Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Drive-It Day 2018

Who doesn't love a classic car? Drive-It Day 2018 is taking place this Sunday, April 22nd, and although many of the popular events to celebrate the day have sold out, there are plenty of ways to participate.


Drive-It Day takes place every year to help raise awareness of the classic vehicle movement in the UK and encourages classic vehicle owners to show off their classics as much as possible. Organised by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC), Drive-It Day celebrates the UK's rich transport heritage.

Now into its 13th year, Drive-It Day commemorates The Thousand Mile Trial, which took place on April 23rd, 1900. Organised by the Automobile Club, a gathering of 65 cars embarked on a highly ambitious voyage around the country. Starting in London, the Trial went through Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Derby, Kendal, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, and back to London.



Events around the country

Drive your classic to the British Motor Museum, Warwickshire and receive discounted entry to the world's largest collection of British-built vehicles – including the vehicle that won The Thousand Mile Trial, an 1899 Wolseley Voiturette. Many other classics sure to be in attendance will be on display out front of the museum, and free guided tours will be taking place throughout the day.

The Classic Motor Hub in Gloucestershire will be expecting large crowds to attend a special opening of its historic collection at RAF Bibury, where visitors can also see the arrival of a special Drive-It Day rally from Chateau Impney. Highlights include the Hub's superb display of around 70 cars, which currently includes Bentley and Aston Martin Le Mans racers from the 1920s, and the 1924 V12 Delage DH land speed record-holder. Still a fairly new venue, this place is well worth a visit in you are in the area!

It's estimated that around 100 classics will descend upon the Lakeland Motor Museum in Cumbria, joining a display of classics outside the museum. If you arrive in your classic, you'll get discounted entry into the museum!

Since it's first Drive-It Day 'Sunday Scramble' back in 2014, the event at Bicester Heritage, Oxfordshire has become bigger and better every year. This unique venue combines wartime heritage with a fascinating assortment of businesses furnishing the classic car industry. Another attraction on the day us the launch of a new photography exhibition by Amy Shore.

So if you're up for a museum visit, a leisurely drive around the countryside, or fancy watching any number of the convoys happening up and down the country, there is something for everyone this Drive-It Day!



Friday, 13 April 2018

Abingdon's Finest

MG has always played a prominent role in British social history, and its cars have always been enthusiastically praised. A home-grown concept, MG became internationally successful, largely due to the uniqueness of the factory; a family unit that supported innovation, race craft, had a talented design team, and provided opportunities for it's employees. The success of the factory propelled the small market town of Abingdon, in Oxfordshire, onto the global map, and made MG into an international brand that has survived almost a century of change. 


We have a number of books on MG at Abingdon, such as MG's Abingdon Factory and Don Hayter's MGB Story, but the real stand out has to be our newest book MG, Made in Abingdon. An active volunteer of Abingdon County Hall Museum, author Bob Frampton has collected the memories of many of the men and women who worked at Abingdon, to provide an intimate and unique account of what it was like to work in MG's Abingdon factory. 

 This book is proving to be a popular buy, and with reviews like these, its easy to see why!

"This is social history at its best,  [it's] as much about skilled trades, shop floor romances and lower-league football as making cars." – Classic Cars



"We are used to reading about the big names in MG's history, but this book gives voice to some thousands who worked in the Abingdon factory, helping to create the cars we love ... it opens a window on aspects of MG life that rarely get an airing in public." – MG Enthusiast

It's Bob recognition that the most important aspect of MG's success was its team – tea-boys and girls, the shop floor workers, the engineers and racers, the apprentices and management – that makes this book such an interesting read. Factory life is often overlooked and unremarked on, but the story of MG's factory is an important reflection of the British motor industry from the perspective of the shop floor work force.

From memories of the production line, to recollections of racing incidents, the previously untold story of MG from the men and women who worked in the Abingdon factory is revealed for the first time. Yes, it's certainly a nostalgic look at an historic marque, but more than that, it's an historically important record of a unique period in social history.

Image credit British Motor Heritage Museum


From the 14th of April until the 24th of June, Abingdon County Hall Museum will house a new exhibition entitled "Automotive Design: Innovations at MG Abingdon". Using recent donations from MGB lead designer Don Hayter, the museum will celebrate the importance and practice of good design in automotive production, and how MG made innovative steps forward in this industry.

