Book reviews, May 1965, May 1965



“Rallying With B.P.”

Edited by Peter Roberts. 128 pp. 9-3/4 in. x 7 in. (Stanley Paul & Co., 178-202, (Gt. Portland Street, London, W.1. 12s. 6d.)

This is a beautifully produced book the purpose of which is to explain what modern rallies are all about and how the B.P. organisation goes about supplying petrol and oil to the competitors. It covers every sort of rally from a treasure hunt to the big International rallies, has chapters about the Carlssons, the manufacturers’ competition departments, some of the drivers – girls as well as men – who are prominent in present-day rallying, touches a little on rally history, with some fascinating photographic studies of old Monte Carlos and Alpines of before the First World War, and tabulates the main 1, 2, 3 results of important rallies of the last decade.

The book will succeed chiefly on account of its excellent illustrations, the low price possible presumably on account of a subsidy, and it should have made a nice Easter present amongst the rallying fraternity. – W. B.


“The Book of Australian Motor Racing”

by W. P. Tuckey. 160 pp. 9-3/4 in. x 7-1/4 in. (The K. G. Murray Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd., 142, Clarence Street, Sydney, Australia. 30s.)

This book tells the story of motoring sport “down under,” from the pioneer trans-continental run and early races to the present day, when crowds of around 50,000 people attend International race meetings in Sydney or Melbourne. The early chapters will interest historians and those who are tracing the career of individual racing cars, because the illustrations – the book is printed on good art paper – not only show the underslung, Essex and Vauxhall cars used on the town-to-town record attempts but such cars as Phil Garlick’s Bugatti, Rugby, 4-cylinder Stutz and others which were raced round the Maroubra banked track. The text gives more information about these cars in a chapter called “The Golden Years” and in another, titled “They Were the Giants – The Third Era,” covers the days when Lago-Talbot, Maserati A655G and 250F, the Maybach, Maserati, Lycoming-engined Sabakat and other fast cars were raced regularly in Australia.

Subsequent chapters tell the story of Australian motoring sport to the present day, with explanations of how the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport governs, and how it dealt with the 1956 Ampol Trial controversy, and there are hints and tips about driving in Australian competitions, the cars that are suitable, the trials held in that country, how the bonus system works, and so on. Useful to emigrants!

The action pictures are excellent and there is an Appendix giving tabulated results of the more important “down under ” races. – W. B.


Autocar Road Tests – Spring 1965.”

136 pp. 11-2/5 in. x  8-1/5 in. Soft covers. (Iliffe Books Ltd., Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E.1, 8s. 6d.)

This eagerly-anticipated reprint book of Autocar‘s road-test reports contains 25 accounts, covering cars as diverse as the B.M.W. 700LS, Fiat 850 and Bedford Beagle, to Aston Martin DB5, Ford Mustang V8, Iso-Rivolta IR-340, and long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz 300SE.

It contains reports on such new vehicles as the Bedford Beagle, Austin 1800, Lancia Fulvia and Fulvia 2C, and Singer Chamois, and such interesting propositions as the Mercedes-Benz 230SL, Mini-Cooper 1275S, Vanden Plas Princess R, Vanden Plas 1100, Lotus Elan and Glas 1700, etc.

From the table of performance data at the end of this invaluable reference work on the matter of how recent cars go and behave, it is apparent that the fastest car tested by Autocar (during the period with which the book deals was the Iso-Rivolta, with 142 m.p.h., although the Aston Martin ran it very close, being timed at 141.3 m.p.h., the most accelerative over a standing-start 1/4-mile was the lso-Rivolta (15.9 sec.), although both the Aston Martin and the Ford Mustang convertible managed 16.0 sec., and the Lotus Elan 16.4 sec., while the most economical was the Fiat 850, which returned an overall petrol consumption of 35-1/2 m.p.g.

I collect these useful, informative books and so should you! – W. B.


