“The Complete Encyclopaedia of Motorcars-1885-1968”.
Edited by G. N. Georgano. 640 pp. 11¼ in. x 8¾ in. (Michael Joseph Ltd., 26, Bloomsbury Street, London, W.C.1. 126s.)
This enormous work of reference, which apart from the page dimensions quoted above measures 2½ in. across its closed covers, and weighs 5 lb. 14 oz., claims to describe every car ever made and to illustrate examples of a great many of these. That is pretty overwhelming, so let us look at it as objectively as possible.
In 1932 the late G. R. Doyle had completed compilation of a remarkably comprehensive dossier of the World’s automobiles and this was published as a record of thousands of makes, with the addresses of those who manufactured them and their production span. Doyle’s “The World’s Automobiles” became a standard reference work, although it only took students of motoring history a short step. But it did confirm or deny whether rumours of obscure cars were authentic or fiction and it gave the historian some idea of which volumes of The Autocar to search through for more information on the subject, or in what locality traces of the factory where a given ancient had been made might be found. As the war gave impetus to the expanding interest in the motoring past, Doyle brought out a supplement, some of it hand written, for his friends’ edification, in 1944. After the war Temple Press Books sought useful titles, heard of Doyle’s, and published a de luxe edition in 1957, with another edition two years later. Later still a further edition appeared, which a rising new historian, the Italian Georgeo Georgano, doing the revisions and additions, to a total of some 5,000 makes.
As far as it went Doyle’s was a tremendous achievement and the present stupendous tome is justifiably dedicated to the memory of this gentleman and to the late John Pollitt, that other retiring but painstaking motor historian. The Encyclopaedia was conceived when Georgano hit upon the truly ambitious idea of writing a work of reference which would not just list some 4,000 different makes of private cars but which would provide brief, and not so brief, descriptions of them, putting each one into perspective or at least saying something about it. To do this he enlisted the services of many specialist writers and delved into innumerable photographic files. The outcome is this Encyclopaedia, which claims to cover “every car ever made” and which certainly deals with over 4,000 different makes, from A.A.A. to Zwickau, illustrating them with 1,974 black-and-white pictures and 61 colour plates. Formidable!
To find out how comprehensive the Encyclopaedia is I first checked that it contained all those makes which have constituted the 39 articles in our “Fragments of Forgotten Makes” series. It did! (In some cases it seems possible that the data was obtained from this source but, if so, all praise to the team for remembering that such information existed and knowing where to turn it up.) I next thought up obscure makes at random, to see whether they were included—makes such as Gibbons, Butterosi, Hodgson, H.P., N.P. and so on. They were! I then remembered that John Bolster had written a book about French vintage cars which listed some very rare makes, so I set about discovering how many of these were omitted from “The Complete Encyclopaedia of Motorcars”. Going only as far as the “As” Bolster scored Aigle and had Aviette in his book whereas the Encyclopaedia lists this as a British make. He has included some makes the Encyclopaedia ignores, but it does not pretend to include one-off specials and things of that calibre. Next I turned to Doyle, third edition, and looked under the “As”. There are 32 omissions from the Encyclopaedia, which goes to show how complete “The World’s Automobiles” is. Most of these, however, are obscure American makes, some no doubt listed under other names.
To completely check this great work would mean postponing any work on another issue of Motor Sport until next year, so I am making no attempt to assess its overall accuracy of text and picture captions. Suffice it to say that the authors are a good guarantee of its authenticity. I will readily confess that the book includes many makes of which I had never heard, outside the pages of Doyle. . . . Indeed, need I be particularly ashamed to admit this, when the makes included run, for instance, from Babcock to B-Z-T, from Caban to Cyrano, D.A.C. to D’Yrsan, Eagle to Eysink, F.A.B. to Fusi Ferro, Gabriel to Gyroscope, Haase to Hyslop, Ibis to Izzer, Jack Enders to J.W.4, K.A.C. to Kyma, Labor to Lyons-Atlas, Macdonald to Mytholm, Nacional to Nyberg, Oakland to Oxford, Pacific to Pyramid, Quadrant to Quo Vadis, Raba to Rytecraft, Saab to Szawe, Takuri to T.Z., U to Utopian, Vabis to Vulpes, Waco to Wyvern, Xenia to Yue Loong, and from Z to Zust? Moreover, every entry merits a line or so, even if some times the information isn’t very informative. More than one of each make is illustrated where popularity demands such treatment, Riley, for instance, having pictures of 1909 12/18, 1922 10.8, 1931 Brooklands, 1936 Lynx, 1952 1½-litre and 1966 Elf. The entries are as up-to-date as the Ford Escort.
