By S. F. EDGE.
THE contrast between the present Age of Motors and the years at the beginning of the century, when the petrol vehicle was still considered by all but a few far-sighted men as a rather offensive plaything, is so great that one is always anxious to learn more of the Good Old Days. No one is better fitted to recall the past than Mr. S. F. Edge, whose name was so closely associated with the early development of the British motor car industry.
As he reminds us, until 1896 motor cars were prohibited by law from running on the road unless preceded by a man carrying a red flag, and even when the ” Emancipation “Act was passed 12 m.p.h. was the maximum speed allowed. Petrol was unobtainable, there were no repairers, and the lonely motorist was liable to be abused if not actually attacked by other road users.
Like many of the pioneer motorists, Edge was a keen racing cyclist, and competed with success in the French long distance races such as the Paris-Bordeaux, so he was naturally interested in the new form of sport which was growing up in France. Besides being General Manager of the Dunlop Tyre Company, he was soon interested in a Company which was agent for several foreign cars, and after some exciting years with racing motor-tricycles, decided that the time had come to launch a British motor car which should be comparable to those being produced by France and Germany. With the help of
his friend Montague Napier, he remodelled an old racing Panhard, then designed a new four-cylinder car which took part in the famous 1,000 Miles Trial of 1900. Encouraged by success in this event, they evolved the monstrous 50 h.p. Napier, which was capable of 85 m.p.h. and weighed ai tons, and drove it almost without preliminary trial in the first Gordon Bennett Race from Paris to Bordeaux. As Lord Howe remarks in the Foreword to the book, one must have the greatest admiration for the pioneers who constructed and drove these monsters with no data of strength or stability to guide them, with the probability of a serious accident through tyre failure if the cars did function properly for any length of time.
Napiers again represented England in the Gordon Bennett races of 1903 and 1904, and then came a period in which the six-cylinder car was being developed, and the racing activities of the firm were cut down. Edge was always full of new ideas, and no sooner was it decided to open a racing track at Weybridge than he hired it for a 24 hour test at 60 m.p.h., and duly accomplished this feat on his Napier two days after the track was opened. Motor-boat racing also attracted his attention, and on a Napier-engined craft won the International Trophy in 1903 and 1905. Apart from its historic interest, the book gives a splendid picture of the trials and the lighter moments which were the lot
of the early motorist. Tyres, of course, provided the greatest trouble, and Edge recalls how on one occasion he spent 14 hours patching first one and then another tube on his car, and an even worse time when he wrestled with a refractory set for no less than 24 hours !
“My Motoring Reminiscences” is well illustrated, and is furnished with maps showing some of the races in which Mr. Edge took part. It is published by G. T. Foulis, and costs 10s. 6d.
THROUGH RUSSIA BY AIR
By JOHN GRIERSON.
THE accounts of conditions in Russia which reach the outside world are so contradictory that they form in themselves a tremendous attraction to the adventurous. Mr. Grierson determined in 1932 to visit the U.S.S.R. by air on his four-year-old Gypsy Moth, on which he had already accomplished some ambitious long-distance flights, and after having had the greatest difficulty in obtaining a visa, and a fruitless journey to the shores of the Gulf of Finland, he was allowed to enter Soviet territory en route for Moscow.
Mr. Grierson succeeds in giving a vivid and unprejudiced picture of life in Russia to-day, and the light-hearted way in which the book is written adds to its attraction. It is illustrated with some excellent photographs and a map, and is published by Foulis at 5s.