About Britain By Car
A different kind of guide
There are many distinguished sources of reference material available on cars. Based on extensive research, they commonly present the detailed development and specification of a particular marque or model. This guide is different.
Britain By Car is arranged not on the basis of marque, time period, or category of car, but instead according to place. It was partly inspired by a realisation that there are aspects of motoring history in villages, towns and cities right across the country. Colin Chapman’s first cars were built in a workshop attached to what was then known as the Railway Hotel in Hornsey; Isetta bubble cars were manufactured during the late fifties and early sixties in a premises in the grounds of Brighton station, from which they were dispatched to customers across the country; and Aston Martin derives the first part of its name from a hill climb competition, which took place close to the village of Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, where co-founder Lionel Martin met with early sporting success.
Britain By Car is primarily a social history, and is relatively non-technical. Although there is some engineering detail, it is designed to be read in a way that is easily understood by the interested, but non-specialist reader.
Most of the articles on this site contain references to further reading. These are commonly owners’ clubs, enthusiasts’ websites, or books used in research.
Most of the larger British motor museums offer, by appointment, research facilities, with access to specialist books, journals and early motoring magazines.
Access to the latter, again by appointment, is also available at the Richard Roberts' Archive, www.richardrobertsarchive.org.uk, situated in Stockport, near Manchester. Developed to preserve our country's rich printed advertising heritage, the Archive contains a major collection of early (and more recent) motoring magazines and journals.
Another more general, but very useful source is Grace’s Guide, www.gracesguide.co.uk, a huge store of historical information tracing the individuals and companies that make up the manufacturing and engineering history of Britain.
Perhaps the bible of British motoring history is the 'Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile', published in two volumes, with Nick Georgano as editor-in-chief. Now, only available second-hand, it is probably the single most comprehensive guide to the development of the motor car in Britain.
Other excellent sources are the various books in the 'A-Z of Cars' series, currently published by Herridge & Sons.
Information on the history of cyclecars in Britain, and details of the many firms who built them, is given in Stephen Kay's book, 'Cyclecars - An Annotated Index', published by 325 Press in 2009.
'British Car Factories from 1896', by Paul Collins and Michael Stratton, published by Veloce in 1993, provides historical and architectural descriptions of many 20th century British motor factories - both large and small.
More currently,www.aronline.co.uk, is a fascinating and encyclopaedic source of reference on British cars produced from the late 1950s onwards. If you are interested in car-related museums, www.britishmotormuseums.com, provides an up-to-date record of British museums with exhibits of motoring or general transport interest.
Two very useful guides to historical aspects of motor racing are Julian Hunt’s 'Motorsport Explorer', and 'Motor Racing Circuits in England', by Peter Swinger. In addition, TR Nicholson's 'Speed' provides a fascinating guide to early motorsport in Britain, namely, hillclimbs and speed trials.
'The Encyclopaedia of Motor Sport', published in 1971 and again edited by Nick Georgano, is another excellent source of historical reference.
One attraction of looking at motoring history through places is that there are so many interesting things to write about: the past and present locations of famous (and not so famous) manufacturers, the many places throughout Britain with links to motor sport, plus buildings, roads and other structures with a place in motoring history.
Tony Thorpe lives in Nottinghamshire and has been interested in all things automotive for as long as he can remember. He began BritainbyCar in 2015, to share that enthusiasm with others.
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Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited other than through the following:
• you may print or download extracts for your personal and non-commercial use only,
• you may copy the content to individual third parties for their personal use, but only if you acknowledge the website as the source of the material.
Every effort has been made to credit copyright holders when using images, but if there are any omissions or mistakes, please get in touch.
We would particularly like to record our thanks to Grace's Guide to British Industrial History, www.gracesguide.co.uk; the Geograph Britain and Ireland project, www.geograph.org.uk , from which many of the location images have been sourced; the Motoring Picture Library, Beaulieu, www.motoringpicturelibrary.com, and the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Film & Picture Library, www.motorgraphs.com, who have kindly given access to their archives.