The Tin Snail
By Cameron McAllister
Published by Jonathan Cape / Random House
ISBN 978 0857551290
Angelo Fabrizzi's father, Luca, works for an upmarket French car company in 1930s Paris, where posh cars and limousines are all the rage. But company boss, Bertrand Hippaux, has heard worrying news from over the border in Germany.
Cars have so far been only for the rich; but there are rumours that Germany's Porsche company is working on a "people's car" for the working classes in Germany. Hippaux doesn't want his company to be left behind.
But Luca has been working in secret on a totally new car concept. His own "car for the people" is due to be unveiled at the 1938 Paris Motor Show, and Hippaux is expecting it to have a great future.
But things don't go quite as planned. A series of accidents turn the unveiling of the new car into a disaster, and something drastic must be done to rescue the company's reputation.
Luca and Angelo move to Hippaux' chateau in a village in rural France, so Luca can go back to the drawing board and work on a new type of car. Angelo is car-crazy, and has as many bright ideas as his dad.
Before long, father and son are working on a new vehicle for the working people of France, and set up a workshop using the limited resources available to them.
A prototype soon takes shape; but to add to the challenge, Hippaux insists the new car must be able to carry a tray of eggs across a farm field without breaking a single one.
It's a tall order, and several test drives end up in disaster.
Things get even more difficult when the Nazi army invades France. Soldiers arrive in the village with orders to find out what's happening with the car. How long can Angelo and his father keep their work secret?
The Citroen Deux Chevaux (2CV) is an iconic entry in the history of car design. Cameron McAllister's fictional take on how this classic car was born is a highly entertaining read. Loosely based on real events, The Tin Snail will appeal particularly to young car lovers, but also anyone who enjoys a mix of comedy and history.
The book's humour is very visual, and readers will smile broadly as the tin snail trundles out of its shed and into automobile history.
Did a teenager really assist in the invention of the 2CV? Of course he didn't. But that doesn't matter in this madcap tale of invention and adventure.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com