Book Reviews , April 1959, April 1959

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Great American Automobiles by John Bentley. 374 pp., 10 in. by 7-1/4 in. (The Merlin Press, 112 Whitfield Street, London, S.W.1. 36s.).

This is an attempt to provide, in attractive and easily assimilated form, a survey of the highlights of the American racing and sporting scene. Published in America by Prentice-Hall, Inc., John Bentley’s book is now available in this country. It presents known and new facts about such dramatic aspects of the American scene as Alexander Winton and his racing “bullets,” the New York-Paris Race, Jasper Glidden and his Glidden Tours, the early Indianapolis 500 Mile races, early American sports cars, the Vanderbilt and Savannah Cup Races and, indeed, only one of these races is fully described in this book  —  about which not nearly enough has been known on this side of the Atlantic  —  the later Mercer raceabout phase, and an account of the Daytona Beach Land Speed Record bids of 1902 to 1910, and 1919 to 1929.

Inevitably much of the material covers matters of history dealt with in other books, but fresh facts and photographs emerge and “Great American Automobiles” will be sought by students of the U.S. scene, albeit it as a rather costly production for wide circulation here.—W. B.

***

He Would Provoke Death by Clodagh Gibson Jarvie. 192 pp. 7-1/2 in. by 5 in. (T.V. Boardman & Co., Ltd., 37 Hertford Street. London, W. 1. 10s. 6d.)

A thriller in the “British Bloodhound Mystery” series—this is No. 246—this book contains much about motor racing and the Monte Carlo Rally.  We are told by those who can stomach this sort of thing that the plot is clever, maintaining suspense to the end. So we mention the book here because a few of our readers may care to buy it for wives or girl-friends.—W. B.

***

Champion Year by Mike Hawthorn. 239 pp., 8-5/8 in. by 5-5/8 in. (William Kimber, London. 21s )

This book by Mike, describing his battle last season for the Drivers’ World Title, was finished three days before he lost control of his 3.4 Jaguar on the Guildford By-Pass and lost his life. It is a tragic book because it recalls all too pungently what a splendid fellow Mike was and how dedicated he was to motor racing. But his publishers were right to proceed with publication and it was nice to have in one’s hands before the commencement of another racing season a book dealing with the important races of 1958 — so often such books appear too late to retain one’s interest.

This account is “typical Hawthorn” — his writing packs some good punches. Answering those who felt that European drivers, with notable exceptions, boycotted the 1957 “Monza 500” race because they were frightened, Mike admits he was frightened at Monza in the 1958 race. He confirms our opinion that he had Tommy Sopwith’s Jaguar “on toast” during the Daily Express Silverstone saloon-car race, deals with the fatal accidents to Luigi Musso and to “mon ami mate,” Peter Collins, to whom the book is dedicated, frankly, and takes the reader step by step through the races which brought him his well-deserved World Championship, the account aided by circuit diagrams, tables of results and championship points and good pictures.

One little slip passed the notice of Nevil Lloyd who assisted with the manuscript — the B.R.M./Cooper accident at the Daily Express Silverstone Meeting happened at Copse not at Woodcote corner. But that is of little moment. The main purpose of  “Champion Year” is to give Hawthorn’s personal impressions of the races he drove for Ferrari and Jaguar and this he does admirably, showing, also, how a racing driver lives, including notes on his taste in drink, food, hotels and women.

“Champion Year” has a nice tribute to Dunlop’s effective RS racing tyre, contains one of the best pictures ever of Peter Collins, is, in fact, a thoroughly worthwhile book . —W. B.

***

Automobile Year—No. 6. 235 pp., 13 in. by 9-1/2 in. (G. T. Foulis & Co., 7 Milford Lane, Strand, London, W.C.2. 52s.)

Once again this beautifully-produced annual from Switzerland is with us, in the English translation. It is something to which one looks forward as heralding the spring, although down the years it seems to get, like some humans, a little thinner. Incidentally, the only English car manufacturers to advertise in it this time are Jaguar and Austin-Healey — a pity the latter use that advertisement in which some rather effeminate hand signals are being given and the lady passenger in the bigger Healey appears to have fainted!

The 1958/1959 edition contains the usual survey of last season’s races, with lap charts and magnificently illustrated, including full page pictures of the leading drivers (Hawthorn in colour). The cars themselves are well illustrated, with a pull-out drawing of the DBR 2/300 Aston Martin, and a list of International records established during 1958 is included.

Apart from racing ” Automobile Revue” devotes a magnificent pictorial section to dream and special-bodied cars, carries somewhat superficial specifications of the World’s automobiles and a review of the year’s automobile developments throughout the World by Gordon Wilkins, who seems to have included far less detail than he did in the previous edition.

The articles include one on crashes, which we might surely have been spared, a story about Mercedes-Benz by Gunther Molter, most of which we have read elsewhere, including the inevitable account of the early days of Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz — this history has appeared in almost every historical motor book during the last decade and is now utterly boring — illustrated mainly with stale Mercedes-Benz hand-out pictures, accounts of the motor industries of Russia and Australia, an article by G. Canestrini on the task the early racing drivers had to face which is interesting but not convincing (for instance that Antonio Ascari lost his life due to poor visibility from the P2 Alfa Romeo and certainly Hawthorn sat crouched over a Ferrari wheel not from choice but because his height made this stance the only possible one), a survey of production engine tuning, including British “hotting-up” kits, by P. Eppendahl and a short review of suspension systems from chariot springs to air suspension.

This is a volume for those with big bookshelves and deep pockets. —W. B.

***

The 1959 edition of the R.A.C. “Continental Handbook” is now available, at 10s. 6d., from the R.A.C., Pall Mall, London, S.W.1. This 636-page touring guide contains every conceivable piece of information necessary to the tourist, including European maps, and should be in the cubby hole of every G.B. car venturing across the Channel this summer.

***

New motoring wallpaper, featuring eight modern sports cars in outline, including Aston Martin DB 2/4, Lotus Eleven, Porsche, Jaguar XK I50, etc., is available at 12s. 6d. per 36 ft. by 22 ft. roll from Dept. W, John Webb Press Services, 62, Brompton Road, London, S.W.3.

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