Book Reviews, November 1955, November 1955

Author

W.B.

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“Veteran and Edwardian Motor Cars,” by David Scott-Moncrieff. 256 pp., 9 in. by 6 in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, Portman Square, London, W.1. 25s.)

“Edwardian Cars,” by Ernest F. Carter. 245 pp., 8½ in. by 5½ in. (G. T. Foulis and Co., Ltd., 7, Milford Lane, Strand, London, WC.2. 25s.)

A good example of the manner in which, out of a flood of motoring books, clashes are bound to occur, is afforded by the arrival of two on the same subject, published in London within a day of one another. David Scott-Moncrieff offers a sequel to “The Vintage Motor Car” with his ” Veteran and Edwardian Motor Cars,” a delightful Batsford book with an exceedingly attractive dust-jacket which is the work of George A. Oliver, the same pleasing line-drawings within, and rather better photographs than those gracing the work of Clutton and Standford.

The reader may wonder if Batsford have been wise in combining veteran and Edwardian cars in one book, because although the author gives us details of many pre-1905 vehicles after taking us through the usual history of antiquated steam carriages, primitive pioneer petrol vehicles and the trials and vicissitudes of the very early days, his heart seems to be more in the Edwardian era.

To cover the field adequately in a single volume would seem impossible but what Scott-Moncrieff covers he does well, and in his inimitable style. That much is left out is evident when we say that a total of 64 different makes is dealt with in the text, whereas a table at the end of the book of 1904 autocars alone runs to six pages of small type, and something like a thousand or more makes existed from 1895 to 1916.

What “Bunty” does is to go over the period almost year by year, rather as if he had a pile of Autocar Show Numbers at his elbow, taking pains to outline technical and other developments and to recall or describe outstanding cars and innovations. This he follows with three chapters detailing his 64 makes, 18 British in the first chapter, 24 Continental in the second, 20 American in the third, concluding with a chapter on motoring clothing of the veteran and Edwardian eras.

This is a useful quick-reference to the more prominent old cars and the conditions under which they ran, very nicely bound and produced, so that the misprint of “Targo Florio” on page 114 stands right out. There is some reference to racing, but tables of Clément-Bayard and Darraq racing cars of 1900-1908 look a trifle like padding and could have come from a “Record of Motor Racing,” by Rose. The book is for some obscure reason dedicated to H.M. King Feisal of Iraq, but the author doesn’t explain why.

“Edwardian Cars,” by the unknown motorist Ernest F. Carter, is a reverie of Edwardian motoring recalled during restoration of a son’s Edwardian Renault in modern times. It is an unusual, in parts entertaining, book yet somehow does not entirely convince, possibly because the author is a professional big-output model-railway scribe rather than a motoring fanatic. It could be based on hazy memories of real incidents padded out with technical matter gleaned from study of contemporary motoring magazines, nor do the cars described or the episodes recounted seem particularly exciting. An account of the author’s father making a short test-run on his 1899 Renault smacks of passages from Ian Hay’s “Knight on Wheels,” but subsequently the venerable parent owned Adams, Rover-Knight, 30/35 Metallurgique, 10-h.p. Star, 1903 Wolseley, 7-h.p. De Dion Bouton and Pilot cyclecar, and reminiscences concerning them fill some of the book, although they seldom motored farther than the Home Counties. There is a spelling error which renders Gobron as Gobronne, and reference to the thrill Mr. Carter experienced when sitting in Birkin’s 8-litre Bentley at Redhill is disconcerting, because one associates Birkin with 4½-litre Bentleys. The frontispiece is captioned “Edwardian Motoring” but surely shows a veteran De Dion Bouton in action? This book is not so entertaining as G. R. N. Minchin’s “Under My Bonnet” from the same publisher, yet it gets over the atmosphere of Edwardian motoring astonishingly well, perhaps even better than does Scott-Moncrieff. The photographs are a varied collection, ranging from contemporary pictures to those of veterans still with us, and are the more fascinating for that, and there are also some tiny, rather mediocre line-drawings. This book, too, concludes with lists of early cars, in this case covering the whole 1906-1916 period and divided into 67 single-cylinder and a greater number of two-cylinder and four-cylinder makes, as well as separate tables of three, six and eight-cylinder cars, with data on models as well as makes. This is quite useful, although those seeking detailed information will probably still need recourse to bound volumes of the weekly motoring papers. The author concludes with lists of used (optimistically termed “secondhand”) cars in dealers’ lists in 1911 and brief specifications of the light cars and cyclecars of 1914, the latter no doubt culled from a little Temple Press handbook of that time.

