Book reviews, October 1972, October 1972

“Air-Cooled Automotive Engines”, by Julius Mackerle, M.E. 518 pp. 8¾ in x 5 4/5 in. (Charles Griffin & Co. Ltd., 42, Drury Lane, London, WC2. £8.00.)

This is the second, fully revised edition of a truly comprehensive work which looks at every aspect of the air-cooling of automotive internal-combustion engines and thereby makes out a strong case for dispensing with coolant fluid and radiators and water jackets which add weight, complication and vulnerability to any engine. The first edition of the book appeared over a decade ago and was well received, and this fresh edition, edited by Keith Alderton, (whom we remember as a past owner-enthusiast of Lanchester Twenty-One and Trojan motor cars,) has been translated from the Czechoslovakian by K. Caslavsky.

The book is special pleading by the late head designer of Tatra, who built their first air-cooled cars in 1923. He took this position in 1948 and has a very thorough knowledge of how an air-cooled engine should be constructed. After the vast success of Volkswagen (we still remember British automobile engineers telling us that our funny nature-fanned contraption wouldn’t work, at a time when the 1955 Editorial Beetle was working very well!) and the great Fiat engineer’s confession that had he planned the Fiat 600 before the 500, both his small-car engines would have been air-cooled (and the 500 has outlived the 600) there seems little need to vindicate air-cooling. But this book shows how it must be contrived for the best application.

It deals with general principles, fundamentals of heat transmission, heat transfer from hot gases to cylinder walls, heat transfer through the cylinder walls, thermal balance of the engine, the finned surfaces, the quantity of cooling air, the control of the cooling system, utilisation of exhaust gas energy (including turbo-blowers), general engine layout, the cylinder head, the cylinder barrel, the crankcase, the valve gear (including rotary and sleeve valves), the cooling fan, the crank mechanism and lubrication, engine starting, the two-stroke engine, rotary piston engines, the noise of air-cooled engines, and examples of engines produced, both petrol and c.i., to quote the headings of the 21 chapters.

As we have said, it is all there. Perhaps if the early designers of air-cooled cars had had access to this book, the Rover Eight and GN and ABC, etc., might have been even better than they were. It is, anyway, never too late to learn. . . . — W. B.


“Flying Wartime Aircraft”, by Hugh Bergel, O.B.E. 193 pp. 8½ in. x 5¼ in. (David & Charles, South Devon House, Newton Abbot, Devon. £3.25.)

I knew Hugh Bergel as the enthusiastic owner of a Type 35 Bugatti, driven in VSCC events by his son, Dr. Bergel, until he graduated to the 250F Maserati, but until I received for review this fascinating book I did not know that father Bergel had been CO of No. 9 Ferry Pool. ATA, during the war and was obviously a very accomplished, not to mention brave, aviator.

The book gives verbatim the ATA Pilot’s Handling Notes as issued to ATA personnel, covering such exciting aeroplanes as the immortal Hawker Hurricane, the difficult Bell Airacobra, the powerful Hawker Typhoon, the beautiful de Havilland Mosquito, the tricky Bristol Beaufighter, the great Vickers Wellington and the impressive Consolidated Liberator. The notes on these now historic aircraft are decidedly technical and recall another age of aviation—they also remind me that for my sins I spent an uneventful war writing similar notes for the Ministry of Aviation, in between editing the war-time Motor Sport.

What is such fun about Bergel’s book is that he puts in personal reminiscences of the machines, pithy, honest and usually very funny—such as, when writing of the Airacobra, “Below 1,000 r.p.m. the vibration was such that the whole outline of the aircraft dissolved into a shimmering blur. Some of this may have been due to the pilot’s eyeballs vibrating in sympathy”. This unusual but welcome book enables you to ascertain such unlikely things as the stalling speed of a Mosquito in straight flight with power off, how to crank up a Hurricane, why if your port engine packed up in a Wimpey you would most likely have to make a belly landing, etc. It is interesting that ATA pilots had to keep below 5,000 ft. at all times, and navigate “by Bradshaw”, as they had no radio and nothing more sophisticated than a compass and directional gyro. One in eight of ATA pilots and flight engineers were killed, mostly due to bad weather. The author says that when he was in ATA he used to discourage himself from thinking too deeply about the job he was doing because the only result would have been the conviction that it could not be done. “But”, he continues, “the job was done, thanks to the audacity of ATA’s founders, the brash confidence of its pilots and the brilliant work of its Technical Department. These notes are the stuff of aviation history; they well deserve to be reprinted.” A different age, when men gave of their best, sometimes their lives, for Britain, and aeroplanes had become complicated but were still aeroplanes! — W. B.


“History of the Traffic Department of the Metropolitan Police”, by Detective Chief Inspector K. Rivers. 63 pp. 9½ in. x 6 4/5 in. (Available from P/C D. H. Marrable, Room 1011, New Scotland Yard, Broadway, London, SW1. 32½p, post paid, soft-cover edition; 60p, post paid, hard-cover edition. All proceeds to City & Metropolitan Police Orphans Fund.)

