Book Reviews, November 1973, November 1973

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For the moment the flood of hooks about cars has slowed down but no doubt the tide will flow again around Christmas. For the present we have only “Passenger Vehicles-1893-1940” in the Olyslager Auto Library series, the joint work, as it were, of Denis N. Miller and Bart H. Vanderveen, the latter being the Editor. This landscape book with some 150 illustrations, many of them new, is best regarded as a pictorial introduction to the subject, the emphasis being on unusual vehicles, many of the pictures Of which are published for the first time. The illustrations of old ‘buses and coaches not forgetting the ‘steamers, should give pleasure but we seem to have seen before the picture of the almost unbelievable Mann adapted steam char-abane. This one is published by Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd., 40 Bedford Square, WC1B 3HE, at L1.95.. •

That work which must be so useful to some of the owners of the three-million and more Minis which have been produced since the Issigonis baby was weaned in 1959, “British Leyland Minis—Maintenance, Tuning and Modification” by David Marshall and Ian Fraser, has gone into a third edition, the chapters on tuning and modification having been completely re-written by the authors front experience gained in their own workshops. The publishers of this informative 266-page book are G. T. Foulis & Co., Ltd., who pioneered motor book publishing popularity, of 50a Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. The price is £2.95. Another remarkable book which has come out again is “A History Of British Dinky Toys-1934-1964” by Cecil Gibson. Remarkable it is, on account of the enormous amount of detailed, sometimes tabular, information and pictures it contains on a very specialised subject. Dedicated to “William Boddy—an enthusiast”, this book was originally published in 1966 by the Model Aeronautical Press Ltd. It has been reprinted by Mikansue and Modellers’ World, of 15 Bell Lane, Eton Wick, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 6LQ, as a 152-page soft-cover publication, priced at £1.80.

The AA has produced an 84-page booklet “Know about car electrics”, which is available to their members for 40p.

Rumour suggests that Bob Wyatt is working on his complete history of the Austin Motor Company-1907-1952, which we hope will see print in the not too distant future.

Cars in Books

A number of interesting motoring and aviation references accur in “Bring Me a Unicorn” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Chatto & Windus, 1972). Unfortunately the wife of the famous American aviator does not tell us the make of car in which she toured Europe with her parents in 1926 but in those days Le Puy was regarded as only a day’s motor ride from Geneva. Incidentally, the authoress, as a young girl, described making light of difficult social occasions, such as lunching with Lord Amherst, as akin to gracefully steering a large Packard around a corner. A Packard, note, in 1926, not a Cadillac or a Lincoln.

She appreciated the fast, steady driving— powerful engine—as she drove in 1928 back to Springfield after her first joy-ride in an aeroplane, but she was at first terrified when she was told to follow the family chauffeur Burke on a fast drive, in the station-wagon, and not lose him. She felt foolish to be nervous at 45 m.p.h. and wondered whether she would ever fly a 200 m.p.h. aeroplane. It is usually easier to follow than to lead but not to keep up with a fast-driven car passing other vehicles. Meeting Lindbergh soon after his solo Atlantic flight, she went out with him in his new Franklin sedan, remembered as black with a small silver lion on the radiator— actually a Franklin, being air-cooled, had a dummy radiator. She was allowed to navigate for the famous aviator and to drive his car.

I was interested to discover that Lindbergh was a multi-engine pilot, taking the Morrows up from Chicago City in a tri-motor Ford. But he flew his girl-friend in a DH Moth, once flown by a titled lady pilot to Africa. The comparative sophistication of his “Spirit of St. Louis” makes it difficult to realise the crude aeroplanes still in general use, Lindbergh giving Anne a flight over Popocateped in a Curtis Falcon biplane. The book contains some nice pictures of the Lindbergh aeroplanes, the motocade for him from Mexico City airport to the town, where he appears to be riding in an open Lincoln, and of the attractive Morrow girls, etc. Recommended, and look out for the sequel volumes .

I took up “The Animals Caine in One by One” by Buster Lloyd-Jones (any relation, I wonder, to the Lloyd-Jones of Flying Triangle fame ?)—Secker 8c Warburg, 1966—to escape from cars for a while. But, blow me, I hadn’t read further than page 15 before I came upon mention of his father’s car, “.. . an enormous beige Sunbeam with brass acetylene lamps and an enormous hood”. Obviously a pre-war model, which was never used on Sundays. It survived at least to 1926, because it is described as carrying ten people perfectly comfortably during the General Strike, conveying them from Feltham to London and back. By the time the author was in the sixth form of Richmond Hill School he was allowed to use one of the family cars, “a little Morris Oxford with square nose and dickie”. Ilis own first car was a baby Austin, bought in the ‘twenties or early ‘thirties but sold later to pay for digs. The Rolls-Royce of millionaire financier Charles Hughesdon is briefly referred to but this is obviously a book about animals, slickly written but essential reading for those who care—and the author puts rather neatly the point about humans considering themselves superior to animals—remarking that for rabbits only two things ever hold their attention for a moment, eating and mating, adding “both are absorbing occupations and a great many people think of little else either, so we shouldn’t feel too. superior!”

“Journey to Harley Street” by Doctor William Evans (David Rendel, 1968) refers to a Rolls-Royce used by a very skilled surgeon who was an ex-sea Captain, which had a small plate on the inside of one door bearing the words “Front a grateful patient”. It was almost certainly a pre-1924 Ghost and one wonders whether it exists, with the inscription intact, today ? Even more remarkable, this mainly medical book refers to the stationary engine at Cambridge Heath Station which used to make a noise like a certain heart disease and which was running at least up to 1941. The author also describes a visit from London to Paris to see a patient, accomplished between 4.30 a.m. and lunch-time when he was back in his Whitechapel hospital, the sea crossing being made from Southend to Le Bourget in a small aeroplane flown by an unknown pilot, while the “Smooth running luxurious limousine which met the specialist in Paris and which, running out of petrol, had to be abandoned for a taxi, was not a famous French car but— a Cadillac”.

Truly surprising is a reference to cars in “My Land and People” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), to which a reader, Mr. Martin Hird of Bridgehouse, kindly drew my attention. The relevant part of the book reads: “One of the minor pleasures of the Norbulingka was that it had a motor generator for electric light, which often broke down, so that I had every excuse to take it to pieces. From that machine, I discovered how internal combustion engines work, and also noticed how the dynamo created a magnetic field when it turned; and I must say that I managed to mend it more often than not.

“I tried to make use of this knowledge on three old motor cars, the only ones in Lhasa. There were two 1927 Baby Austins, one blue and the other red and yellow, and a large Dodge of 1931, painted orange. They had been presented to my predecessor, and carried over the Himalaya in pieces and then reassembled; but they had never been used since his death and had stood and been allowed to rust. I longed to make them go. At last I found a young Tibetan who had been trained as a driver in India, and with my eager assistance he managed to put the Dodge in working order, and also one of the Austins, by borrowing parts front the other. These were exciting moments”.