Veteran to Classic

Having, if I may say so, rather a fine collection of sparking plugs, including an igniter from Concorde, I was very interested in the latest book in the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust’s series of publications The Vital Spark! by Keith Gough, who joined KLG in 1950, and became Lodge’s Chief Engineer in 1962, retiring in 1982. His little book is about the development of aero-engine plugs but will be of considerable interest and value to those with motor-car plug problems. The historical section runs from the plug devised by the Wrights to achieve the first powered flight, and illustrates Lenoir’s first sparking plug of 1880.

I found the description of how KLG plugs were made, for use at first by K Lee Guinness in racing cars, and the fact that the pre-1914 low-tension ignition system was reintroduced recently for high-altitude flying, very intriguing, as, indeed, is all the material in this 57-page booklet. It opens by reminding us of the very severe conditions under which plugs operate — at up to 2000deg C and 1000lb/sq in pressure and shows how they have been made to cope with these and other extreme conditions. Good pictures and diagrams are used, including photographs of Lee Guinness on the steps of his original Kingston Hill factory with his eight employees, this factory in the early 1930s with its initials on the roof flanked by arrows showing pilots the way to Croydon and Heston but not to Brooklands; and of masses of different plugs. I recommend this book to all historians and to those who show concern for their cars. It is No2 in the R-R Heritage Technical Series and non-members can obtain it for a modest £2.50, from Richard Hough, Rolls-Royce PLC, PO Box 31, Derby, DE2 8BJ. WB