Book reviews, September 1967, September 1967

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“Low-Cost Car Repairs,” by John Mills. 294 pages, 8¾ in. x 5½ in. (Faber & Faber Ltd., 24, Russell Square, London. 35s.)

As the title suggests, this is a book on care and maintenance ordinary cars, not a tuning book for the speedy boys. It covers aspect of coping with used cars, from mechanical work; through electrical work to body repairs, and deals with them from a very practical and down-to-earth point of view. There are drawings, diagrams, photographs and details dealing with ordinary production cars by the and you get the impression that Mr. Mills has actually done most the work, and on second-hand cars at that, for he is continually out pitfalls and snags that the average instruction book overlooks. He gives some splendid warnings, such as “this is a so-and-so of a job” or “Take it easy here because…”

I took to Mr. Mills’ style of writing at the very first chapter, for it is entitled “First Find Your Car…” and starts off, “Most motoring books assume the reader owns a car.” For those of us who like fiddling-about with old (not vintage) cats, this is a useful book to have on the shelf.—D. S. J.

“Valve Mechanisms for High-Speed Engines,” by Philip H. Smith, M.I.MECH.E., M.S.A.E. 216 pp. 8¾ in. x 5½ in. (G. T. Foulis & Co. 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 48s.)

This book was of considerable interest to me, because in the past we have devoted space in Motor Sport to the subject, dealing for instance with push-rod actuation of inclined o.h. valves and twin-overhead-camshaft valve operation.

This fascinating book by Philip Smith on this specialised subject is historical as well as highly technical and all manner of valve gears; even to devoting separate chapters to sleeve valves, rotary valves and things like the Butterworth swinging valve, the Imperia slide-valve engines and rotary valve variants. There is much of great value to those engaged on the design and development of i.e. engines, like the theory and formation of cam profiles, harmonic and multi-sine-wave, and about the materials of valves and valve gear, how to cope with lubrication problems, etc.

The information on camshaft drives is very useful. But no book is ever as all-embracing as this reviewer would wish and the Maudslay and Leyland Eight private-car o.h.c. drive is omitted, although that for N.S.U. and Bentley is illustrated—but there is a serious error inasmuch as the triple-eccentric o.h.c. drive is ascribed to the 4½-litre Bentley, whereas this was used only for the 6½-litre and 8-litre Bentley engines.

The author would seem to have attempted too much, putting cylinder-head layout, tappet design, etc., into a book supposedly about valve gear mechanisms, and covering the motorcycle and commercial vehicle fields as well as private-car engines. But there is a great deal of very useful information between its covers and those who enjoy mechanisms Will derive pleasure as well as knowledge from browsing through its picture-packed pages, recalling famous and infamous valve gears of the past as well as studying present-day methods. A pity, though, that Georges Roesch’s famous Talbot push-rod valve gear gets no credit, the reference to Talbot rocker gear referring only to the Lago designs. The book should have been twice the size, so that all this kind of thing could have been effectively covered.—W.B.

“With Campbell at Coniston,” by Arthur Knowles. 160 pp. 9½ in. x 6¾ in. (William Kimber & Co. Ltd., 6, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, S.W.1. 30s.)

As a tribute to a very brave man and a day-by-day record of what went on at Coniston Water while the late Donald Campbell, was attempting to break the Water Speed Record last year, this book is very deserving of a place on the bookshelf. It is splendidly illustrated, there is a Foreword by Leo Villa (who really should now write own autobiography), and Knowles, writing as a journalist who himself to the Campbell camp, is perceptive but far kinder to than John Pearson was in his book about the other Bluebird in Australia.

The author is not technical but enough technicalities get across for the average reader and the story continues to the bitter end, with Campbell’s fatal accident and the unsuccessful efforts to recover his body. This is a sad book but worthwhile as a tribute to Donald Campbell.—W. B.

“Those Elegant Rolls-Royce,” by Lawrence Dalton: 319 pp. 9¾ in. x 7¼ in. (Dalton Watson Ltd, 76, Wardour Street, London, W.1. 105s.)

It is difficult to think up any fresh themes for books about the Rolls-Royce car. But Lawrence Dalton has done so and his thick volume will be of interest to avid followers of the Best Car in the World and those who collect Rolls-Royce history. For what he has done is to collect together a vast number of black and white pictures of special bodywork on Rolls-Royce chassis.

Had this just been a big collection of rather samey photographic reproductions it would have been a failure. But it is more than that. The author has divided the book into sections, covering pictorially representative coachwork by no less than 56 specialist bodybuilders, from Abbott to James Young. Each section is preceded by a brief discourse about the coachbuilder concerned, with the date, in many cases, when they first made a body for a Rolls-Royce chassis. Not only coachbuilders either, for Weymann of Paris and Addlestone are included, and they made fabric-covered bodies.

How the author has amassed so many authentic pictures is a mystery; how he has managed to identify all the Rolls-Royce cars thus depicted by model and body style and in most cases Reg. Nos., with an index giving chassis numbers of the cars, which range from Silver Ghost No. 60576 with Cockshoot limousine body to Wraith No. SVEC 50 with James Young saloon body, is beyond my Comprehension.

All the great coachbuilders, like Barker, Brewster, Freestone & Webb, Hooper, Mulliner, Vanden Plas and James Young, etc., etc., have their period wares displayed, and lesser firms like Binder, Caffyns, Maudslay„ Watson and Wylder, etc., likewise. This is not an exciting book but it could be a very useful and informative one to certain people. It is uniform in size and paper to Batsfsrd’s great work on the Rolls-Royce. The end-papers carry the R.-R. badge in red and in black—a nice touch.—W. B.

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There are many guides to London but one of the best is that by Robert Nicholson Publications, 3, Goodwin’s Court, St. Martin’s Lane, W.C.2, which should ease the path of those holidaying in the Metropolis or visiting it for the Motor Show next month.

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Lord Montagu is so well known to Old-car enthusiasts that his highly entertaining book “The Gilt and the Gingerbread–or how to live in a Stately Home and make money” will be of considerable interest in the motoring world, particularly as the origins of the Montagu Motor Museum are outlined and many of the references and pictures are concerned with the cars housed there. I found this book irresistible and one not readily put down. As leader last year in the “Stately Home stakes” by some 100,000 visitors over his nearest rival, the Duke of Bedford, Lord Montagu is the fit and proper person to write this book. It is to his credit that he makes it so very interesting, dealing with the origins and development of the Opening of tine houses to the public, the problems involved, listing those properties now open, giving the contents of a long interview he had with Lord Bath of Longleat and covering such topics as lavatories, tax-avoidance, catering, sign posting, and how others in the business succeed or fail, and why, Lord Montagu writing light-heartedly and with humour and understanding. The book is published by Michael Joseph, at 30s., and runs to 232 pages.

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“A Miracle on 4 Wheels,” by Reinhard Seiffert (Macdonald & Co. Ltd., 40s.), is an attempt to explain how cars are made the way they are, rather more entertainingly than many books about how cars work.