Book Reviews, May 1968, May 1968

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“The Cars That Got Away,” by Michael Frostick. 104 pp. 10 1/8 in. x 7½ in. (Casell & and Co. Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1., 50s.)

This author is noted for his scissors-and-paste output but has struck a novel and enthralling theme for this book. It deals with some experimental and prototype cars which never got into production, expanded by including some which did, but which didn’t sell in any numbers and were rare even when current models.

Some of the information has appeared previously and well-read students of automobile history may find themselves skipping some of the all-too-few pages on account of this. For example, most of the information about the Cosmos C.A.R. of 1919 appears in bound volumes of The Autocar, Ted Eves dealt with the Rover Scarab of 1931 in a still-born series in Autocar in comparatively recent times, and the fabulous Alfa Romeo-crib Triumph Dolomite straight-eight has been covered frequently before, the most recent time being by Hugh Tours in Autocar. The Aston Martin Atom has also been well documented, likewise the Roesch-conceived straight-eight Sunbeam of 1936 and the Burney Streamline, while very recently the story of the Rootes Imp prototypes has appeared in a weekly contemporary. And the Invicta Black Prince, Jowett Jupiter R4 and Atalanta I would class as small-production cars.

But, superficial as most of the text is, with changing tense as evidence that Frostick hasn’t put away his scissors and glue-pot, the items about the £100 Gillett, the Rover M1, some rare Invictas, the Moveo, and the Feddens are interesting. But if the Gillett, why not the £100 Waverley, Matchless, Clyno Century, etc.? There are occasions, too, when one gets the impression that the writer lacks engineering knowledge. For instance, nowhere is one told whether Roesch’s last fling had a vee- or straight-eight engine, the 3-cylinder radial engine of the C.A.R. is wrongly described as of Y-formation when it was of fan layout, nor is it easy to understand why the use of foot-brake at one end and hand-brake at the opposite end of a solid axle is thought so novel, when describing this car. Nor does the author seem quite to comprehend the function of a differential, for he expresses surprise that a tester trying the Gillett was unable to distinguish lack of this component when driving the car—but why should he, unless he tried to push it about on full kick? Frostick misses the point that the Rover Scarab obviously was not “using up surplus Rover Eight engines” because it had “a simple twin-cylinder o.h.v. air-cooled rear engine.” The earlier Rover Eight did appear in o.h.v. guise when conversion heads were fitted, and the real point is that whereas the 1919 engine was a flat-twin, the 1931 power unit was a vee-twin.

The S.T.D. Register will not love Frostick for telling it that “The Talbot has not yet reached great eminence as a desirable vintage car—goodness knows why” (Anthony Blight will have to be held down!), and some of his other observations suggest a lack of thought or know-how. For instance, Rolls-Royce Ltd. will not thank the author for comparing the accessible sparking plugs of the C.A.R. with “the difficulty of removing a sparking-plug from the present-day V8 engine of the Rolls-Royce,” because since the advent of the Silver Shadow these have been brought above the exhaust manifolds to overcome this deficiency.

These carping criticisms apart, this is a novel book of some entertainment value, with some interesting pictures, including pages from Gordano catalogue and advertisements, but expensive for what you get and not nearly detailed enough or giving many fresh facts. Technically, as far as it goes, which is cautiously not very far, it seems sound, except that the 1950 Jowett-Bradford private car is described as having “near enough Javelin suspension,” which was torsion-bar, whereas I thought it used some form of rubber suspension, probably rubber cords in tension.

An interesting book but with some obvious omissions, the Victory-model Arrol Johnson and the Gnome, for a start.—W. B.

———

“Aircraft of the Royal Air Force Since 1918,” by Owen Thetford. 611 pp. 8¼ in. x 5½ in. (Putnam & Co. Ltd., 9, Bow Street, London, W.C.2., 84s.)

Another of Putnam’s beautifully printed, copiously illustrated (both with photographs and scale line-drawings), aviation histories, this book will not only constitute the standard reference work to the subject but will be of inestimable interest and value to aircraft spotters, aeronautical historians, those who flew in war and peace, and to the World’s aeroplane manufacturers.

It follows the standard Putnam format and the main text ranges fascinatingly from the dear old Airspeed Oxford to the Westland Wessex H.C.2 helicopter, the subjects being covered alphabetically. There are the expected appendices, dealing with gliders, missiles, and aircraft impressed for the R.A.F., and the book is indexed.

Wondering how this comprehensive work compares with Thetford’s earlier book “Aircraft of the Royal Air Force, 1918-58,” I took at random the pages dealing with Gloster Gamecock (one of my schoolboy favourites) and Avro Anson. The text and all the pictures save one of the Gamecock are identical; so those who have the earlier edition and do not need data about post-1958 aircraft will be unlikely to buy the later book.—W. B.

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