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Homepage. This page: A Shire Publications book.


The Hand-Crafted Car Body

Jonathan Wood.
Shire Publications.
ISBN-13:978 0 7478 0688 2
Published 2008.
Book cover

UK RRP 5.99

Buy this Book:
Mr Wood's name will be familiar to regular readers of the motoring press, his words often appearing in magazines such as The Automobile, as well as on the cover of a number of transport books. This offering is published by Shire Publications, well known for their slim books on a myriad of motoring themes.
The art of coachbuilding had established itself long before the motor-car made its presence felt. Skilled craftsmen, well versed in the creation of elegant horse-drawn carriages, were able to apply their knowledge of the craft to the motor-car chassis of the late 19th, and early 20th Centuries.
The book begins by looking at continentally-built motor-car bodies of the veteran era, leading up to the outbreak of WW1. Period photographs show early examples of motorcar coachbuilding fitted to the running gear from motor manufacturers such as Benz, Panhard, Chenard-Walcker and Peugeot. These early cars, with their crafted coachwork, truly were the 'horseless carriages', the styles and methods of construction employed evidently rooted in the days of the horse-drawn era.
Some of the key players in the early days of the British coachbuilding industry are described, with well-known companies such as H.J. Mulliner and lesser-known firms such as Joseph Cockshoot and John Croall all given coverage, alongside the in-house creations of motor manufacturers such as Sunbeam and Wolseley who soon recognised that producing their own coachwork, to suit their production chassis, would be the way forward. As the 1920s and 1930s passed by, the emphasis of coachbuilders shifted towards the higher end of the market, as more of the cheap cars produced by the major car manufacturers rolled off the line with in-house bodywork, to a standard design (albeit still employing a high degree of the craftsman's art in their production).
Business declined markedly with the outbreak of the Second World War, and the text explains how the introduction of unitary body construction by many of the car manufacturers in the 1940s dealt a fatal blow to much of the coachbuilding industry, with the firms that survived concentrating on low-volume sporting chassis, such as those by Healey and Bristol, and also chassis from the quality end of the market, primarily R-R and Bentley. With the introduction of the monocoque Silver Shadow I of 1965, and a noticeable shift in the type of buyer that Rolls-Royce now attracted, demand for bespoke coachwork took another downward turn, from which it would not recover. This skilled profession is now, by and large, the preserve of individual specialists restoring cars of the pre-war era, with only firms such as Morgan producing new cars using the old methods of body construction.
The book runs to 56 pages, and with a RRP of just 5.99 is an excellent introduction to the art of motor-car coachbuilding, featuring as it does many of the once-familiar firms that produced arguably the most interesting vehicle designs of all. The book is illustrated throughout with contemporary artwork and photographs, both colour and black & white.
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