Profile Publications Ltd. are now well in their stride. Six new “Profiles,” costing 2s. each, appeared for October. They comprise “The Single-Cylinder De Dion Boutons” by Anthony Bird, “The Leyland Eight” by Hugh Tours, “The Talbots 14/45” by D. B. Tubbs, “The 1933 24-litre Napier-Railton” by William Boddy, “The 4-litre Lagondas” by George A. Oliver, and “The Alfa Romeo Type 158/159” by David Hodges, respectively numbers 25-30.
These unique publications are uniform, except that in some cases they deal with one car only, as witness the Napier-Railton, in others a whole range of models, or the complete run of Roesch Talbots. Edited by Anthony Harding, they set a notably high standard of textual accuracy and pictorial display. Slight variations of style are noticeable, such as books referred to in the text being footnoted in some editions but comparatively ignored in others, but in every case the effect is pleasing, the colour plans usually extremely worthwhile.
Bird covers the single-cylinder De Dions in a manner which puts a complex range of cars, built over the years 1899-1910, in clear perspective, clarifies the advent of the De Dion high-speed engine, constant-mesh gearbox and famous back axle, and includes sporting examples of these little cars amongst the 20 photographic illustrations. Tours sums up the fascinating Leyland Eight nicely and it is a tribute to Leyland Limited that 13 of the 20 photographs arc from their archives. Not much new emerges for those who have read this author’s book on Parry-Thomas, but Hulton Press have provided some fresh pictures of Leylands racing at Brooklands. The title is faintly misleading, because much of the text deals with the Leyland-Thomas cars. I dispute their greatest achievement being the 129.73-m.p.h. Land Speed Record of 1924, because this was not officially recognised as being in this category, and I would personally prefer to quote Thomas’ 1926 hour record of 121.74 m.p.h., a difficult task at the time for a heavy car, after which, as Tours tells us elsewhere, Thomas drove it to Selfridges where it went on display, his last run. in this remarkable car. Nor was Sir Lionel Phillips the “original owner” of the Leyland Eight built from parts by T. & T. after Parry-Thomas’ death. The excellent pictures, however, are complementary to a concise text.
Tubbs on the pre-Rootes’ Talbots is full of lavish praise for that genius Georges Roesch. Reesch’s pioneer work on high-compression engines is again well covered but I am glad to see the myth that Chassagne won a Btooklands race in his experimental pushrod 10/23 Talbot single-seater is disposed of, Segrave instead being credited with practice laps at 90 m.p.h., which the very rough ride he received brought to an end. Several new aspects emerge from this “Profile,” probably because Roesch himself, and Anthony Blight, helped with its presentation, and the appetite is whetted for Blight’s full-length Macdonald book on the Roesch Talbots. For instance, did you know that the “knitting-needle” push-rods of the famous Roesch o.h. valve gear really were made by a firm of knitting-needle makers and were hardened to 130 tons ultimate? Tubbs also pays tribute to Roesch’s ingenious cross-push-rod valve gear (Pat. No. 224822), adopted, says the author, for Peugeot, Armstrong, Humber, Fiat, Chrysler and G.P. Lago-Talbot engines, and to the clever automatic pre-selector gearbox. Roesch also used the same oil in engine and gearbox long before Issigonis. The Talbot comes very well indeed out of being “Profiled,” but errors have crept in. The ordinary Talbot gearbox wasn’t pressure lubricated, h.p. for the original 75 is optimistic by some 16 b.h.p., and M.G.s, not Talbots, finished third in the 1931 and 1932 T.T. races and took the Team Prize in the 1931 “500.” Surely, too, the 75 engine was put on paper in 1929, not 1928? And Symons’ Christian name is incorrectly spelt.
It would be invidious to write of my own contribution, dealing with the Brooklands’ Napier-Railton at Weybridge, Montlhery, Utah and its post-war fate, so I will content myself with expressing the hope that the excellent five-view colour drawings of the great car, by Kenneth Rush and extending over a double-spread, will be warmly received (they include inserts showing alternative radiator cowls). I have to acknowledge, too, an error, giving the date of Cobb’s fatal accident as 1947; it happened in 1952.
The 4½-litre Lagonda, about which much intimate engine development and tuning information appeared in Motor Sport some years ago, is covered competently by George Oliver, not forgetting its competition career, and a Motor chassis drawing of a 1934 M45R is included, while the Gordon Davies’ colour plans depict H. L. Schofield’s 1937 LG45 Rapide. Similarly, David Hodges covers the G.P. Alfa Romeo 158s and i59s, the colour plans in this “Profile” being of Farina’s 1950 British G.P. winning Tipo 158 (90.95 m.p.h. for 202 miles), and other colour pictures embracing the nose cowl identification colours of these cars for the 1950-51 seasons.
These “Profiles” are becoming accepted as essential quick references to famous cars of all periods. It is to be hoped that they will continue to represent a monthly treat for many years to come; a recent announcement suggested that they are intended as “instant interest on the never never” for those interested in “big bangers, battlewagons, boneshakers and Belsize-Farnesbarites.” We would set them higher than that in literary evaluation. Assuming the print-run of each profile to be 30,000, full sales would bring in a turn-over of £18,000 a month, £216,000 annually. Even if only a quarter of those printed were sold and assuming stiff printing and production costs, the profits should be sufficient to ensure the successful continuance of this ambitious publishing venture.
Around and About, July 1977
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