Flywheel Memories of the Open Road
By Tom Swallow and Arthur H Pill
Webb & Bower
This is an absolutely fascinating book featuring the unique ‘Muhlberg Motor Club’, about which an additional clue is in the book`s sub title – ‘Flywheel, keeps the works going round on the idle strokes’.
The Muhlberg Motor Club (MMC) was the creation of a number of like-minded individuals who found themselves ‘guests’ of the Germans as prisoners-of-war incarcerated in Stalag IVB located at Muhlberg-on-Elbe, some 80 miles south of Berlin during WW2.
The club rapidly increased from the original six to a membership of over 200, many of whom had never owned a private car but had learned to drive in the army, and met regularly to discuss all things automotive as well as managing to publish a monthly club magazine from May 1944 to March 1945.
Reading this book as you sit comfortably on your sofa makes the bare facts of the MMC detailed in the author’s introduction even more effective, as you are made aware of the privations of Prisoner Of War (POW) life during the closing phase in a camp designed to hold about 15,000 people but which often held nearer 30,000, in what can only be described as squalid conditions. Even finding a quiet spot to hold the club`s gatherings was an effort in the camp due to competing with POW clubs that catered for other subjects, all of whom were absolutely essential in providing something of interest to help while away the longs days of boredom for young men deprived of their freedom – the jewel of an empty hut located by one of the MMC`s committee members was soon vacated after the realisation that it wasn`t the floor moving toward them but millions upon millions of fleas!
This very high quality book is actually a facsimile recreation of a number of the original club magazines, a single copy of which was produced monthly and passed around the MMC membership and their friends, with the production involving some ingenuity in obtaining the absolute basics of ink, nibs and paper and ‘liberating’ quinine tablet from the German sick bay in order to make coloured ink, as well as using millet soup – the POW`s staple diet at that time – suitably fermented to use as a glue for the magazine pages which are still ‘stuck’ to this day.
The text is beautifully written and the hand drawn illustrations are simply stunning, with the articles, the details for which being largely produced from memory, covering everything from favoured pre-war marques, models, or journeys to a spoof major car show, competitive events and a look at post-war car development and cars of the distant future, with a highly accurate hypothesis regarding the common use of forced induction to increase performance from smaller engine capacities.
If you`re of a certain age and brought up on a diet of Sunday TV matinee POW films such as Escape From Colditz, The Wooden Horse and/or have an interest in classic cars, then this book will be enthralling.
Flywheel is no longer in print so get yourself onto the interweb and track down a used copy.
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