Having given us a history of the Mercedes-Benz concern by D. Scott-Monerieff, Cassell have followed this with a history of the great S.T.D. combine which embraced Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq cars of the pre-Rootes era. Although no indication appears in the book as to how the authors split their task, it seems probable that Ian Nichols dealt with Sunbeam and Talbot, leaving Darracq to Kent Kerslake. Whether or not this is so, the result is a handsomely bulky volume in which appears most of the relevant matter appertaining to the business side of S.T.D., the technical aspects of the cars it made and raced, and of those Rootes product which took subsequently the illustrious names of Sunbeam and Talbot.
This reviewer does not pretend that this is an easy book to read, for business methods, correspondence from contemporary motor journals, and racing and model changes down the years, fill each of the later chapters in rather higgledy-piggledy fashion. But for the serious student of S.T.D. history “Motoring Entente” will afford long hours of happy browsing and serious study, the more so because the book has copious appendices. These latter comprise a comprehensive table of all Sunbeam production models made between 1899 and 1936, detailing, year by year, price, number of cylinders, engine size, make of carburetter, valve position, ignition, cooling and lubrication characteristics, details of transmission, brakes, suspension and chassis, and dimensions; similar tables of Sunbeam racing engines and cars built from 1910 to 1936; a very full list of Sunbeam competition successes from 1910 to 1936; details of Talbot, Sunbeam Talbot and Rootes-Sunbeam cars of 1934 to 1956.; another table relating to the Darracq models of 1899 to 1934; a table covering racing Darracqs of 1900-1926; and, finally, a list of major competition successes achieved by Darracq, Talbot-Darracq, Talbot and Rootes Sunbeam-Talbot cars, up to January, 1956. There is also a chapter devoted to the Sunbeam S.T.D. Register, which carries on in practical form the aims of Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq owners of the vintage era. The appendices are of absorbing interest, the only disappointment being that Sunbeam gets by far the more detailed attention, while the commendable attempt which has been made to identify the type of Sunbeam against each competition appearance could have been developed more fully with advantage, i.e., in the list of Sunbeam racing types we come upon the rare Coppa Florio “straight six,” of which the appropriate column informs us that these cars had “very many successes in hill-climbs and at Brooklands.” Yet in Appendix IV, dealing with Sunbeam competition successes, this Copps Florio model does not appear; reference to Vol. I of “The Story of Brooklands” reveals that it has been lumped with other 4.9-litre six-cylinder Sunbeams. Also, in this appendix not all the Brooklands speeds quoted seem accurate when compared with the official Brooklands records, from which, incidentally, the three volumes of “The Story of Brooklands” were compiled. In the text itself commendably few errors appear to have got by, although it is stated that Percy Lambert was killed in 1913 when his Talbot went over the top of the Brooklands banking, whereas, in fact, it threw poor Lambert out as it rolled down the banking.
In describing how Georges Roesch evolved the 10/23 Talbot from Coatalen’s 8/18, no reference is made to the adoption of a differential and bigger brakes, while a reference in the text to a 1924 14/40 Darracq costing £535 as a chassis fails to tally with the table of Darracq models, where only a 15/40 costing £525 is found. The book has already “dated” to the extent of some minor technical details of the Sunbeam Rapier being inaccurate, but the total of errors seems commendably small. In common with certain other make-histories “Motoring Entente” disappoints in its lack of fresh material and failure to unravel some of the puzzles which history has presented. For example, after coming to the last page we are no wiser than before regarding Coatalen’s manipulation of old stock into new Sunbeam models or why such a long-wheelbase chassis was used for the twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam engine, nor do we learn anything new of the single o.h.c. 16-valve O.V. Sunbeam sports engine and why it was so short-lived. The origin and development of the three great companies which eventually combined as S.T.D. is faithfully set down, but there is not a lot that is new to those fortunate enough to possess the history which the Sunbeam Motor Car Co. issued as a publicity move in 1924 and those articles on Sunbeam and Roesch-Talbots which appeared a few years ago in MOTOR SPORT. How nice if the authors could have interviewed Louis Coatalen, reproduced early drawings, have drawn out Georges Roesch and told us, after the passage of years, the truth about the storm which broke when Sydney Guy left Sunbeam after serving as its Works Manager during a period in which the famous Wolverhampton company was lifted from mediocrity to fortune (see MOTOR SPORT last month, page 543). Alas, it is but seldom that authors get such opportunities and, within limits, Nichols and Kerslake have produced a truly excellent history in “Motoring Entente.” It is not a book for light reading but serious students of motoring history will study it with relish. The long correspondence which raged in The Autocar—what would historians do without that august journal? between Louis Coatalen and W. O. Bentley is reproduced in full, as are other letters dealing, with perhaps tedious thoroughness, with the constitution of the companies concerned.
The illustrations are particularly well selected although, inevitably, many will be well known to the reader. If “Motoring Entente” provides little “inside information” it does fill a very important place in motoring chronology by tracing the rise, and fall, of Sunbeam from a small tinplate and japanned goods manufactory, of Talbot under Lord Shrewsbury’s guidance with his elegant factory in Acton at the sign of the Talbot hound, and of how M. Darracq, the financier, sought so earnestly for the right car to build. The book exudes that air of romance which surrounded the Sunbeam Company in vintage times, when its green racing cars had won two Continental Grands Prix, and as the pages turn, revealing and recalling little-known models along with the classic types, the enthusiast for that long-ago age cannot fail to be enthralled. And many times after this comprehensive volume has been read it will be taken from the bookcase whenever matters of S.T.D. history are under discussion; its appendices will then be found invaluable. Clarence Paget of Cassells is a keen user of Sunbeam 16-h.p. and 25-h.p. cars and no doubt credit is due to him as well as to the authors for this excellent work about one of the most important groups of companies in the British automobile firmament. —W. B.