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Homepage. This page: Taking a look at a set of magazines designed to help motorists fix their 1920s' and 1930's cars.

Newnes' Motor Repair & Overhauling magazines.

Maintenance of the motor-car in the 1920s and 1930s was virtually a daily task, with even simple checks of the water and oil being the bare minimum to undertake before setting forth on a journey. Despite there being many more roadside garages and repair shops than there are today, many motorists with either an interest in engineering, or an interest in saving their money, took it upon themselves to look after their own car. To support the ever-growing interest in the automobile, many magazines and books were published on the subject. This particular magazine, published by Newnes - a prolific publisher of motoring-related titles - built up into a set "... in about 24 weekly parts ..."
Front cover from Motor Repair and Overhauling magazine
In 1933, Newnes produced another series of magazines, again of approximately 24 issues, titled Modern Motor Repair, but I suspect that Motor Repair & Overhauling is a few years earlier. The car on the magazine's cover has a registration of GN 1930, and 1930 or thereabouts seems about right to me.

Issue number 1.

In all I've copies numbered 1-23 of this magazine, and another set I've seen also ran upto 23 parts, which makes me wonder if it ever did get to an issue 24? Priced at 1 shilling, the magazine was edited by a Mr George T. Clarke, and promised to be "Indispensable to the Owner Driver, Motor Mechanic & Garage Proprietor". The introduction to the series reads as follows:
"Whether you are a Garage Proprietor, a Motorist, a Car Mechanic or a Chauffeur, the fact that you have purchased this publication shows that you are personally and directly interested in "Motor Repair and Overhauling".
"We will go further and say that a more intimate knowledge of modern methods of car repair has a definite cash value to you. In purchasing this first part you have secured the opportunity of obtaining for a trifling cost a complete and up-to-date work on Automobile repairing."
Issue 1 commences with a fold-out trouble-tracing chart, designed as a quick reference for anyone suffering motor-car maladies. There then follows the first of the in-depth articles, taking the reader through the subject of Decarbonising a car's engine. The causes and the effects are then explained. A modern car may needs its first decoke at around 2,000 miles, although some will soldier on until 10,000 have been registered before disassembly is required. Subsequent decokes will then be required at 10,000 - 20,000 mile intervals thereafter, again depending on the engine and its design.

Buying a used car in 1930.

This is an example of an article found in these useful old magazines. Issue numbers 3 & 4 include a detailed account of what to look out for when checking over a used car, written by a Mr G.W.G. Coy. Text, accompanied by a number of photographs showing vintage cars being given the "once over", explain how to go about this properly. The first illustration shows a chap, wearing suit and hat, checking a vintage machine for excessive squeaks and rattles. His approach was to stand on the running board, and pull firmly on the door frame, rocking the car from side to side. Presumably if the car was in poor fettle, and with one foot already in the breaker's yard, the pillar would come away in your hands! Tests such as this with the car stationary, tend to make identifying mechanical and bodily problems easier we're told ....
Checking over a used car
"Detection of Squeaks and Rattles. Locate these by jumping on the running boards and swaying the car, bouncing the car from front and rear ends alternately, shaking the running boards, wings, lamp brackets, radiator, spare wheel support, steering column, door handles, carrier and numberplates. The windscreen, side windows, and all lamps should be examined for looseness and rattle. Whilst the above faults do not render a car worthless from a buyer's point of view, the probable cost of removing them should be taken into account in fixing the price of the car."
The steering mechanism and front suspension were the next items on Mr Coy's list for inspection, assuming the car had survived its trial-by-bouncing. Jacking up the wheels and rocking the wheels, and wiggling the steering wheel, were recommended ways of detecting any free play in the system, and works just as well now as then. With the car still jacked up, tests could also be performed on the spring shackles.
The condition of the car's chassis was also considered to be of utmost importance, in the 1920s/1930s and even more so today after another 70+ years have passed by. Diagrams explain how to measure the chassis' alignment, designed in such a way as to highlight any structural issues that may be lurking down below, perhaps due to a smash or the restorer's best (worst) friend, corrosion.
"Examine for chassis strain. This is a very serious fault, and interferes with the efficient working of the car, causing excessive wear of tyres, distortion of frame when the brakes are applied, difficult steering, and mal-alignment between back axle, gearbox and engine, leading to loss of power and overheating. Chassis strain is also the chief cause of body faults, and its existence would be revealed by the following faults: Doors do not fit snugly and spring open whilst the car is in motion; the bonnet fits badly; the windscreens fit badly at the corners, sometimes causing a cracked screen; the hood will not connect to the windscreen supports without straining."
This comprehensive article starts in issue 3, and continues into issue 4 - an issue due to be available on February 14th, perfect for an evening's read on Valentine's Day. The same hatted gent takes the reader though yet more mechanical tests, illustrated as before with photos of old cars being rigorously scrutinized. Some photos feature a bullnose Morris, and others show a different car. Does anyone recognise the make and model? the shape of the boot area is very distinctive, so maybe it'll strike a chord with someone? The first photograph (below) shows the chap testing for wear in the transmission. To do this, he jacked up a rear wheel and put a chalk mark on the back tyre, in line with another mark made on the road below. In each gear, he rocks the wheel, measuring for free motion and thus recording free movement in each gear. The second photo of our mystery car shows him listening to the inner workings of the engine, using the time-honoured tradition of placing one end of a wooden walking stick or pole against the engine, and the other to his ear. A stethoscope would also perform a similar function, assuming you had one to hand.
More checks done to a car
Mr Coy then goes on to explain the road test, a test that should run for a minimum of fifty miles, including both hills and descents in equal measure, a rough road surface to test the springing and steering, and also a busy thoroughfare to test the clutch and brakes.
Other articles in this set of magazines include tips on how to wash a car properly, advice on re-spraying cars at home with an assortment of different spray devices, mechanical overhaul, bodywork renovation and everything else that a motorist may have to get involved with, in order to enjoy the freedom of the road. Anyone running a vintage car today would be well advised to find some of these old magazines, as many of the articles are as relevant now as they were when they were written, and often contain dodges that modern-day articles on old cars tend to overlook.
Return to the car magazines section for information on similar magazines.

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