This weekend sees the exhibition opening, and to market he occasion, Abingdon County Hall Museum will be hosting a book signing event with Bob Frampton this Sunday (April 15th)! For more information, you can contact the museum directly.


So, if you are local to Abingdon, or are an MG enthusiast, make sure you check out the Automotive Design exhibition, and don't forget to get your copy of MG, Made in Abingdon from our website 


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Oliver Winterbottom Diaries – December, January and February

It's been quite a while since we last heard from Oliver, author of, A Life in Car Design. However, Oliver has still been vigilant in keeping track of all he does, so let's catch up with him ... 


2 December – Find speedreaders.info (USA) online review, which is very positive.

4 December – The Jaguar ex-Apprentice newsletter arrives. They have done me proud under 'Things to put on your Christmas list.' Many thanks Mr Benton.

5 December – Travel to Old Sudbury, Gloucestershire and give a talk on the book to Club Lotus Avon at The Bull, in Hinton. The venue was full to capacity, plus a couple of standing audience. Sign at least six books, and a very good pub! My thanks to Rob Ford for organising it.



11 December – Doug Weal of North Yorkshire Lotus Owners Club contacts me regarding giving a talk for them next March or April. He says there would be a wide-based audience, so I suggest adding a TVR slide to the presentation.

Meet Andrew Walmsley at Barnham Broom Bell and sign a book – the second he has done – for a Christmas gift. 

13 December – Brian Llewellyn email RE:contact.
'Hello Oliver, I forwarded your letter to a friend of mine ... Shaun Beadsworth. He emailed back saying "You never told me you're a friend of Oliver Winterbottom?!" I remember visiting Hethel with my Dad when he had a job there, not long after Colin Chapman had passed away. I would be very pleased if you could organise a book ... ' 
I explained how to buy from the publisher. 

14 December – Travel to Bourne, Lincolnshire for the Bourne Motor Racing Club BRM Evening. I manage to distribute a number of book leaflets. John Sismey, ex-BRM engineer tells me he enjoyed reading my book. My old buddy Dick Salmon (ex-BRM and Lotus) was busy singing his re-printed book. I had a very good dinner at the Nags Head (owned by my great, great, grandparents in the 1890s) and stayed at The Angel. 

24 December – While enjoying a pint of Tiger at the Heathcote Arms, Croft, Leicestershire with a gentleman who organises the Hinckley Concours each summer, he wished to buy the book there and then! Sadly, I had none with me, so here's hoping he can get one elsewhere.

31 December – I need to start thinking about how to increase promoting this wonderful book in 2018! Wishing everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2018


4 January – Kevin Atkins of Veloce sends a trial 'book flyer' design. I approve the second option, and ask for a minor change on the right hand side in order to increase the impact of the book cover. Result below:



5 January – Sign a book for Jonathan who will be moving into the old Team Lotus race workshops at Kettering Hall in February. They have been converted into modern offices. I also take some history of the Team at the Hall, which he may use to decorate it. 

8 January – Print Veloce flyer – looks good to me! Barnham Broom Bell put one on display. 

9 January – Amazon Germany customer review (Google translated): 
A life for the automobile led Oliver Winterbottom in many different companies and countries of the world. It was the wish of the young Oliver reality to take care of the design of automobiles. From time to time some of the side war scenes also played a role, which he filled with just as much devotion. The biography is a great and interesting journey through the history of the automobile, especially English, of course. Most of the lines are very entertaining and you almost feel like talking directly to Winterbottom. In addition, some barely published drawings and pictures are shown, which underline the work with emphasis. Again and again, the people around him are presented and the financial situation is assessed.
For the equivalent of just over 40 euros, the reader can travel through the past with Winterbottom and clearly understand his way of doing business. The working life of the automotive designer provides a great template for a book and is very worth reading, especially since it is always first-hand information, which makes it all the more valuable. 

Deliver two Veloce flyers to Hethersett Queens Head. Eye-catching display with one in the entrance lobby. 

11 January – Friend and ex-Lotus colleague John Elwin has a possible contact with Club Team Lotus Belgium for the book. 

Jonathan, a friend in Barnham Broom Bell, reading my book tells me he particularly liked my design for the Jaguar E Type 2+2. It dates from 1968, so I have nearly forgotten it!

