Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


MANY GUIDEBOOKS, Baedeker’s among them, eschew advertising. Others, such as Rider’s, have ads grouped together in the back. A third approach is exhibited by Motoring Through Europe, published by a Zurich firm that not only included ads, but deftly incorporated them into the guidebook’s narrative.

Motoring Through Europe International Automobile Guide, Motoring Through Europe Ltd, Zurich, c. 1952.

My copy is undated, but car photos, text references, and ads put it post-World War II and definitively after 1951: One hotel ad cites a Winston Churchill recommendation from that year.

The guide’s rear cover is frankly commercial, with a Mercedes-Benz ad commending its “Passenger cars, ambulance cars, trucks, vehicles for communal and fire brigade service stationary engines.”

Philips: Lightbulbs to Vacuum Tubes to …. Philips is a Dutch company headquartered in Amsterdam. Founded in 1891, its first products were carbon-filament lamps, followed by vacuum tubes in the 1920s, short-wave radio stations (1927), and electric shavers in the 1930s.

In time, Philips became one of the world’s largest electronics companies. I recall my first cassette player, back in the 1970s, was a Philips. These days, the firm’s focus is on health technology.

Philips and Mr. Jones. Opposite the title page of Motoring Through Europe, we learn that “Mr. Jones starts for a trip through Europe.” Alas, he “thinks he cannot possibly have forgotten anything,” only to discover a dead battery (the guide calls it an “empty” one).

An easy solution: You just plug your Philips battery charger “into the mains” in the hotel garage.

These days, we usually think of automotive batteries designed to function maintenance-free until precisely one month past their xx-month warranty. Older folks, though, may recall adding water periodically before batteries were sealed for life.

Mr. Jones and False Confidence. A second Philips ad relates, “His trip through Europe proves a success! He likes the food, the weather, the sights, the snapshots he takes.…”

Yes, kids, there was a time when tourists took pictures with cameras, not smart phones. What’s more, Japanese Nikons, Canons, and the like didn’t evolve into export giants until the 1960s. However, Leica was (and remains) the Mercedes-Benz of cameras.

Mr. Jones and Darkness. Things go fine for Mr. Jones “until, one dark night, something goes wrong with his carburetor.”

“What’s a carburetor, Grandpa?”

It’s a gasoline/air mixing device on old-time engines. The ad continues, “Nothing serious really, but a great nuisance when you can’t see what you’re doing.”

Others might disagree with “nothing serious really….” It has been suggested that carbureted cars should have been equipped with rubber-tipped tools so you could pretend to adjust factory settings without screwing them up.

Fortunate for Mr. Jones, the Philips “Troublelite” has a “magnetic base and can be stuck tot [sic] any metal part of the car. Connected to the battery,…”

But what if the battery is empty?

Isn’t There Always Something? “It is not really the news that worries Mr. Jones, but the absence of it.”

“I have a Philips car radio,” a new friend tells Mr. Jones. “That gives me all my home news and my favourite music.”

What? No SiriusXM? No “Met Opera Radio”? No “Symphony Hall”? No “RadioClassics”?

Mr. Jones and Windmills. It’s no surprise that “Mr. Jones is fascinated by the pioneering spirit of the Dutch.”

By the way, Motoring Through Europe is also a traditional guidebook. Among other information for travelers is a summary of international driving rules: “Drive left, to fetch right.” Great Britain, (including Gibraltar, Malta, Guernesey, Jersey, and Alderney), Ireland and Sweden. “Drive right, to fetch left.” Everywhere else.

Also offered is a complete listing of national automobile plates in alphabetical order: “A Austria, … BA Burma, … Cu Curaçao, … GBZ Gibraltar,… MC Monaco,… SNB British-North Borneo,… TT Togo, ….” You see what I mean about “complete.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020


  1. David Rees
    February 21, 2020


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