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Pomeroy - the sage ?


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#1 AAGR

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 14:21

I've spend a lot of time in recent months browsing through THE MOTOR of the 1945 - 1960 period.

Laurence Pomeroy, of course, was a important member of THE MOTOR's staff throughout this period.

In modern times, many people have come to worship Pom's memory, and his opinions. Was he as flawless as all that ? I'd love to get wider impressions and opinons.

AAGR


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#2 D-Type

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 15:21

To state the obvious, there were two Laurence Pomeroys:
Laurence Pomeroy senior was the very able engineer who worked for Vauxhall, Alcoa, AEC, Daimler and De Havilland (engines), and his son, Laurence Pomeroy junior was the journalist with the MOTOR.

As I understand it, with his engineering background Laurence junior's understanding of technical issues was better than most motoring hacks. He was also blessed with the rare ability of being able to write about technical matters in a style that a layman could understand. As people understood and trusted what he wrote his opinions were (and still are) respected.

#3 alansart

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 15:30

Is the Pomeroy Trophy named after Lawrence senior or Lawrence junior?

#4 RogerFrench

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 16:09

I believe it was Junior who thought up the formula for the event. Whether it's named in honour of one or both, or which one, I don't know, but it would be in keeping with the VSCC for it to be both.

#5 mikeC

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 16:54

Is the Pomeroy Trophy named after Lawrence senior or Lawrence junior?


Peter Hull wrote in his history of the VSCC (Cassell & Co 1964):
" It was in 1946 that the Pomeroy Memorial Trophy was presented to the Club by Laurence Pomeroy and Mr T W Badgery.
Mr Badgery had owned a 1914 Prince Henry Vauxhall since it was new and when Laurence Pomeroy acquired his car at the end of the war, no money changed hands, but it was agreed that a trophy should be given to the VSCC. The trophy was to be in memory of of Laurence Pomeroy's father, Laurence H Pomeroy senior, the famous designer of the Prince Henry and 30/98 Vauxhalls, who had died suddenly and tragically in May 1941 from a heart attack..."

#6 Allan Lupton

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 18:52

As I understand it, with his engineering background Laurence junior's understanding of technical issues was better than most motoring hacks. He was also blessed with the rare ability of being able to write about technical matters in a style that a layman could understand. As people understood and trusted what he wrote his opinions were (and still are) respected.

Yes and apart from reading him in The Motor I used to borrow his magnum opus "The Grand Prix Car" from Letchworth library in the 1950s from which I learned a great deal, some of which has stuck. That two volume work being the sort of book one returns to as part of the reference system I was saddened that, by the time the library stopped having a copy to lend me, the price of s/h copies had got a bit extreme. I had to do without until a couple of years ago when I was lucky enough to inherit copies.
That extreme price (currently c£240 for Vol 1 and c£180 for Vol 2 on Abebooks c.f. 63/- and 84/- respectively new) for a pair of books published in 1954 (that's the edition I have) say it all as regards the esteem that LP is held in.

#7 john medley

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 23:48

.....but was he flawless? The answer is clearly "No" -- because Pomeroy prompted or added to a number of classic gaffes.

A small gaffe previously unrecognized I noticed only this week: A wonderful part of Pomeroy's "The Grand Prix Car" was the artwork of Cresswell. Both Cresswell and Pomeroy inadverdantly made errors. This one: while admitting no access to an actual car, Cresswell's usual excellent drawings of the 1912 Grand Prix Peugeot show it with knockoff wheel nuts(of the internal taper variety) not introduced I understand until 1913.

#8 Allan Lupton

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 07:47

Yes, John, that's right and of course anyone writing nearly 40 years and two world wars after the event and without access to the machinery has to do his best with secondary sources.
There was also a Cresswell/Pom bludner about the valve actuation of the 1912 Peugeot as "psalt" told us a couple of years ago (what's happened to him since?). Same problem of lack of real evidence.

#9 Roger Clark

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 08:26

Strangely, the drawing to which I think John Medley refers is labelled "The 3-Litre Peugeot".