15 January – Richard Bond (Hethersett Queens Head) reports the copy of my book he gifted in November was enjoyed immensely. 

17 January – Doug Weal of North Yorkshire Lotus Owners Club contacts to say likely time for me to give a talk would be late this year. I send my diary for September and October, as it currently stands.

18 January – John Elwin, ex-Lotus, Team Lotus, and now a journalist living in France, enters my book on the Ten Tenths Motorsport website. Post generates a fair bit of interest!:
Anyone interested in Britain's sports car industry will find Oliver Winterbottom's biography A Life in Car Design a fascinating read. Oliver's career began as a Jaguar apprentice in the 1960s, where he graduated to the drawing office. From there he moved to Lotus, where he was responsible for design of the Elite/Eclat range. He was to return to Lotus (more than once!) but after that he was responsible for the wedge-era TVR's, followed by spells in the US and China. 

Contact Club Team Lotus Belgium and offer to give a presentation on my career and book if they would like me to. 

19 January – Contacted by Only Motors TV with regards to potentially do a profile on me for their show, #Petrolheads.
"#Petrolheads is one of our most views programmes, with an average viewership of 1 million per month, it is a half an hour show on an individual with a personal history and interesting story around their love and use of motors and would stream on our Only Motors TV site." 

22 January – Only Motors TV confirm they expect to contact with dates around the end of February. 

24 January – Sign a copy of my book for Stuart at The Heathcote Arms, Croft, Leicestershire. Stuart Elliot is a leading organiser of the Hinckley annual Classic Car Show which now fills the town with interesting vehicles. This years event is on Sunday 16 September.

26 January – Tom Willis (Barnham Broom Bell) says he will bring a copy of the book for signature. He has connections with Mick McIsaac who features in the book as a superb pattern and model maker. 

27 January – Surprise, surprise – Amazon advertise the book for its published price of £37.50 with 14 in stock and (more on the way) – That may be a "First"!

29 January – Tom Willis brings book for signature which he will gift to Mick McIsaac.

30 January – Amazon email me offering my book to myself. Full published price but now only 13 in stock (more on the way). So thats another one gone!

2 February – Find a site on Google offering a download of my book. As I am concerned this may be breaching copyright, I contact Veloce who respond quickly: The explain that this is a very common scam of the 'phishing' variety – an attempt to gain personal details. Sometimes it's only to gain an email (for spamming), but such sites require that you 'sign up' or login (as this one does), and will then usually ask for credit or payment details for 'security.' This is usually what the scammer is ultimately after ... Fortunately for us, the site is hosted by Google, using it's 'Sites' features. Google Sites gives companies a quick and easy way to create a web presence – and a quick way for scammers to try and fool people. However, because it's a Google Site, the options for reporting and flagging issues are top notch, so I've filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaint, directly with Google. 

The whole business reinforces my view that the internet is a totally uncontrolled system. No one knows who says what/where/when! Half of the information available is fictitious and unsubstantiated. That's what I think!

3 February – The Google site offering a download on the book has been removed from the internet by 11am this morning. 

4 February – Although Google have removed the "download" facility, they still are on the internet with a "box" advert and a website offering a preview of my book. I am not very happy and have sent my thoughts to Veloce for comment. My thoughts are: In my opinion the preview is excessive. To show the first three chapters absolutely complete with illustrations is way beyond what I would call a preview. Veloce have responded that this is not unusual and indeed, in a bookshop one can browse the whole book. In addition, the Google website has a number of incorrect items of information. Veloce explained that this is not unusual and doubt it would do any harm. I will therefore accept the position. 

6 February – Get a nice email from Amazon offering me my book at £24.37. Seems to have been reduced again since 27 January!

7 February – So a Tesla electric sports car is launched into space. By my reckoning, that really makes Lotus the first car in space, as the Tesla was based on the Elise and built by Lotus. Where will my old projects end up? Mars?

9 February – Amazon email me to offer the book at £21.91 with free delivery. Such a nice world the internet has brought. 

10 February – Yet another website offering free download of the book. Forwarded to Veloce (again!)

12 February – Reply: Once Google have been informed of one infringement, its algorithms will remember the 'issue' and keep an eye open for similar scams, alerting Google's operatives (yes, they still have actual people working for them) to check them. This is usually all that's needed, and whilst Google isn't the only search provider, it is the biggest, and many others follow its lead in malware and intellectual rights issues. If you visit the URL you last sent, for example, you'll see that it's already gone ... 

