about Daimler cars (“The Daimler Tradition”, 1972) this illustrious make, which seems to me to have had almost as much prestige and serviceability as the Rolls-Royce, is admirably recorded. I found the instructions to Royal chauffeurs and their conditions of employment, the legal aspects of Royal motoring, the personal preferences expressed by the users of these great. silent Royal Daimler carriages, reports of incidents, and the many other such details that Mr. Smith has worked into his unique book, quite fascinating. There is an interesting picture on almost every page, and some arc quite ‘toteU few being lent by the Royal Archives, with the Queen’s permission. and when it is realised that the span of this history runs from 1896, through two World Wars, to the present day, the scope of the book is apparent. I was intrigued to find that in later years Royalty did not scorn ordinary production-type Daimler Conquest and Century saloons for Household use and that King George VI had a 1950 Special Sports DB18 Hooper d.h. coupe in 1950. I was disappointed not to meet the pre-1914 Napier shooting-brake alleged to have been used at Sandringham by the King until it became the chassis of Sir Alastair Miller’s Brooldands Viper racing-car if the legend is true) and I had hoped for more detail relating to the accident which befell HM Queen Mary when her Daimler was hit by a lorry anti overturned in Wimbledon in 1939. although her riwn picture is included of the damaged car being retrieved. (Thanks to a reader, I seem to have more information about this unfortunate incident than the author and cannot resist placing it before you—see page 259.)
But I must add that the cost of repairing other damaged Royal cars, the prices paid for new Royal Daimlers. the part Sir Malcolm Campbell tried to play in providing the King with armoured cars during World Was II (of the wrong make), and many other intriguing details are set out in this irresistible book. The author even has a very well-written chapter devoted to why the Daimler eventually slipped from Royal favour (with Rolls-Royces substituted) and he concludes with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s collection of Royal cars and the whereabouts of others. Nothing quite like this book can ever happen again. To those who hold British Royalty in esteem it will he a most welcome link between the regal past and the stormy present.—W.B.
“Aircraft of the Royal Air Force since 1918” by Owen Thetford. 640 pp. 8 3/4 in. X 5 1/2 in. (Putnam & Co. Ltd., 9, Bow Street, London, WC2E 7AL 58.50.)
I have reviewed every one of Putnam’s excellent aviation histories that I have seen, because I regard them as admirable reference works, which every public library should stock. Putnam’s have now begun to revise many of their well-established titles. This book is one of these revisions, now in its sixth edition. I am delighted to see that the former high-grade glossy art-paper is retained, to give the best reading that Monotype Baskerville type can provide. The book runs from the Airspeed Oxford to the Westland/Aerospadale Sea King helicopter, with a long Appendix covering further RAF types, and it has been updated to include new types, from the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, etc., to missiles such as Hawker Siddeley’s Dynamic’s XJ 521, etc. A feast of data, photographs, and three-view drawings, this is a very valuable record of all the aeroplanes used by the Royal Air Force since its formation on April 1st, 1918. They are arranged alphabetically and there is an Appendix covering those civil aeroplanes impressed for RAF military service during 1939-1945. The scope of this splendid book is emphasised by the 61 pages which the Index occupies.
Having written that, I would like to add a rider to the effect that I am pleased to see these Putnam’s Aviation Books appearing again, and I hope soon to be reviewing Harald Penrose’s final volume of his scholarly four-volume history, “British Aviation”. And I would sity that the value of such works as Putnam’s “British Civil Aircraft” was brought home soot again the other day when, having at last got hold of a copy of that rare and out-of-print but so-readable “Airymouse” (Penrose’s account of his return to flying with a twin-cylinder biplane, later rejuvenated by fitting a pre-war 55 h.p. Lycoming engine), I wanted to ascertain, from its identification letters, the make of this obviously-delightful light aeroplane. Taking down the appropriate volume of “British Civil Aircraft”, with its 540 photographs, it was the task of a moment to discover that Penrose had enjoyed the skies, and watching bird-flight, from his Currie-Wot, built in 1958. So I am delighted that Putnam’s are up-dating these invaluable volumes—and will someone now please re-issue “Airymouse” (Vernon & Yates, 1967) and Penrose’s equally-delightful “No Echo in the Sky” ?
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Putnam’s (see above) have issued “United States Navy Aircraft since 1911” by Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers in a second edition, up-dated, copiously illustrated, and including gliders and airships. This beautifully-produced 546-page book costs 410.50.
“Viva Alfa Romeo” by David Owen. 271 pp. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset. £7.95.)
I would have thought that with so many good histories of Alfa Romeo already published, led by Peter Hull’s standard work, there would be no-one likely to write or publish another. But David Owen has done this, perhaps encouraged by the excellent supply of hand-out pictures available from Alfa Romeo in Milan. This lengthy book, in small print, inevitably covers well-documented history basis has the merit of devoting considerable space to the later Alfa Romeo models, and it concludes with a table of model-specifications running from 1910 to 1976. Incidentally, there is a new picture or one of those clockwork P2 Alfa Romeos that we have been discussing recently and Owen reminds me that these were made by the Excelsior Shock-Absorber Company; I see that he claims they are now worth £300.
“Turbocharging and Supercharging for Maximum Power and Torque” by L. J. K. Setright. 127 pp. 9 1/4 in. x 7 in. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil), Somerset. £3.95.)
The prolific Setright has turned his attention to two subjects here, one out-moded, the other topical. Supercharging for production cars and most racing engines is dcad, but there was a time when Mercedes-Benz, Austin, Lea-Francis, Alvis, Stutz, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and others listed catalogue blown models, and when superchargers such as the Berk, Comm, Powerplus, Zoller, Marshall and Arnott, etc. were popular in the land. Turbocharging is another, current, matter. The well-established technical author deals with both, in a useful survey; but most of his historic illustrations arc from well-used archives, largely Mercedes-Benz. There is a photograph new to me, of the 1924 GP Fiat, which was a failure with a Wittig compressor but successful with a Roots supercharger. Setright calls this Fiat engine “the most influential in the entire history of motor racing”, which may well cause controversy— its twin-cam head enabling supercharger pressures to be best exploited is owed to Peugeot and Miller, for example. This is a useful book for the student, with an ample supply of diagrams and graphs—but I do not see how a conventional air-cleaner will stop the screw detached from a carburetter-butterfly being sucked into an engine, and wrecking the supercharger.—W.B.
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Complementary to the book reviewed above is a big soft-cover discourse by Fred Pubs on “How To Make Your Can Handle”, in other words how to meet increased performance endowed by a tuned, supercharged, or turbocharged engine, with safe road-clinging. This comes from H. P. Books, Box 5367, Tuscon, Arizona 85703, for 4.95 dollars, plus 50 cents postage.
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The Haynes Publishing Group, address above, have a series of manuals about tuning and sees-icing different makes of carburetters. The first issues cover the Stromberg CD and the SD, to 1976, and each costs £1.95.
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If any follower of modern competition events has been so short-sighted as nests obtain the celebrated “FIA Year Book of Automobile Sport-1977”, this comprehensive and essential 760-page “yellow book” is available from Patrick Stephens Ltd., Bar Hill. Cambridge, for £5.95, for which you get not only all the data you can possibly require but 193 photographs and 200 drawings.
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Page & May, 136-138, London Road, Leicester, LE2 1EN, have issued their annual “Brochure of International Motor Tours, 1977” which contains a wealth of detail, not only about their motor race tours ranging from the £25 trip to Lc Mans and £58 visit to Monaco to the £545 Japan/Hong Kong Tour, but plenty about the circuits, cars and drivers as well. It is available free, on mention of Motor Sport.