“Automobile Archaeology” by David Burgess-Wise. 160 pp. 9 1/4″ x 6 1/4″ (Patrick Stephens Ltd., Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8EL. £8.95)
At first it was difficult to see the point of this book, which has earned a Foreword from no less a person than Robert A. Lutz, Chairman of Ford-of-Europe. It contains much about the more obscure paths trodden by motoring historians, with pictures of typical automobiliana, such as photographs of early cars, past motoring scenes, and reproductions of motoring posters, paintings, mascots, cigarette cards, clothing, accessories, race-programmes, racing cars, books, etc. Yet it is not quite like a rather similar book by Michael Worthington-Williams (is it a prerogative of writers of motoring miscellanea that, like vintage luxury cars, they should have double-barrelled names?), which was a prod to collectors and speculative purchasers of the lesser motoring items about what to look for.
Burgess-Wise’s book is aimed more at the historian than the accumulator of motoring bric-a-brac. While it will stimulate collecting, it is also a guide to sources which historians should pursue. Thus the emphasis is on “firsts”. The original race tracks, the first old-car rallies, museums, motor magazines, automobile factories and the like are described, but when it comes to sculpture, paintings, magazines, programmes, postcards, gramophone records, stamps, films, music, toys, and other such motoring artefacts, the link with collectors, speculators and the museum-minded returns.
So this is rather an odd little, perhaps overpriced, work; yet it is undeniably fascinating and has some interesting fresh material between its covers. The author is a comparatively recent historian; he became a journalist in 1960 and didn’t own a vintage car, his 1927 Clyno, until a year later. He is to be congratulated for having assimilated so much history in this short period. Parts of his latest book are merely repetitive, like that about how Owen Wyn Owen dug “Babs” out of the Pendine sands, how Brooklands came into being, the first “Old Crocks” London-Brighton Run of 1927 (with the entry list lifted directly from The Autocar) and so on, making nearly £9 a high price to pay, and one notes that when Burgess-Wise lists the dating divisions of Veteran to Classic cars he heads this information “Categories of collectable cars”, not “Old cars to use and enjoy”! It is the more off-beat aspects of the book that make it enjoyable, such as how the author searched for vintage cars, with pictures of a delapidated 5 c.v. Citroen Cloverleaf found in the Beaujolais mountains in 1979, a 1928 Singer with “As-U-Drive” all weather body photographed behind a Surrey railway station in the late-1960s, a 1923 Le Mans Montier-Ford found in a shed in Normandy about a year ago, and two of the inevitable Worthington-Williams’ Angus-Sandersons in as-found condition in a Tenterden woodyard. The author is also interesting on the subject of how he traced the history of his 1927 Clyno and what this led to, and of disinterring Dagenham’s old Ford files, that had been walled-up beneath the engine-building soon after WW2, when he went to look for them with Ford’s Company Secretary in the mid-1970s. I feel that one day Burgess-Wise will give us a very worthwhile Ford history, or at least books about that make. Meanwhile, some will lap-up this present little book, others may find it superficial and too repetitive. As I said, I found parts of it intriguing, although the Index is inadequate and the World’s Motor Museums are disposed of in a bare three-page list, apart from textual references.
One of the book’s pictures is tantalising, showing as it does what the author tells us is an “ancient racing car being used in the 1920s as a furniture van”. How does he know it was a racing-car, why isn’t its make revealed, and surely it has a truck, not a van, body? Other pictures, like many of the Ford portraits, “Babs” at Brooklands, the motor-racing scenes, etc. are ones most of you will know well, but some are new and worth seeing. Inaccuracies that jump to the eye are that the “big bump” was on the Members’, not the Byfleet, banking and Sunbeam Historians would certainly not agree that Dario Resta’s Sunbeam was buried in the sewage farm, after the fatal accident at Brooklands, although the author had this story from a local publican who claimed to be there at the time . . . . especially as the fence through which Resta crashed did not, as Burgess-Wise thinks, border the sewage farm. However, an author who believes that Resta’s head ended up in the same place, that Percy Lambert’s eyeballs remained inside his goggles after his fatal accident, that a lady had her 1932 Austin crushed into a metallic tube so that this could be used as her head stone when she was buried, and that another lady was actually buried, seated in a Ferrari in her nightdress, must, I suggest, be somewhat gullible! Then, discussing motoring films, the “Yellow Rolls-Royce” seems an odd omission, Malcolm Campbell’s well known replicas of his various racing cars are not mentioned under “Toys”, and the pedal car, said to be a copy of Campbell’s 350 h.p. Sunbeam, was surely of Segrave’s “Ladybird” and in no way was Sammy Davis driving in a “Double 12” when his Brooklands accident happened. I thought Motor Sport had been studiously avoided when I found no mention of it under the heading of “the first British motoring magazines”, for it should have qualified as the first journal devoted solely to motoring sport, but I found it later, under a reference to motoring art! It is amusing that the PSL “blurb” accompaning “Automobile Archaeology” says the book covers early motor magazines, adding “the first appeared, unbelievably, in 1932!” — they mean 1892, of course . . . — W.B.