#10 Roger Clark

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 09:07

Pomeroy's writing style was intellectual, analytical and filled with classical references which some found illuminating, some irritating and many totally baffling. He was followed in this approach by Setright, Court and to some extent Boddy but was the antithesis of Jenkinson and, I suspect, at least one professional writer who is a contributor to TNF.

His great work is The Grand Prix Car but The Evolution of the Racing Car and Design and Behaviour of the Racing Car (with Moss) are more obtainable and equally illustrative of his style. His articles in The Motor, not all about racing, are entertaining and readable today. I remember long ago reading an article in which he proved (to his own satisfaction) that running a vintage Rolls-Royce was cheaper than a modern family car. THe fact that his calculations showed a difference of just one penny a year no doubt was coincidence.

In the early 60s, there was a series of books published featuring short essays by the leading motoring writers of the time. Jenkinson would write about Italian open road races or racing cars controlled by a black box(!), Boddy would write about some aspect of 20s racing. Pomeroy's contribution to two of the books showed the two sides to his character. In The Motorists Miscellany he wrote about the development of racing engines from 1905 to 1915. In The Motorist's Weekend Book he wrote about the essential contents of a Gentleman's picnic. He offered three menus, depending on funds available; the most expensive was:

1 tin Prosciutto (13/6)
1 melon (6/-)
2 grouse in glass (£1/13/6)
1 tin asparagus (5/6)
Potted cranberry jelly (3/9)
Apricots in Brandy
1/2 bottle Bual Madeira (9/-)
1 bottle non-vintage champagne (£1/5/-)
Part bottle Cointreau, say (12/-_

Total cost £6/1/9

Typically, he chose the drinks before the food.

#11 MartLgn

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 14:08

Pomeroy's writing style was intellectual, analytical and filled with classical references which some found illuminating, some irritating and many totally baffling. He was followed in this approach by Setright, Court and to some extent Boddy.


I always think that Setright was an exceptional wordsmith who just happened to occasionally write about technical matters on which he held a view whereas Pomeroy was more of a technical author with a rare gift to add lyricism to his work. William court for me was simply a waffle merchant, many of the photo captions in 'Power and Glory' would be a mystery to the holder of a First in classics from Cambridge! (where Tiberius might have sat, had Tiberius been a cat anyone?)



#12 Charlieman

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 14:56

I'm plodding through vol 1 of The Grand Prix Car at the rate of one chapter a night. It is a stunning book visually and one that I would not wish to rush.

I like the rule of thumb performance predictions -- that lap time could be guessed on the basis of maximum speed in the era before chassis design was better understood. On the walk to work each day, I ponder over Ricardo's rule of thumb that the optimum swept volume for a petrol engine cylinder is roughly 300cc. It is a rule that still works.

I appreciate John Medley's comment about inaccuracies, but as a source it is exceptional. Pomeroy and Cresswell captured what was known to them at the time and delivered in a remarkable form. How many publishers today would give us those fold out illustrations? The walls of my living room are decorated by still photos from The Maltese Falcon, but I'd love to be able to swap them for Cresswell drawings.

#13 David Birchall

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 15:04

(where Tiberius might have sat, had Tiberius been a cat anyone?)


Onnamat.
Innit?

#14 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 15:58

Onnamat.
Innit?

Neat pun! But doggerel. Or in this case :cat: terel?

Cruel, but composed and bland,
Dumb, inscrutable and grand,
So Tiberius might have sat,
Had Tiberius been a cat.

Matthew Arnold 1822-1888


Arnold did write an awful lot of awful poetry ...

As to literary allusions I rather like Blight's Thomasian description of Schell and Dreyfus being "alone and anxious in the still of the bible-black night." :)

Edited by Vitesse2, 23 June 2012 - 16:10.


#15 kayemod

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 17:09

I always think that Setright was an exceptional wordsmith who just happened to occasionally write about technical matters on which he held a view whereas Pomeroy was more of a technical author with a rare gift to add lyricism to his work. William court for me was simply a waffle merchant, many of the photo captions in 'Power and Glory' would be a mystery to the holder of a First in classics from Cambridge! (where Tiberius might have sat, had Tiberius been a cat anyone?)


