BOOK REVIEWS, November 1967, November 1967
“The Standard’ Car, 1903-1963,” by J. R. Davy. 143 pages, 7a in. x 4-Min. (Sherbourne Press Ltd., Hermitage Buildings, Longfellow Road, Coventry. 15$.)
Here is yet another one-make history, to companion the long list of those already published. J. R. Davy is well known as the founder of The Standard Register and he has done a great deal to place the older ears of this make firmly in the pre-war scene. It is always very satisfactory to find a manufacturer taking an active interest in its historic products and the Standard-Triumph organisation, perhaps more than any other, does this; the Register, which caters for 19031930 and 1931-1940 Standards, is run from the factory, rattier as the M.G. Car Company looks after documentation of the older M.G.s.
Davy is thus the best possible writer to tackle the history of Standard and Triumph. Because he is associated with the manufacturer he is not able to adopt quite so outspoken an approach as independent authors—he excuses the failure of the V8 Standard, for instance, by saying that ” Standard owners had not been accustomed to the vivid rate of acceleration which this car provided and many treated the comparatively complex power unit . . . with some suspicion, and so few were built “—but, that Aspect apart, he packs an enormous amount of very interesting information between the covers of this very readable little book.
The early days of the Company under R. W. iN/laudsley, war-time production, the various Standard, Triumph and Leyland models, references to famous owners and competition appearances, all are included. Interesting references to special uses to which the hig pre-1914 30-h.p. 6-cylinder Standards were put (at least four of which still exist), details of the early small ears of the vintage era, and a sorting-out of the rather complex later Standard and Flying Standard models make this a most useful reference work. Davy even touches on the rumour, aired in Alarm Sf!oRT, that the hastily-designed wormdrive Standard Nine of 1927, which was running within six months from drawing-board to prototype, might have been copied from an imported Mathis by remarking : ” It seems certain that the Company did purchase a Mathis car from Strasbourg at about this time, but probably the greatest influence came from Mr. Wilde, the new Chief Engineer, who had been working for the Hotchkiss Company.”
Before reading this book I had not realised how many members of the Royal Family had owned or used Standard cars, including H.M. King George V who kept a Standard Twelve for use at Windsor Castle. It is also interesting to read that in 1938 ” conservative purchasers could still specify semi-elliptic springs fore and aft, if they so desired,” for the latest Standard Tens and Twelves, for which ifs. had been introduced, rather as with the Triumph TR4A and i.r.s. in more recent times, and that the Company’s new Davies Street showrooms were opened in 1937.
In spite of its modest price, this little book contains over too carefully selected pictures of different Standard models from the 1903 6-h.p. to the 1963 Ensign de Luxe, lists the members and their cars in the Standard Register, gives details of this Register, the StandardTriumph A.A., the Triumph Roadster Club and the Pre-194o Triumph 0.C., and has an index. Better paper would have helped the pictures but this is altogether a most creditable addition to the ranks of onemake documentation. We now await the arrival of Macdonald’s Austin Seven Monograph and Roesch Talbot History for the gaps to be still further closed.—W. B. “Air Road to the Isles,” by Captain E. E. Fresson, 0.11.11. 278 pages, 81 in. 7, 5 in. (David Rau& Ltd., 138,. New Bond Street., London, WA. 38s.)
This book, like ” Airway to the Isles,” by Philip Cleik, will be read with enormous pleasure And not a little sadness by those who enthuse over the pioneering days of flying—gone, alas, for ever. The author flew before the First World War, training for service in the R.F.C. in Canada in a 60-h.p. OX-engined Curtiss JN-4 and, after service in England in the R.A.F., he started a joy-riding service, using a converted Ayro 504K. Then, in Shanghai, he helped to build a small biplane based on an imported Armstrong Whitworth, and, returning home, went back into the joy-riding business with Avros and Moths. His memories of those days recapture splendidly the spirit of private and charter flying in the late 1920s and 193os, in open-cockpit machines, landed in any suitable, and often in unsuitable, fields, battling against
filthy weather without blind-flying instruments or radio, but free from bureaucratic control. Anyone who enjoys documented force-landings must read this splendid book—and the author certainly had more than his share!
Capt. Fresson puts in a good deal of detail—although I can always do with more—and mentions some of his cars, from a 7-h.p. 2-cylinder Swift to a post-war x Hitre Riley. His real purpose in writing ” Air Road to the Isles ” is to describe, in considerable intriguing detail, how he formed his Highland and Islands Air Services, which maintained a quite astounding 97%-too’!;, regularity under appalling weather conditions and hazards, throughout the war when for a time they were operating without radio beacons. From a single D.1-1. Moth the Services operated with G.A. Monospar, D.H. Dragon and D.H. Rapide, with a Sword D.H. Fox Moth helping out after a heavy forced landing in the Monospar. As I read of the kind of flying Capt. Fresson and his pilots had to do, every day of the year, in terrible weather conditions, I metaphorically tightened my seat belt and felt clammy with apprehension—although I think that Cleife gives an even more moving account of such flying in his book.
