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Homepage. This page: An archive of motoring images dating to the 1920s and 1930s.

The Vintage Years of Motoring 1920s & 1930s.

Amberley Publishing.

A.B. Demaus.
ISBN 978-1-84868-465-2
Published 2012. (Paperback, 124 pages).
Review date October 2012.
A book about cars and motoring in the 1920s and 1930s

UK RRP 14.99

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This book was first published in 1979, and has seen a number of updates and reprints since then. This latest incarnation, published in 2012, builds on the earlier works and includes a further selection of images. Through the use of entirely period black and white photographs, it paints a picture of the motor-car, motorcycle, commercial vehicle and competition machine in the years following WW1, until the outbreak of WW2 in 1939. Each photograph is accompanied by notes describing the scene, and the vehicle(s) portrayed in it, so not only is it an interesting publication to dip in and out of, but a useful reference when it comes to trying to identify cars that feature in old photographs that turn up. I find I need all the help I can get when it comes it identifying old cars, so this will no doubt help. All that's missing is an index, something that would really help the researcher's job when trying to cross-reference unidentified makes and models of car. Perhaps something to include in a later update, should there be one?
The images are grouped into eight chapters, starting with motorcycles - which is how many motorists first cut their teeth with powered transportation. Moving slightly up the evolutionary scale, are the cyclecars and "babies" (small cars, such as the Austin 7). Many of the photographs are of the amateur snapshot variety, capturing moments in time that involve motor-powered transportation. Some are more clear than others, but all have been selected with the interest of the reader in mind - undoubtably helped by the author's own interest in vintage motor vehicles. Examples of Austin 7 in various forms, plus examples of Rover 8, GN and three-wheelers of mixed origin all feature within chapter two.
The following chapter, "Going for a Spin", sees cars doing just that, being used for sociable jollies to the countryside, usually accompanied by gleaming passengers, excited at the prospect of a day behind the wheel and the lure of afternoon tea at a suitable venue. Just the type of activity that many owners of pre-war cars seek to emulate today in fact. Obscurities, such as the German Piccolo, and a Straker-Squire 24/90, rub shoulders with more commonly-spotted vehicles from the likes of Alvis, Morgan, Trojan and Vauxhall.
As the ownership of motor-cars increased during the 1920s and early 1930s, so too did the opportunities to holiday in one's motor-car, offering a flexibility of itinerary that hitherto could only have been dreamt about. Photographs of modest motor-cars being used to tow primitive caravans by their adventurous owners, are a pleasure to study.
Motor racing has taken place for as long as the car has been with us. Venues such as Brooklands played host to daring drivers and their rakish steeds, the cars tuned to their maximum, in pursuit of glory to finish ahead of the pack. Photographs of cars at rest and being driven furiously, convey the excitement that lured so many to either compete or spectate at these theatres of speed. Away from the permanent venues, hillclimbs, trials and regularity events made use of winding roads and privately-owned estates, marked out for the day and populated by enthusiastic marshalls, competitors and spectators alike. Cars that saw service on the daily commute during the week, would become competition machines in the gloved hands of their owners at the weekend. Pictures of sports and saloon cars tackling such events appear regularly in this publication.
Not everything about motoring is glamorous or exciting though, then as now. A selection of shots featuring commercial vehicles, steam and petrol driven, capture a time when horse-drawn carts and carriages were giving way to mechanised propulsion. Beasts of burden, crawling along loaded with coal or provisions, vied for position on the often un-made roads of Britain with ancient taxis, cyclists and char-a-bancs.
Motorists wouldn't get very far if there weren't motor engineers and supplies of fuel to help them on their way. Examples of roadside garage and filling station are given, as are shots of vehicles being worked upon, a time when frequent fettling and repair work was required - either by the owner or in the case of the well-healed by their chauffeur - to keep the cars functioning correctly. Breakdowns were commonplace, as too were traffic accidents. Photographs of several badly-bent motor-cars, plus a selection of street scenes showing the random view that many took to parking and road positioning, round out this entertaining book.
If poring over old photographs is something you enjoy, then this is worthy of consideration. Many have been seen before in the author's "Motoring in the 20's and 30's", but if you've yet to find a copy of that book, then this latest updated work should really find its way onto your shelves if pre-war cars, and the environment in which they were used, are of interest.
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