Oh, how I agree with that! In a misguided moment I bought a copy of Court's Grand Prix Requiem, and found it quite unreadable, Setright and Pomeroy on the other hand I've found no problem at all, which makes me think that Court was nowhere near as clever as he, and it has to be said many others, thought he was, but very definitely not for me. The essence of good writing is surely readability and understandability, without those essential qualities, it's just a waste of ink and paper.


#16 karlcars

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 17:37

Interesting thread, AAGR.

If you look back through your copies of Automobile Year you'll see that I wrote a biography of Pom a few issues back. I had so much material unused afterward that I've since nurtured the idea of a book about Pom that would have a longer form of the biography plus a selection of his writings. I had the pleasure of talking with his beautiful widow and indeed met Pom in New York during one of his visits to the USA.

Having read The Motor since 1948 and been given a copy of The Grand Prix Car by my mother when it was published I have been greatly influenced by Pom; Griff Borgeson is the other influence.

Previous contributions have summed up the position well -- he wasn't always spot-on but his insights were excellent for the time. I still find nuggets in his work that are novel and useful. Most disappointing for me however was his continued work as a journalist after he had become a BMC PR consultant; his contributions began to suffer terribly from a lack of current perspective.

His successor at Motor Charles Bulmer told me that he felt Pom did remarkably well as a technical author in view of his lack of technical understanding. Although cruel in a way this is probably fair as he had never worked as a true engineer and indeed was in the shadow of his framous engineer father -- something with which I can identify. I heve read a lot of Pom lately as he worked through much of the 1930s with Michael McEvoy on Zoller-based supercharging, which figures in my forthcoming book about the birth of blowing. He mastered enough in this field to be credible, as he continued to do throughout his life as a technical editor, to the ultimate benefit of all those of us who love cars.

As for Setright's successor volume to The Grand Prix Car, it is an embarrassing travesty of Pomeroy's magisterial work.


#17 Allan Lupton

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 22:05

In The Motorist's Weekend Book he wrote about the essential contents of a Gentleman's picnic. He offered three menus, depending on funds available; the most expensive was:

1 tin Prosciutto (13/6)
1 melon (6/-)
2 grouse in glass (£1/13/6)
1 tin asparagus (5/6)
Potted cranberry jelly (3/9)
Apricots in Brandy
1/2 bottle Bual Madeira (9/-)
1 bottle non-vintage champagne (£1/5/-)
Part bottle Cointreau, say (12/-_

Total cost £6/1/9

Typically, he chose the drinks before the food.

It was Pom who was quoted as saying of a less opulent offering:
"this isn't a picnic; this is sardine sandwiches"
:mad:


#18 Roger Clark

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 00:23

It was Pom who was quoted as saying of a less opulent offering:
"this isn't a picnic; this is sardine sandwiches"
:mad:

Same article.

#19 AAGR

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 21:40

Interesting thread, AAGR.

If you look back through your copies of Automobile Year you'll see that I wrote a biography of Pom a few issues back. I had so much material unused afterward that I've since nurtured the idea of a book about Pom that would have a longer form of the biography plus a selection of his writings. I had the pleasure of talking with his beautiful widow and indeed met Pom in New York during one of his visits to the USA.

Having read The Motor since 1948 and been given a copy of The Grand Prix Car by my mother when it was published I have been greatly influenced by Pom; Griff Borgeson is the other influence.

Previous contributions have summed up the position well -- he wasn't always spot-on but his insights were excellent for the time. I still find nuggets in his work that are novel and useful. Most disappointing for me however was his continued work as a journalist after he had become a BMC PR consultant; his contributions began to suffer terribly from a lack of current perspective.