This is a quite remarkable slice of motoring history, which all students of the past will wish to have, although, in fact, it covers the period 1761 to 1968. It occupied three years’ spare-time research on the part of the author, who is to be congratulated not only on compiling a very well-balanced history of the work of the Traffic Department of London’s great Police Force but, from our point of view, of dealing in commendable detail with the many motor vehicle’s used by the Force, even to identifying them by taxable horse-power and body type.

This makes the book of vital interest to motoring historians and they should not be misled by its limited number of pages. A small type-face enables a great deal of information to be packed in. The book has some interesting pictures, from Bean vans and Chater-Lea motorcycles being serviced at the Police workshops in Barnes, and the Flying Squad’s original Crossley tenders, to the BSA 3-wheelers and a 4½-litre Invicta used later. There are cartoons by P/C T Chicken, which show that the Police do not mind laughing at themselves, and a colour frontispiece of Piccadilly Circus in 1886. The text has the stamp of one who understands cars.

It is impossible to reveal, all the interesting data this book uncovers. There is reference to the birth of mechanisation, with a fleet of Douglas solo motorcycles in 1920, replaced in 1924 by Chater-Lea combinations while in 1919 there were the Crossleys purchased from the RAF and War Office. Thereafter the annual changes made in the fleet are an enthralling study. It is significant how Bean had a large share in this business, how the pros and cons of solo motorcycle versus sidecar outfits ebbed and flowed, interesting that the large number of 7-h.p. Jowett tourers which eventually replaced the combinations had to be abandoned because of fierce clutches which broke their back axles, and how 3-wheeler BSAs were found too unstable for Police work. The book tells how the Hillman Minx was adopted when the Morris-Cowley, formerly the standard Police issue, went out of production, and so on. Apart from all these gems of information in the text, there is a 15-page appendix listing all the vehicles used by the Metropolitan Police from 1919 to 1969, commencing with a Vauxhall cabriolet for the Commissioner and Tilling Stevens prison vans, and ending with Wolseley 6/99s and Morris vans. The diversity of makes is quite astonishing and it is emphasised that the Police had to buy and tax all their vehicles, although later there was a subsidy scheme. Details are even included of prices paid, how unwanted vehicles were sold off, and of how the subsidy worked. In all this detailed motoring data I can find but two errors, an MG Magnette referred to as a “Magnet” and a Jowett Javelin as a Jowett ERA saloon. There will be interest in putting types to h.p. ratings in the case of some of the early Police cars, when pre-war models were presumably being used in 1919/20.

The Hendon Driving School is described, with the remark that very few officers passed first-class after being tested on a 3½-litre Lagonda and a 4½–litre Bentley, both with crash gearboxes and the latter with central accelerator! The high mileage covered by Police cars in London comes over and the locality of the depots and repair shops, how the Traffic Department was formed and how it developed, how traffic problems were resolved, the work of the “courtesy cops” whose task was to advise rather than punish, the acceptance of the MG Midget as a useful Police car, early experiments with radio communication, all this and much more besides is covered in this remarkable work, which is straight history and in no way propaganda for the Force.

It is amusing that the Derby was used year after year to try out new traffic-control methods, an aeroplane, an airship, a static balloon and an auto-gyro being employed, those early Crossleys with radio assisting. When finance was a problem the Ford V8 was the only appropriate saloon available for under £500 and 55 were bought, while the Lagonda Rapier at £368 was recommended by the then-Traffic Officer, Capt. Minchin, as fast enough for Police service, and two used Roesch Talbot saloons and a used Humber Super Snipe were bought at this time. Racing personalities who advised the Metropolitan Police were Sir Malcolm Campbell, Lord Cottenham and Graham Walker. I could go on and on lifting fascinating items from “History of the Traffic Department of the Metropolitan Police” but the best thing you can do is to get yourself a copy. Drivers who have been caught in a radar-trap may not feel particularly kindly disposed towards the Police (there are braver ways of catching bigger criminals!) but in view of the very courageous work the Force has been doing during the recent rough Industrial unrest, it will surely please most of our readers who buy the book to know that the proceeds go to the Police Orphans Fund.

The advertisements (from which we note that the Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Patrols use Everoak GP Racing Helmets and that Brands Hatch has supported them) are grouped at the back and the stiff-cover edition has the title nicely embossed in gold, on a blue background. Early application for Des. Chief Inspector Rivers’ commendable work would seem desirable, in case supplies run out. . . .