So now I need to keep calm!

13 February – Amazon email me again offering my book to me for £21.91.

A search on the internet shows Amazon Japan offering the book for 3459 Yen, Amazon Italy and Amazon Brazil also advertising it. Hopefully this will sell a few.         

16 February – Amazon obviously upset that I haven't bought my book from them. Emailed me again today with the price £21.91.

23 February – Phil Clarke (Barnham Broom Bell customer) who restores old caravans has bought my book and will bring it for a signature in the evening. 

Visit my podiatrist who was aware of my local radio show last year and knows some people at Lotus. Suggested she and as many others should get a copy of my book, and I will sign at my next appointment. 

25 February – Enjoying a pint of Tiger in my sister's local pub and discuss with Stuart Elliot the possibility attending the Hinckley Classic Car Show (Sunday 16 September) with a book signing. Will definitely consider this. 

26 February – Staying with my sister who has friends for dinner. I sign two copies of my book.

You can purchase your own copy of A Life in Car Design here, and make sure to check back on the Veloce blog for the next instalment! 

                                                     

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Great Scott! Look at our new release!

We have a number of new Essential Buyer's Guides out this month, including the Range Rover First Generation, Mercedes Benz W123 and Mercedes Benz 190, but one in particular can be linked to an iconic movie ... 


Of course, I'm talking about the DeLorean DMC-12! The only model ever made by the DeLorean company, roughly 9000 DMC-12s were manufacturered between 1981 and 1983. Featuring a number of unusual construction details, such as gull-wing doors, a rear-mounted engine and unpainted, stainless-steel body panels, this car, though made in Ireland, was intended primarily for the US car market – though a small number were later converted post-production to be right-hand-drive, so they could be sold in other parts of the world. 

As of 2007, there were thought to be around 6500 left, and if you fancy trying to obtain one for yourself, Chris Williams' Essential Buyer's Guide is the perfect tool to help you get the best possible DMC-12 for the best possible price! Packed with good advice on everything you need to know when purchasing a second-hand DeLorean, from running costs, paperwork, vital statistics and valuation, to information on the DeLorean community, this is the complete guide to choosing, assessing, and buying the DeLorean of your dreams. 

"The way I see it, if you're going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?" – Doc Brown, Back To The Future, 1985.



Now, I may not have grown up in the '80s, but I love the Back To The Future film series! Though their prediction of the year 2015 wasn't exactly what we experienced, these films are still classics, and that is in part down to the futuristic car that made time travel possible!

As the most anticipated car of the decade, the DeLorean was gaining a lot of media attention, and teamed with its sleek, futuristic silver look, it seemed the obvious choice for Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale to have the car as the star in their time travel film.



Three models were purchased for modification, for each film in the trilogy, with a complete fibreglass replica being built for the flying scenes in Back To The Future Part II. Of these nine in total, only three survive: the original one can be seen at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angles, California; the remaining two are owned by Universal Studios, with one on display in their Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida.

Now, I've got a couple of behind-the-scenes mechanical facts about these iconic cars. The DeLoreans used in filming retained their original V6 engines, however the sound effects artists changed the sound in post-production to the sound of a Porsche 928 V8 engine. For the American West scenes seen in Back To The Future Part III, two DeLoreans were fitted with a special dune buggy chassis, and high performance Volkswagen engines, in order to help the cars navigate the Western terrain with ease.

Whether you want to fulfil your dream of owning a time machine – in style, not in essence! – or you just always fancied owning a rare and iconic car, then you need to get a copy of Chris Williams' guide to help you find the right DeLorean! This book, and many other Essential Buyer's Guides, are available to buy from our online store now. – Siân



Friday, 9 March 2018

The Ultimate Book of the air-cooled Porsche 911 – a review

Graham Robson is a name well known in the motoring world, and he has a few events coming up this month. Saturday will see him chatting to David Richards, CBE at Beaulieu National Motor Museum, and Monday the 12th will see him at Bristol Pegasus Motor Club, with Brian Culcheth, talking about the 1970 World Cup Rally

As if he's not busy enough, Graham has also been reviewing some of our books. Today, we bring you Graham's review of The Ultimate book of the air-cooled Porsche

"Note carefully that word – Ultimate – for it told us everything we needed to know about this monumental study of Porsche's iconic 911. But with 592 pages, well over 1250 illustrations, and enough detail to satisfy any enthusiast's memory banks, could it be anything else. We could, in fact, have expected nothing less from Brian Long, who is a totally addicted admirer of these cars. Not only has he owned 911s, driven 911s, and been involved in the restoration of 911s, but has clearly been totally besotted with these cars for the half-century in which they have been on the world's roads.