His successor at Motor Charles Bulmer told me that he felt Pom did remarkably well as a technical author in view of his lack of technical understanding. Although cruel in a way this is probably fair as he had never worked as a true engineer and indeed was in the shadow of his framous engineer father -- something with which I can identify. I heve read a lot of Pom lately as he worked through much of the 1930s with Michael McEvoy on Zoller-based supercharging, which figures in my forthcoming book about the birth of blowing. He mastered enough in this field to be credible, as he continued to do throughout his life as a technical editor, to the ultimate benefit of all those of us who love cars.

As for Setright's successor volume to The Grand Prix Car, it is an embarrassing travesty of Pomeroy's magisterial work.



Karl,

What a relief - I thought it was only me who was deeply distressed by the content of the Setright Grand Prix volume. But then there were other Setright titles which could best be described as 'self-indulgent' too ....

AAGR




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#20 Odseybod

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 07:48

It was Pom who was quoted as saying of a less opulent offering:
"this isn't a picnic; this is sardine sandwiches"
:mad:


The original "Legend in his own lunchtime"?

#21 Doug Nye

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 10:06

Interesting thread, AAGR.
As for Setright's successor volume to The Grand Prix Car, it is an embarrassing travesty of Pomeroy's magisterial work.


I'm absolutely at one with Karl on this. And when it comes to influences upon one's work, Pom - with the typical-of-his-era faux classicism removed - Griff Borgeson - with the self-admiration and Hemingwayesque mannerisms removed - and Mr Ludvigsen himself (with precious little removed but a bit more fun added) - feature most prominently amongst mine. I owe much to them all and most happily acknowledge it. As for the troubled Setright...well - here I have told my Jenks story about him before... :smoking:

DCN

Edited by Doug Nye, 26 June 2012 - 10:09.


#22 Catalina Park

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 11:21

As for the troubled Setright...well - here I have told my Jenks story about him before... :smoking:

DCN

I just giggled at the memory of it. :lol:



#23 David Birchall

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 15:00

I just realised that I don't keep Setright's Vol 3 even on the same shelf with Pom's two volumes...
Does anyone have a link to the story DCN refers to above?

#24 Tim Murray

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 15:29

This would be it, I think:

They did meet, they did get on but they lived in very different sectors of the motoring world - JVB primarily in the bar, the club or striding off into the night, in his cups, bawling out filthy songs - often in French - at the top of his voice. DSJ would keep up with him if the topic was racing cars, engineering, racing, cars, racing cars, engineering, specials, racing cars, Brooklands, people they both knew - but once the boozing and carousing began then DSJ would get bored/uncomfortable and would make his exit. They were chalk and cheese in that respect.

Re LJK Setright - I shouldn't really share this story, but it happened. During one of his foppish (insecure?) phases LJKS arrived at a new F1 car launch clad in what appeared to be pale cream suede jodhpurs, riding boots and a matching pale cream suede jacket, handlebar moustache tips waxed, monocle screwed into eye. DSJ spied him - giggled "Look at that prat" and pushed through the crowd to greet him. I didn't catch what his opening line was, but the great intellect was plainly not too impressed by the bearded little gnome's greeting. Whereupon ( hand on heart this is true ), Jenks said to the tall dandy, confidentially, - "Do you know Leonard, if you had another lens up your arse you'd make a damn fine telescope".

Sorry... :blush:

DCN



#25 David Birchall

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 22:14

Which Jenks alone would have been able to use! :rotfl:

I like some of LJKS' writing but some of it is just trying too hard.

William Court was just unreadable!
There was a sign in my journalism school that read "Eschew Obfuscation"
Court missed out the first bit...

#26 Charlieman

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 19:59

"The Grand Prix car" vol 1 (as far as I have got) is divided roughly into sections:
* racing eras
* detailed car descriptions of exceptional racers
* tech developments and differences

I can only imagine that this construction was hell for Pomeroy and hell for the proof readers. For the reader, eg wishing to understand the choice of Mercedes to blow through a carburettor, you have to read every section carefully in order not to miss the vital point.

As a book to hold in your hand, it is gorgeous. The fold out diagrams won't work on an ebook reader until it is possible to project them onto a 27" monitor...