At this time of the year “Motorboating with B.P.,” by Ron Warring, which sells for 3s. 6d., should be of interest to a considerable proportion of our readers. The book covers most aspects of motor-boating from what to buy, how to buy it, how to transport it, how to use it, and how to take care of it. There are chapters on the weather, insurance and H.P., water sports such as fishing, ski-ing, diving and racing, and hints and tips on outboard motors. Produced in the modern copiously-illustrated. easy-to-read style, this comprehensive boating book is published by The Southern Publishing Co. Ltd., Argus House, North Street, Brighton, and comes with a B.P. marker which serves as a check list of what to do on going aboard a boat.


Cars in books

Although I did not come across any references to cars in the text of “Born to Believe,” by Lord Pakenham (Cape, 1953), there is a picture of the author with the Birkenhead family, five people sitting on the running-board of what, unless I am gravely mistaken, is a Citroën saloon. It was taken about 1929, and apparently Lord Birkenhead was at that time a Citroën owner.

This series is strictly supposed to deal with cars in non-motoring books, either fictional or biographical, but I propose to make an exception in the case of “Big Wheels and Little Wheels,” by L. J. Hartnett (as told to John Veitch), for although this is a motoring autobiography in its own right, being the story of Hartnett’s career with General Motors and the founding of the Holden organisation in Australia, I did not receive a copy for review (it was published in Melbourne in 1964), the copy I have read with great interest being sent to me by my old friend George Brooks of the V.S.C.C. of A., I think with this column in mind.

So we can ignore, at all events for the moment, the bulk of the book, which deals with the remarkable production engineering feats of the Holden Motor Body Buildings Company before General Motors took it over, the advent of the Holden car, and why Hartnett resigned from General Motors and tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce a car of his own to Australia, adopting Gregoire designs after turning down VW, Renault and Fiat licences. This column is more concerned with Hartnett’s historical asides, such as how he learnt to ride an ancient Douglas motorcycle while still at Kingston Grammar School, was apprenticed from Epsom College to Vickers at Erith in 1914 (an 80-hour week!) and learnt to fly with the R.N.A.S. at Chingford and with the newly-formed R.A.F. at Northolt on an 80-h.p. Renault-engined Maurice Farman. There followed “a few hours” on Sopwith Pups, before a transfer to the night-flying Handley-Page bomber squadron at Ternhill, where training was done on D.H.6, F.E.2b and finally twin-engined Handley-Page bombers.

After demob. Hartnett bought the motor firm of Probert and Harris of Wallington and ran this for a time, dealing in makes like Calcott, Calthorpe (spelt Calthop in the book), Bean, Cubitt and A.V. monocar.

Then it was out to Singapore with Guthrie and Co., who held the Daimler franchise for Singapore and Malaya. It was through persuading this firm to handle Buicks as well as selling Daimlers that Hartnett came to the notice of General Motors of America. The Buicks were attended to by “Chinese carpenters, Tamil labourers, Malay mechanics and a handsome Sikh jaga.” Hood Begg, the headman of Guthrie’s, had a Daimler limousine which “always ran superbly,” and he was in close sympathy with Hartnett, who soon contrived to sell five Buicks to the Sultan of Perak. As a sideline, Hartnett’s company imported Burndep radio sets, setting up its own transmitter to provide a broadcasting service for its customers, until the Navy and Post Office protested. All this in 1924.

In 1925 Hartnett joined General Motors, “the biggest business organisation on earth,” headed by Alfred P. Sloan, “the most powerful business executive in the world,” and two years later set up an assembly plant for them in Stockholm, which sold 15,000 cars in Sweden and Finland in its first twelve months. The volume sales were of Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac. It was to the Stockholm branch of G.M. that two 14/40 Vauxhalls came in October 1928, “a couple of ugly ducklings,” because Jim Mooney had bought Vauxhall Motors Ltd. of Luton for G.M.

These vintage Vauxhalls didn’t please the top-brass of G.M. one little bit—”Jim Mooney’s hearses,” Charlie Fisher, who brought the Fisher Body Company into G.M., is quoted as calling them, continuing: “. . . . the goddam worst looking piece of automobile I’ve seen . . . a terrible-looking Limey body.” All of which led to Hartnett being sent to England in February 1929 to reorganise the Vauxhall branch of G.M. G.M. had tried to take over Austin when that company was in financial difficulties but in the end took over Vauxhall, at a time when it “was producing only 17 cars a week.”