With this book came a copy of Clearway, the Traffic Magazine of the Metropolitan Police, from which I was intrigued to discover that they are not averse to road-testing hairy vehicles such as Uren Fords and BMW R60/5 motorcycles. The Police testers may have to wrap their comments up a bit for the benefit of Senior Officers—of the Uteri Ford, “. . . I was conscious of the feeling that the extra power under the bonnet, if not used properly, would get you into trouble quite easily, particularly on the public highway where there is little or no room for drifting” (they tried it on the MVRE track at Chobham), and of the BMW motorcycle “Cruising at 80 was effortless. The clock fitted to this machine was calibrated in kilometres and when I did the conversion later it was quite a shock, for I would not have estimated the speed to be so high, such was the smoothness of the BMW” (he had been riding it along the M6). But both these publications show the Police in a new light, keen and knowledgeable about fast machinery, and thus both represent good Police propaganda, though this is not the intention behind either of them. — W. B.


“The Automotive Nightmare”, by Alisdair Aird. 301 pp. 8½ in. x 5 1/5 in. (Hutchinson & Co., 3, Fitzroy Sqoare, London, W1. £3.50.)

This gruesome title would not have merited a review had it been merely a British imitation of the Nadar scare—for look what that has cost the British Motor Industry and the pockets of ordinary car owners! But it goes a bit beyond the death and disaster theme. The author works for Motoring Which? and has been able to draw on many irrefutable statistics when posing such questions as does motoring cost too much, are repairs too costly, and is car insurance a swindle ? He cites cases of cars breaking down all too soon from new and being delivered in poor order, such as Consumer Association members have been aware of for far too long. Incidentally, the only contribution Motor Sport makes is a quoted reference to the Maxi not living up to its publicity promises, although the author has ranged wide in his search for appropriate quotes.

He has chapters headed “Strangled by Roads”, “Noise”, “Pollution”, “Why Cars Are Teo Dangerous”, “Licensed to Kill” and “Scrap-iron Economy”, which would warm the Nadar cockles. He thinks the solution, if there be one, is to investigate alternative prime-movers which will replace the i.c. engine and to develop public transport at the expense of the private car. Aird’s indictment of the Industry for selling shoddy, sometimes dangerous, and often badly turned-out cars may get a hearing; the rest of his book is panic stuff. He belongs to the growing band who dislike cars and hope that if they yell loudly enough the motor car will fade quietly (or noisily) away. The fact is that this is most unlikely to happen and that some of us even like motor cars. — W. B.


The Rolls-Royce “bible”, that glossy volume “The Rolls-Royce Motor Car”, by Anthony Bird and Ian Hallows (328 pp., 9¾ in. x 7¼ in.; B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W1H 0AH; £6.50), has gone into a third edition eight years after it first appeared and made publishing history, and now includes the Silver Shadow. Bird had the difficult task of contributing this Postscript and it is typical Bird writing, rather out of keeping with the undisguised Rolls-Royce praise and esteem expressed elsewhere. Indeed, Bird has a high old time at the conclusion of this weighty and dignified book’ taking the Motor to task for saying the Silver Shadow has a spacious back compartment, for to Bird it is cramped laterally and vertically and provides insufficient leg-room, thus treating the back-compartment occupants as second-class citizens. This is only the beginning. He then compares the modern Rolls-Royce, with American luxury cars, admits he would not wish to own a Silver Shadow, implies that the Mercedes-Benz 600 is superior. Yet Bird has been scrupulously fair, within the confines of a personal assessment. He quotes liberally from the better parts of the Motor and Road & Track road-test reports on the Silver Shadow (what, I find myself wondering, did he think of Motor Sport’s findings ?), explains why even R-R had to abandon self-made components and change their styling, and devotes warm commendation of the Silver Shadow’s more outstanding aspects, although he expresses dislike of the tape-worm used to check oil-level, and wonders how Sir Henry Royce would have reacted to a handbrake unable to restrain the Silver Shadow on a 1-in-3 hill. Rather out of context, but delightfully nevertheless, Bird hammers Motor for saying that Rolls-Royce, more than any other manufacturer, showed that cars could be reliable and practical transport rather than a joke—what, he thunders, of de Dion Bouton, Renault, Ford and Oldsmobile ? —and reminds us that the best automatic transmission of them all is found on the DAF.

Bird gives a delightful picture of the changes that have overtaken factory economics since Royce first built Silver Ghosts and, if he leaves the impression that he is pro-Mercedes 600 at the expense of the Silver Shadow, he is honest enough to remark that the latter has been a commercial triumph far Rolls-Royce Ltd., whereas the 600 has been a relative failure for Mercedes-Benz AG. His conclusion is that the latest Rolls-Royce is “the triumph of the intangible over the impeccable” and those who do not like this assessment will be able to console themselves that this is a conclusion reached by one who confesses that motoring has lost its charm for him and who admits to only 150 miles’ experience of a Silver Shadow from the back seat . . .

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J. H. Haynes and D. H. Stead have produced a workshop manual for the VW 1200 available for £2 (UK only) from 24, Lower Odcombe, Yeovil, Somerset.

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The comprehensive “Observer’s Military Vehicles Directory”, by Bert Vanderveen, of post-war types, is available from Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., at £2.50.

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Arlington Books, 38, Bury Street, St, James’s, London, SW1, have published an illustrated book by Jim Gavin about tuning all marks of the Ford Cortina, priced at £1.75.