The very first 911, complete with its rear-mounted flat-six air-cooed engine, went on sale in 1964, and the last was assembled in 1998, when it was finally replaced by yet more 911s, but thereafter equipped with water-cooled engines. In those thirty-four years, Long has somehow managed to include a description of the myriad different specifications, engines, transmissions, colour schemes, specialised market types, coupes, convertibles and competition versions – and has somehow kept it all understandable to a casual reader (who will, we promise, become an avid reader shortly afterwards).



Because this is a huge, and bulky book, which comes in its own special slip-case, we expected to find beautifully-presented colour images on almost every page, and were not disappointed, but were also vastly impressed by the excellent picture quality, the variety of car, component, brochure and advertising reproductions and, amazingly, by the easy-to-follow way in which the book is laid out. This, of course, in not a volume which can be skimmed at a sitting, but needs careful study – and the enjoyment of reading a real tour de force.

Over the years, and because there were so many different engine sizes, power ratings, carburetted, fuel-injected and turbocharged models, all matched to rear-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, different colour charts for every model year, and special specifications for special markets, a seemingly endless evolution of Porsche's dedication to their layout (and style) merges. You need to know the detail technical specification for each model year? It's there. You want to know what combination of body colour and trim layout was available for particular markets? How many cars were built in each model year? That's all there too.

Yet Long, somehow has given this monumental book a real theme from start to finish, of how the car which started out with handling and other shortcomings, but which gradually became the standard by which all its rivals measured themselves, developed. To decide whether this tome is worth £175, you need only remind yourself that nearly 457,000 air-cooled 911s were built, and you will see that the magic is truly world-wide."

Note: This book is a limited edition of just 911 copies and is only available directly from Veloce's website.

Be sure to check out the wide range of Graham Robson books we have in stock over on our website.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The Classic Car Boot Sale dates

If you're a lover of classic, vintage, or retro cars, The Classic Car Boot Sale is probably already on your radar. A great place to celebrate music, food, fashion, design, and, of course, vehicles, this year's first dates have been announced …



The first Classic Car Boot Sale of 2018 falls over the weekend of 28th & 29th April, at King's Cross, London, and if you're in the area, we recommend a visit. Car and bike lovers are well catered for, of course, with a truly outstanding selection of vehicles, all driven to the event by the owners, who are more than happy to chat.

But this is no ordinary car boot. You'll certainly find a wealth of traders, selling everything from vintage clothing and accessories, to homewares, collectibles, and vinyl, but you can also grab yourself a classic vehicle.

If your budget doesn't stretch to vehicles, then you can browse the stalls, enjoy some of the finest street food in London, or simply enjoy the DJs playing vinyl-only sets … from the top of a Routemaster, of course! You can even apply for a stall, so you can sell your own goods.

Pencil the dates in your diary, and pop along to one of the finest car boot sales in the land. You can buy an advance ticket for just £4 … and you won't be disappointed.

The Classic Car Boot Sale
Sat 28th – Sun 29th April 2018, 10am-6pm
King's Cross, London

Buy advance tickets here

Find out more at www.classiccarbootsale.co.uk or check Class Car Boot Sale's facebook, twitter, and other social media channels for more details.


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

An Incredible Book Launch

At the end of last month, translator Alison Falls gave a talk on Austrian author and explorer Max Reisch. Having translated his book An Incredible Journey for us, it seemed only fitting that she should hold a book event and talk on Max and his numerous adventures. In today's blog post, we have the transcript from her talk, so it's over to you Alison.





I must confess that from the moment I started to put a few bits of India the Shimmering Dream into English for my brother, I was hooked. I am mostly an armchair traveller, but I would like to think that these books appeal to genuine long distance travellers as well. But why exactly was I hooked?