Intended as a serious and valuable work of reference, this Encyclopaedia is nevertheless a splendid browsing book. Flicking its pages, I came upon long-forgotten pictures of cars once admired, the black-andwhites being a mixture of photographs taken at recent rallies and contemporaries out of the motor journals; the latter convey better the vehicles the text describes. To find another picture of a Storey, a car made close to where I was born, and to remember, from another illustration, that the obscure chassis that formed part of the original limited and mediocre stock of Performance Cars Ltd., before they became rich car-copers, was indeed an Alsace, was fun. At first there is the feeling that between them Georgano and Sedgwick are doing such a sausage-job with motoring history that there will soon be precious little left to write about. Then one reflects that this is not so, that even to find pictures of cars not illustrated in the present Encyclopaedia would be a formidable task, and that as, naturally, the more obscure makes get but 25 to 50 words or so whereas their full story would need at least 1,000 words (as the Introduction admits) and as well-known makes require some 60,000 words to do them justice whereas the Encyclopaedia has had to average about 400 words per entry, historians are assured of a task which should last them at least for the lifetime of present readers of Motor Sport.
Yet this is an excitingly complete work. I thought maybe, under Allard, the three-wheeler would be overlooked. But no, the Allard Clipper merits a few words. I wondered about the D’Aoust, but it gets no less than a dozen lines, although described as best-known in small or medium sizes, so the giant racing version which ran at Montlhéry’s opening meeting in company with Eldridge’s huge Fiat and Thomas’ Leyland Thomas has been overlooked. The task of collecting together nearly 2,000 pictures and identifying them must have been a heavy one and so one wishes that rather better paper could have been used, to provide better reproduction, although the majority are quite clear. I would have gone without the colour plates to this end, especially as these have mostly been seen in other books and portray old cars in modern, mostly museum, settings, although the plates include such unlikely cars as a 1936 Vauxhall and 1937 Wolseley and many post-war cars from 1941 Lincoln through 1953 Jowett Javelin to 1968 A.C., Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Honda and Pontiac. Whereas the black-and-white pictures are, I think, mostly of cars in original trim, the colour pictures depart somewhat from this aspect, that of a 1919 Fiat 501 surely showing a tourer with oversize tyres, while that of the 1926 Lancia I used to own is definitely of a cut-and-shut Lambda.
Those are the only quibbles I have about a quite stupendous and unique book. But can someone please tell me why it wasn’t titled “The Compleat Encyclopaedia of Motorcars”?—W. B.
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Those who shop early for Christmas and seek a luxury motor-racing 1969 calendar should note that Patrick Stephens Ltd. have been appointed agents for the German “Grand Prix” Calendar, which is now available for 28s. 6d. plus 1s. 6d. for packing and postage. On the other hand, you may prefer your Christmas presents to be British.
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Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., 36, Park Street, London, W.1, have published The Sunday Times/R.A.C. road-atlas, which they claim to be the most up-to-date in the World. It covers British roads in 300 pages, of which 93 are 4-colour maps and 144 a gazetteer on over 3,000 places. There are 100 two-colour town-plans, and a 29,000 name-index. The price is 63s.
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Castrol Lubrication Chart for New Jaguars
A lubrication chart for the Jaguar XJ6 models is already available from Castrol. A copy measuring 22 in. x 17 in. and suitable for the garage wall is available free, on mentioning Motor Sport, from: Castrol Chart Library, Castrol Limited, High Road, Cowley Peachey, Nr. Uxbridge, Middlesex.