“The Buick — A Complete History” by Terry B. Dunham and Lawrence R. Gamin. 444 pp, 8 1/2″ x 9 1/2″. (Automobile Quarterly, 245, West Main Street, Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530, USA. $59.95.)
If the Austin history reviewed above is a full coverage by our standards, this great Buick book shows what the Americans can do now that they have come round to compiling one-make histories. In some 300,000 words and 638 pictures, here is the entire Buick story, from the beginnings to the present. The men who built these cars, engineers, designers, executives, all have contributed their memories to the authors’ story, and the pictures have been drawn from libraries, historical archives, historical societies, museums and private collections to offer a staggering feast of Buicks over the years.
The serious work of telling about this famous American make comes in 17 long chapters and if there is a hint of “Americanese” about some of their titles — “Thundering Down the Track”, “Hardtops, Portholes and Chrome” — make no mistake, this is serious history, from the pre-automobile days onwards. The move to Flint, how Billy Durant took over, the combination of Nash, Chrysler and Buick, the first Buick straight-eights, the war years, and the post-war Buicks, all are described in much detail, and the wordage is supplemented by two Buick colour portfolios, of high quality. Personalities, historical documents, engineering drawings, etc. are reproduced, along with the innumerable illustrations of Buicks of every age and kind.
Eight Appendices cover specialised aspects of Buick history, such as the racing cars (but as this stops at the pre-WW1 period there is no enlightenment about the mysterious twin-cam Buick that appeared at Brooklands in the late 1920s), the Buick distributors, Buick heraldry and mascots, Hollywood stars who owned Buicks, Buick automatic transmissions, Buicks around the World, with much about those sold here by Lendrum & Hartman Ltd. and used by The Duke of Windsor and Mrs. Simpson, lists of coachbuilders who clothed Buick chassis and agents all over the World, followed by a quite remarkable 14-page table of production figures broken-down for every Buick model from 1908 covering some 22-million cars to the end of 1979, and 12 pages of specifications and model changes from the Model-B of 1904 to the 1980 Skyhawk, Skylark, Century, Regal, Lesabre, Electra and Riviera Buicks.
The book comes in a protective sleeve and if ordered direct from the publisher it costs 49.95 dollars; a de luxe leather-bound edition is available for 79.95 dollars. I expect our specialised booksellers will be quoting British prices. What a historical coverage! What a book! — W.B.
“Performance Tuning in Theory and Practice” by A.Graham Bell. 252 pp. 9 1/4″ x 6 3/4″. (Haynes Publishing Group Ltd., Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £8.50).
The author’s tuning experience, he says, stemmed from trying to achieve Porsche 911 performance from his Ford 105E Anglia and has developed over 17 years of such endeavours. All but three of them were devoted to tuning high-performance and racing engines.
He has set down the fruits of this knowledge in this Haynes’ book, taking engine components in separate chapters — cylinder head, carburation, exhaust system, camshaft and valve train, bottom end, ignition, lubrication and cooling, rounding off with a chapter on power measurement and tuning. There are tables of engine specifications and modifications, both for cars and motorcycles, the former embracing American V8 engines, etc. It is a work dedicated to “hot-rodders” and “soupers”. — W.B.