  • Because of the stories – one of the first books I remember asking for and reading when I was about 10 years old was The Kon Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl.
  • Because of the style. The language is direct, clear and personal, with not too many abstract nouns. It's no fun translating abstract nouns from german. No high-flown philosophy here, then.
  • Because of the history. In the aftermath of the First World War, as we know, German speaking lands were in a ghastly mess and Fascism was poised to pick up the pieces. Austria was scarcely a real country, just a rump of the old Habsburg empire. But, Max Reisch does not mention the political situation of his homeland in any of his books. Even in the war memoir Out of the Rat Trap he gets away with laconic allusions. It has been called the only war book in which not a single shot is fired. Not totally true, but Max's eyes are set on a wider world. And by his own confession, he is an optimist. We need a few optimists in 2018, as much as in 1935. So, who was he and what was his background?
Maximilian Felix Gottfried Reisch, to give him his full name, was born in Kufstein in 1912  – the same year, incidentally, as fellow Austrian Heinrich Harrer whom we know from Seven Years in Tibet, but while Harrer was a professional sportsman and mountaineer, Reisch's passion was motor travel, beginning, significantly with motorcycles.

His was a  family of business people going back many generations. They were formidable entrepreneurs. In the 18th century, for instance, they were candlemakers, but when towards the end of the 19th century it became evident that electric light was going to be the thing, they diversified into groceries and wines, and as railways opened up trading opportunities, they imported colonial goods – tea, coffee, cocoa, rice, spices etc. They were always on the look-out for an opportunity. They also had interests in hotels and winter sports. During the First World War, and in the face of a declining economy, Max Reisch's father Hans August Reisch decided to diversify and bought a vineyard in the South Tirol. He knew nothing about growing wine, but he soon learned, moved down to Bolzano (Bozen) for a few years and got involved in all the local business projects.

As a young man, before he worked in the family firm, he had already acquired a Puch, Modell B, Bj, 1904, 254ccm, 2.75hp, top speed 45km/h, with no clutch or gears. On this motorcycle, in 1905 Hans August rode from Kufstein, over the Alps to the Mediterranean (which was no mean feat), and, wrote it all up for a motorcycle magazine. The tradition was established. Max writes that, as a small boy he also got the bug, lying on the floor with his father under the bike, and learning the 'clever arrangements of wheels and levers.'

Max Reisch's older brother Hans Friedrich was the one destined to go into the family business, but old man Reisch decided that his second son, Max, who showed a gift for draughtsmanship, should be an architect. He was duly sent off to Vienna to study architecture, but it wasn't long before he decided that trade and transport geography was much more interesting, so he swapped courses. He somehow forgot to tell his father what he had done, and old Hans August was not best pleased. He promptly cut off his son's allowance and told him to make his own way. I think this was only a temporary measure, to see if Max would rise to the occasion. He certainly did. He got himself a job as a film courier, which involved riding a motorcycle round Vienna delivering film canisters to cinemas. He eventually acquired a motorcycle of his own and went off on some Alpine trips. These, like his father, he wrote up for the magazine. He was well on his way. 

But he was longing for the big adventure, the really big one. He wanted to be an explorer, like his hero the great Swedish/German geographer Sven Hedin (1865 - 1952), and he wanted to see wonderful, mythical places, straight out of The Arabian Nights, like in the adventure novels of the famous German writer Karl May (who, incidentally, never travelled anywhere except in his imagination!). These are the two great motives of Max's journeys: he wants to boldly go where none have gone before (not with a motor vehicle, anyway), and he wants, as he put it himself, to have tales to tell his grandchildren. 

The idea Max came up with was to go overland to India, as Alexander the Great had done with his armies. The great Sven Hedin had made his travels into Asia with camels and other pack animals. It seemed obvious to Max that it must be possible to travel to India overland by motorcycle. After all, the trade routes already existed on the ground. 