Both authors quote statistics of vehicles in use at a given time but neither seems accurate in comparison with such statistics as issued by the British Road Federation.

Two good books on the same subject — yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice! — W. B.

“Half-Safe,” by Ben Carlin. 279 pp., 8½ in. by 5½ in. (Andre Deutsch Ltd., 12-14, Carlisle Street, Soho Square, London, W.1. 16s.)
This is an account of how Carlin and his wife (who was almost continually seasick) crossed the Atlantic in a Jeep — yes, the Atlantic! Their experiences are so delightfully chronicled that this long story never becomes boring; Carlin writes as he speaks, modern expressions predominating and the number of “bloodies” in his wife’s diary are such that the pre-war directors of Hutchinsons (vide Gilbert Frankau’s “Self Portrait”) would have gone grey-haired half-way through!

The cruise of the Kon-Tiki was a picnic compared to coaxing a modified Ford-engiued Jeep across, for it had but one bunk, two seats with a toilet under one of them, and towed its fuel in floating tanks astern, cylinder-head decarbonising taking place in mid-ocean.

If you care in any way for true stories of travel and adventure, get “Half-Safe” for the fireside evenings. Carlin does not omit plenty of technical detail, including proper plans of his weird craft, and his publishers have inserted a lot of good photographs into the middle of his book, probably thinking that otherwise no reader would believe a word of it. Here you see the amphibious Jeep “Half-Safe” under the bow of the “Queen Mary” and parked in the Strand, etc.

Additional charm is lent to this book because we shall he hearing more of Ben and Elinor Carlin, for they propose to attempt a crossing of the Pacific from Tokyo to Alaska towards the end of 1956.

An excellent book — at a reasonable price. — W. B.

“Genevieve,” by James Dillon White. 178 pp., 7½ in. by 5in. (William Heinemann, 99, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 10s. 6d.)

Here, in novel form, is the story of that excellent and now-so-famous film produced by Henry Cornelius from the screen play by William Rose, and filmed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The author seems to have followed faithfully the screen story and it is nice to be able to have it in the book-case.

Reading “Genevieve” one is reminded that the famous epic of the Darracq and Spyker did not really run true to R.A.C./V.C.C. Brighton Run tradition, because they went to Brighton in the summer and on a week-day, whereas in real life they make their journey in November on a Sunday. We are a little astonished to find Alan McKim lost for words and self-conscious when confronted with making a speech, in view of the fact that he is a rising young barrister.

Apart from that, this is a delightful comedy and a far more serious criticism concerns the opportunity the publishers have missed of including “stills” from the film as illustrations for the book. “Genevieve” lacks pictures, even a frontispiece, except for its dust-jacket, which makes it rather expensive at, as Ambrose Claverhouse would doubtless have put it, “What, half-a-guinea, old boy?”
W. B.

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Brooklands Flying Club Reunion

A reunion, unofficial and informal, of pre-war members of the Brooklands Flying Club, and others associated with flying at Brooklands, will take place on November 18th from 7.30 p.m. onwards. at Elstree Flying Club, Elstree, Herts. Bob Lambert, steward of the B.A.C. from 1929 to 1939, is now steward at Elstree and he hopes all the old hands who can will roll up no doubt they will literally roll home again, full of nostalgic memories and other liquid things.

 

 

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