The Editor Consults His Library
In a previous time, before an age where any jaded old hack and a few opinionated dilettantes could open a website at the flick of a keyboard, a knowledge of motoring history relied on the prodigious memory of chaps like Bill Boddy, piles of magazines in the attic and, of course, lots of books. Once, should I wish to know more about the ill-conceived Lotus 30 (147,000,000 results in Google) it would have meant, at least, a phone call to Motor Books or one of the other specialist shops or mail-order suppliers who dealt with motoring matters. Then, if there wasn’t actually a volume helpfully entitled ‘The Lotus 30′, one would hope that the person on the other end of the phone was knowledgeable enough, as was often the case, to say “there’s a couple of paragraphs in the 1965 publication The World Compendium Of Lethal Racing Cars, which unfortunately is out of print, and I think Denis Jenkinson might be writing something on the subject”. Then would follow a lengthy spell of phone calls and letter writing until, at last, a dog-eared third-hand volume of The World Compendium, etc was in your hands. I can’t begin to tell you what an enormously satisfying procedure that was.
Many people of my generation, and younger too, have frittered away a significant part of their income on their Motoring Libraries. Much of the information available, locked in time as it is, might have been superceded by that available at no cost on the internet, but there still remains something infinitely more pleasant about leafing through a book – the stains, the marks, the tears, the smell…… An old Haynes manual can often contain the history of your ownership, with oily fingerprints charting your fitting of new front brakes and terminating half way through the engine rebuild where you gave up and had the poor thing taken to the scrapyard.
But there is a counterpart to the factual volume. The car in fiction has had its influence. Can anyone deny that the Aston Martin DB5 doesn’t owe its huge value to the young lads who watched the film Goldfinger before amassing their fortunes. Admittedly less of them read the original book, but the car was there, with less silly gadgets and in the form of an earlier DB2/4 Mark III, inevitably and incorrectly called a DB III by Ian Fleming, who was no great respecter of details when it came to the facts regarding guns, cars, food …..or women.
They are still being published, but has the book had its day? Do you have a favourite reference book? Has fiction coloured your motoring outlook?