He was keen as mustard to have a go, but his university professor in Vienna, Bruno Dietrich, wisely persuaded him to do a trial run to the Sahara first. There's a lot of desert on the way to India, and so Max learned to ride in arid conditions and control his motor cycle in loose sand – all vital experience. As a pillion passenger, he found Alfred Schricker who was prepared to go halves on the expense. Max always travelled with a partner and he always found sponsorship for his trips. In true entrepreneurial fashion, his father insisted on it, and for Max it was a point of honour. He financed the trips further by journalism. The articles he wrote home for the India trip were not written up as a book until after World War II. The great India journey of 1933 is described in India The Shimmering Dream. He took a light motorcycle, an Austrian-built Puch 250cc, carrying luggage which included cameras and a typewriter, as well as tents, sleeping bags, water fuel etc, and a pillion passenger, Herbert Tichy, who went on to become a traveller and mountaineer in his own right. The India trip remains the most astounding achievement and the book has never been out of print in German. The two young men nearly died several times.

Once back in Vienna, Max had to catch up with his studies and pass exams. He was cock-a-hoop with the fame he had earned, but the university did not let him get away with it. An Incredible Journey opens with Max telling a tale against himself. To cheer himself up, he says, he began to plan a new trip, by motorcycle to China, but when he put his proposals to the Puch management, the Director suggested using the new Steyr 100 motor car, a modest domestic
model, but "The man in the street must feel he could drive his Steyr 100 to China too!" Puch stipulated that the engine and chassis must not be adapted in any way, but he had a free hand with designing the bodywork for the trip. Max's partner on this trip was Helmuth Hahmann, only 19 years old but already a gifted mechanic. He certainly had his work cut out. The car had its bodywork revised in Baghdad, and the gearbox fell apart at least three times, but the car got to Kolkata, then through the jungles of South East Asia, through China in the midst of a civil war, all the way to Shanghai, then through Japan, and finally from Seattle across the United States (with a brief and disastrous excursion into Mexico), to sail home in triumph from New York to Bremerhaven, and so to Vienna. This car still exists. So do all of Reisch's vehicles. They form part of the Reisch Collection, and if you contact his son Peter you can still see them. They are still garaged at the family home in Bolzano, South Tyrol, although Peter is hoping to find a permanent home for them in Austria one day. The trip took them 19 months, from late April 1935 to December 1936.

For me, the personality of Max as a writer is vivid. He has a youthful enthusiasm that leaps out over more than 80 years and makes me feel I was there. Helene Hanff, in that book of books 84 Charing Cross Road, says she is a great fan of 'I was there' stories. So am I. 

There is also the rather ambivalent pleasure of being seen as other see us. On the round-the-world trip, Max spends a longish time in British India, including Burma and the Shan States. He's really quite a fan of the British, and quite well aware that when he is invited for a drink, or even a cup of tea, he is being gently interrogated. From the British sphere of influence, they continue into French Indo-China, and then into China which is really in a state of civil war. Even so, they begin to learn a lot about daily life and culture. They often stay with missionaries deep in the country. Max was advised to grow a beard in order to gain respect in China as an 'old' man. This works pretty well, except for being sometimes mistaken for a Christian missionary and begged for a blessing. However, things are different when they get to Shanghai and experience the dazzling international social life. We are certainly not told all that goes on, but it is here that the beard meets its fate. 

I could go on with descriptions of staying in a traditional guest house in Japan (the attention of geisha girls of the the hotel staff, scalding hot baths), the novelty of auto camps in America, breaking down in the Mexican desert, getting a new differential cage built by a backwoodsman in Laredo, driving 2100km in 40 hours non-stop.

Then, of course, the big question: what happened to Max Reisch in World War II? And for that, you must read Out of the Rat Trap, where the Libyan desert under Rommel becomes Max's next big adventure. When the Axis troops surrendered in Tunisia in May 1943, he got hold of a fishing boat, never having sailed before, and eventually escaped over the Mediterranean to Sicily, with six other men – and a dog. Jerome K. Jerome could not have told it better. However, this was war. Here is what happened as Reisch and his engineer Stempian are taking the boat down the coast to a hideaway to fit it out. It is a maiden voyage. Suddenly a flight of Italian troop transport planes roars over-head. Reisch and Stempian turn around and rescue as many men as they can from the water. It is a genuinely harrowing experience. 

Reisch died at the age of only 72, in 1985. His outlook was optimistic to the last. When told that he was terminally ill, he is reported as saying, "Well, I'm not really 72, I'm 102, because the years in the desert count double."



An Incredible Journey is available now, and India The Shimmering Dream will be arriving in the summer.