Fresson pioneered airfield constructional methods as well as air services. Then, after the war, Government intervention intruded, he was swallowed up in B.E.A. and disgracefully dismissed with a mere 1;2,000 compensation, and public money was flung into wasteful, unreliable services, run for a time by quite unsuitable £12,000 Junkers Ju52 aeroplanes with tired war-time B.M.W. engines. These closing chapters of a book written by a very brave pioneer pilot mainly about the carefree age of aviation, are sad indeed—and frightening. For what happened to private aviation is about to engulf private motoring. . . .
Apart from presenting valuable data about the Scottish air services, this book merits a place alongside other aviation classics in the flyingenthusiasts’ bookshelves. The Foreword is by Erie Linklater and tile rather indifferent photographs are admirably supported by fine sketches of incidents described in the text, drawn by John Blake. The endpapers consist of maps of the Orkney Islands and far-North of Scotland. And I Am glad the author pays full tribute to his pilots and ground crew.
A very enjoyable book, highly recommended.—W. B. ” Cassandra at I his Finest and Funniest ” (255 pages, 8 in. x 5 in.) has been published by Paul Hamlyn as a Daily Mirror book. It costs 5s., is absolutely first-class reading, as extracts under different headings from the famous columnist’s daily writings, and will surely sell in top-best-seller quantities. The Frazcr Nash Section of the V.S.C.C. is aware presumably that the late William Neil Connor was a very keen owner of a ” chain-gang ” Frazer Nash but, if I knew this, I had forgotten it. So, apart from the very real enjoyment of reading almost any of the 255 pages of this paperback of ” Cassandra’s ” or W. N. Connor’s better pieces (especially those criticising the G.P.O., the railways, estate agents and Mail Order rackets, and his powerful attacks on anti-British politicians and his moving appeals on behalf of animals and other weak creatures), it is very interesting to read his enthusiastic motoring items. It comes as a surprise to find the great Daily Mirror columnist pouring out his enthusiasm for rare vintage cars as if he were on the Sunday Times or The Autocar! ” Cassandra ” was a man
who liked unusual objects, measurements, unique names and cats. He also very obviously liked vintage cars. His piece entitled ” Bean and Bear-Cat ” is highly nostalgic. In it, Daily Mirror readers were introduced to “Cassandra’s ” Frazer Nash (he uses no hyphen, Mr. Thirlby!), of which, he claims, ” The twin camshaft job did 44 m.p.h. in 1st and over 90 in top. It made a harsh churning noise on to which was superimposed the sound of tearing endless calico strips.” [1 ie refers presumably to the Blackburne Six ?[ All manner of rare makes graced his page in the Mirror that day! A reader replied, listing other makes long-forgotten by most motorists (this was in 1961) and that set ” Cassandra ” off again—recalling more of them and introducing Mirror readers to the delights of the 30/98 Vauxhall—” not the glossy new jobs from Luton Town ” — Bugattis and W. 0. Bentley’S ” majestic green monsters “! Some of his appellations are very apt, such as ” gormless, faithful Jowett,” which ” looked gawky and foolish, but it took you there and it brought you back.” If you excuse the mis-spelling of Duesenberg and Metallurgique (which the correspondent couldn’t spell, either), and the Trojan quoted as driven by chains (plural) as printing-errors, ” Cassandra ” gets his motoring filets pretty well right, although I am left wondering why he describes the Calthorpe as ” pernickety ” and am not sure I regard the Minerva as able ” to look a Rolls straight in the eye.” Moreover, when quoting names with an aristocratic ring about them I would have substituted Delatinay-Belleville for Belsize-Bradshaw and would have used Panhard-Levassor instead of de Dion 13outon. Nor did the 30/98 Vauxhall have splash lubrication, although in the event of big-end trouble I believe the makers did recommend over-filling the sump so that the big-ends would dip into the oil, which may be what the famous columnist had in mind when he wrote : ” It had great long con.-rods that rose majestically and sank again lolloping with easy leisure and dipping into the sump oil.” (My italics.) These comments apart, ” Cassandra ” was clearly one of us—you must certainly read this and his other splendid discourses. Never was better reading value offered for five bob….—W. 13. Many of the general introductions to motor racing are boring or superficial books. But the ” International Motor Racing Book,”
edited by Phil Drackett 043 pages, 91 in.) is in a different category. It replaces the Batsford bedside motoring books as constituting a worthwhile present for the enthusiast, with 150 good pictures and interesting articles by Jack Brabham, Enzo Ferrari, Graham Hill, John Suttees, and other celebrities, as well as historical studies by Cyril Willa:1.°ft and Billy Cotton, although the last-named claims to have won the very last race held at Brooklands, which he did not. This book is published by Souvenir Press Ltd., 95, Mortimer Street, London, V.i, at 18s, and, regarded as a souvenir, is yell worth buying.