Keeping Glass’s Guides for reference was either geeky or clever. You never know when you are going to need the price of a Vauxhall Astra of 1995 or what engines Ford Sierras had. The little fat books were full of information but this month the printed ones stop. Yes of course you can look things up digitally but sometimes you don’t exactly know what you don’t know.
Car dealers have been consulting Glass’s small print, often furtively, for 83 years. Now, instead, they will scan their smartphones Ipads and PCs for the same well-researched material in Glass’s Guide App. They’ve been doing so already since the App was set up in 2014 with four times the number of valuations and easy adjustments for mileages and variables, which used to be in tiresome tables. Now they’re just another click.
I’m not sure the App will ever be as smart as the natural born dealers I knew in my (mercifully) brief time in the Glasgow motor trade. They had an instructive feel for car values, like their ancestors had for horses. I knew one who could calculate in the blink of an eye how many Ford Zodiacs, Morris Minors, Jaguars and Austin Somersets he could trade against a Ferrari 250GT. I watched him do it. He always got it right and made a profit.
Ford Zodiac: I've been at some press launches. This is Silverstone when they still dismantled the stands between grands prix.
William Glass published his first Guide in July 1933. Hanns Schwacke did the same in Germany in the 1950s and the business expanded in the 1960s throughout Europe. There were PC versions when Glass’s acquired Editions Professionelles Glass SARL (EPG) in the 1980s and a private equity group took over Glass’s Information Systems in 1998. It merged to form EurotaxGlass’s AG in Freienbach, Switzerland. In 2006 Candover bought the lot for €480 million and renamed it HM Capital.
William Glass was born in Scotland in 1881and Rupert Pontin, director of valuations describes him as an engineer and believes he would have approved of the App. Glass was, says Pontin, “… a notable inventor who created the portable hydraulic jack, the electric switch-off kettle and the self-filling fountain pen,” Jack, kettle and fountain-pen notwithstanding I am less sure of the assertion that he also invented a mechanism for firing a machine gun through a rotating aircraft propeller. Franz Schneider Raymond Saulnier, Fokker, Scarff-Dibrovski, Sopwith-Kauper, George Constantinesco and even Marc Birkigt of the Hispano-Suiza engined SPADs would be among many to take issue with that. Swiss-born Schneider, who worked with Nieuport published this patent (below) in the German Flugsport in 1914 when Glass was 33.