The Austin Seven Source Book

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The Austin Seven Source Book by Bryan Purves. 544 pp. 10,” x G T Foulis & Co. Ltd., Spark ford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. .£75.00

The Austin 7 has been immensely popular since its introduction in 1922 to an astonished small-car fraternity used to bigger cars-in-miniature and crude cyclecars. As with other well liked cars, it has been the subject for many books, starting with Bob Wyatt’s in 1968. A flood followed — specialised histories, picture books, huge manuals devoted to technical and maintenance matters, the 750 MC’s comprehensive all-aspects work etc.

All that was left was to describe and illustrate every known A7 in one volume. This Purves has attempted without flinching. That this enormous tome costs £75.00 when the Conway Bugatti Magnum costs £150 and a special edition of Heal’s Sunbeam racing car history costs £250 reminds us that class distinctions continue to exist in this democratic country! For this sum A7 fanatics will find it all, or almost all, set out in more than 2 1/2 million words laced with 1500 pictures, so the publisher’s blurb tells me, sparing me from counting. Magnificent!

All the production and racing A7s are described in detail, together with every conceivable special-bodied car like Gordon England, Arrow, Swallow, Taylor, Burghley, Boyd Carpenter, Mulliner — think of one, and it will be there. In addition the BMW, Rosengart, Datsun and American Bantam A7s are included, along with such unusual ones as the military versions, the vans, a 3-wheeler off-shoot, a taxi and even a milkman’s pick-up. Then there are the biographies of Lord Austin, Joseph Lucas and E C Gordon England, and Freddy Henry contributes a very readable Foreword, especially for those not conversant with the 750 MC’s Bulletin.

It is a great effort and I only hope that keen A7 followers will not have such a surfeit that they will go out and buy Morris Minors! If criticism may be ventured, I would have preferred the racing A7s to have been given a separate section of the book, not included within the general chronological format, and this, being set out in a tabulated text, leaves unhappy blank spaces for those models to which all the headings do not apply. And while it is great fun having reproductions of old advertisements, cartoons and so on, I am not sure I like such “fillers” to be interspersed with technical drawings, colour charts and so on. It was inevitable that contemporary pictures would need to be mingled with modern shots, I suppose, and one has to wonder where all the data was obtained and its accuracy checked.

Of the racing car descriptions I see the 1931 works cars are listed as “Ducks” — at Brooklands we knew them as “Dutch Clogs” or “Rubber Ducks”, but these were slang terms. The streamlined racer is referred to on “its return from Southport” with no reference to the two-way kilo at 122.74 mph attained there by Driscoll — the fastest official speed for an A7. So perhaps you need the MOTOR SPORT Book of the A7 after all! I was surprised, too, to find a description of Driscoll changing his goggles for an experimental “windscreen wiper” pair proffered by a schoolboy during the 1933 International Trophy Race under that Ducks heading, but no reference to the isolated radiators that were a feature of those cars. And this race was not won by a team of Austins, as stated, but by the Hon. Brian Lewis’ Alfa Romeo. On another page, the data about the Mulliner wireless car has lost its heading and merges with that about a racing single-seater! I question whether the Maclachlan Special was widely known as “Tiddler” and whether it merits a manufacturer’s sub-heading when only one was built, which was not for sale, leaving those sub-headings blank. Another racer is identified as “The Yellow Canary”, again a slang term, nor are the Southport A7’s Brooklands exploits given. And why was the Brettell single-seater not included and “Mrs Jo-Jo” not given more space?

However, this is minor criticism of an extraordinarily complete reference work which, although not quite as near-perfect as one had hoped, is a triumph of compilation, on which the dedicated Purves is to be very warmly congratulated. It might pay to wait for the next edition when minor hiccups have been eliminated. WB