Hartnett on the Vauxhall Company of 1929 may interest those who were there at that time. He arrived in ”grimy, foggy Luton” where “It was cold and wet, and the reception I got from Leslie Walton, the Managing Director and Chairman, was as bleak as the weather. He was almost insulting to me – said he had little time for Englishmen who went over to the Americans, as I had done. … his executives were either fawning yes-men or types who had been with the company a long time, had settled into grooves and didn’t want to be disturbed . . . their lack of get-up-and-go, as much as anything, was dragging the company to bankruptcy.” [If any of them read this, they may wish to defend themselves! – Ed.]

Hartnett found the Vauxhall plant of the last vintage years ill-equipped for large-scale production but he got it on to making parts for Chevrolet trucks, then assembled at Hendon from CKD components sent in from the U.S.A. and Canada but recently affected by the new McKenna import duties. This was soon quelled when Bill Knudsen, President of Chevrolet, came to England and discovered what was happening. So Luton technicians designed the Bedford truck to replace the Chevrolet – a seemingly odd way of doing business, with both makes under the G.M. banner!

Hartnett followed this by touring Australia in a 14/40 Vauxhall, on a sales drive, which resulted in most of the 350 Vauxhalls in the Australian G.M. factories being sold off. Bedford truck sales were now up to 500 a month, 50% being exported. The Luton factory had been pepped-up, “under Bob Evans and his boys.” Then Luton got down to new models, at first the 17 h.p., with a 27-h.p. VX version for export, followed by the Cadet for local conditions, with the 10/4 as an experimental project. The 10/4 came out over-weight and too costly but Charlie Bartlett and Hartnett solved these problems – there is a story that the sales people insisted on the dipper switch being on the steering wheel, and only agreed to put it on the floor, where the wiring-up problem was simplified, when Rolls-Royce engineers, after a visit to the Vauxhall factory, asked if they could copy the Bedford truck idea of a floor dipper. [Rolls-Royce cars of this era did have floor dippers but I think the control had merely moved down from the dashboard, not from the steering wheel. – Ed.] Walter Appel was then Vauxhall’s Chief Engineer, until he went to Opel, and C. E. King took his place. [But surely King had held this position before, revising the 30/98 in 1923 and designing the 14/40 Vauxhall? – Ed.]

Hartnett says “The 14/40 Vauxhall, as a vehicle for sale overseas, was a hopeless proposition. A check of exports against actual sales showed that distributors in several parts of the world held large stocks of them that wouldn’t sell. They had a poor reputation; the axles and other parts gave trouble and, of course the Vauxhall was no beauty.” The book contains a picture purporting to show a 1927 Vauxhall in the Stockholm showrooms of G.M., but it looks far more like General Motors’ own 20/60 that superseded the Vauxhalls of the vintage era! Another picture, captioned “More Vauxhalls in Stockholm,” clearly shows that G.M. parody of the 30/98, the sports Hurlingham on the 20/60 chassis, and what looks like a Cadet or 12/6 with big external luggage trunk.

The remainder of the book, as I have said, is extremely absorbing and well written, but covers a later period of production development, although it is interesting to note that when chassis only could be imported into Australia, Holden, spurred on by Bert Cheney, a pre-1914 Dodge distributor in Adelaide, made bodies for various makes of chassis purely from drawings, and they fitted the unseen, imported chassis without alteration, their number going up to 78 models for seven G.M. and ten competitive makes, in quantities ranging from 18 to 4,000 per annum. The makes other than those of the G.M. range included Chrysler, Nash, De Soto, Dodge, Austin, Willys Overland, etc. This arrangement gave Holden’s access to plans of new cars as yet unannounced – for instance, they knew of Chrysler’s all-steel Plymouth saloon of 1937 before G.M. introduced all-steel bodies in 1938, at a time when G.M. had taken them over, yet no confidences were betrayed! This is a book all production engineers, industrialists and lovers of Australia should read, but sufficient has been mentione4 of it to serve this column – and perhaps some reaction from the 30/98 Register is to be expected! – W. B.