Book reviews, April 1978, April 1978

“Historic Fairground Scenes” by Michael E. Ware, FRPS. 96 pp. 9 1/2 in. x 7 1/4 in. (Moorland Publishing Co., The Market Place; Hartington, Buxton. Derbyshire, SK17 0A1. £4.20).

Michael Ware has led us, through his photographic archives, to some pleasant historical paths, such as how motor cars were manufactured, the canal scenes of long ago, and so on. His latest book in this style covers a subject which must have a decided fascination for those who are concerned with the older forms of road transport. For although his work depicts fairground Scenes from the past 8o years, the grounds themselves, the attractions, the sideshows, the living vans, the setting-up and pulling-down of the big Fairs, because these were essentially mobile shows, the transport aspect is in the ascendant.

When I pass a Fair today I find I still peer wistfully at the parked vehicles, hoping to find a steam Showman’s traction-engine among them. Alas, these have vanished from this particular field, although up to the 1950s a number were still in the service of Showmen, supplementing the petrol and diesel lorries. Now the last-named predominate and the more aged of these is disappearing. Michael Ware has not overlooked the steam-scene, even depicting calamities which befell luckless Showman’s road-trains drawn by those massive Showman’s engines. He also gives us a peep at the lorries used in the old days, including a nice picture of an Army-surplus FWD truck, photographed in 1923, used as a packing-truck, and towing its owner’s living-van, moving onto a showground, its wheels, in spite of the all-wheel drive, fitted with chains to provide grip. In other such scenes you can pick out the AEC and Tilling-Stevens lorries that were popular with Showmen in the 1920s, as at Mitcham Fair, and even an Erskine saloon towing an early Eccles caravan.

While this book will delight mainly steam enthusiasts, and, of course, those with a predilection for the Fairs, it also discloses some exciting sideshows, like the All-British “Globe of Death” and motorcycles and midget cars using the better-known “Wall of Death”, with live lions as passengers! Apparently the last to use “Sensational trick of a be lion in the sidecar was Barry’s Sensational Motordrome”, pictured at Norwich In 1939, and a lion is seen in a midget car at the top of the “Wall of Death” at Mitcham in the 1930s. Among the thrilling rides depicted are the Dodgems, originally using petrol-driven cars, until electricity proved more reliable, and Preceded, we are told, by the “Brooklands Speedway” ride.

Permanent fairground sitesget a chapter to themselves and the town sites illustrated are a reminder that Showmen can still cause a through road to be closed, as at Thame, front personal experience, whereas public road speed-trials were banned from 1925.

So this is a book containing 122 pictures on good art-paper – of the astonishing world of the fairground – and I am astonished at the length of some of the traction-engine-hauled road-trains and that the wooden wheels of horse-drawn-dray type, stood up to even the low speeds involved. What next,Michael? -W.B.

“Maserati: The Postwar Sportsracing Cars” by Joel E. Finn. 224 pp. 9 in. x 12 in. (Patrick Stephens Ltd., Barr Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8EL £8.50).

This John W. Barnes book is packed with good pictures and cutaway drawings, etc. of the post-war sports Maseratis totalling 383. Race and workshop scenes, production data, chassis and engine number identification, detailed specifications, of Maseratis from Tipo 150s to Tipo 65 Le Mans, photographs of mechanical components, reproductions of Maserati advertisements and catalogue pages, etc. to a big-page format must make this book irresistible to all who own or love these motor cars. A casebound edition is available at £18.95 and PSL are the agents here for this dedicated American publication. -W.B.

“MG: The Immortal T Series” by Chris Harvey. 250 pp. 10 1/4 in. x 8 1/4 in. (The Oxford Illustrated Press, Shelley Close, Kiln Lane, Risinghurst, Oxford, OX3 8HB. £12.00.)

What a fascinating and beautifully produced book this is! This, the second of a series by the hard-working Harvey, is even better than the first, on the Jaguar E-Type.

Harvey has a natural ability to convey facts and technical advice in an easily digestible form and this readable volume really is crammed with details. It leads in with a succinct tribute to the T Series, those first push-rod engined MG sports cars, which at first offended the motoring cognoscenti and them charmed their way into hearts across the world, so prestigiously for Britain. There are chapters detailing the specifications and development of the preand post-War Midgets, contemporary road test reports, an interesting study of T-type trials, racing and record breaking activities and a look at the “Designers and Developers” responsible for the T Series, from Cecil Kimber onwards. All this is straightforward historical stuff (and Wilson McComb will be pleased to note that Harvey even attributes the correct year to “Old Number One”!), the sort of lore that MG aficionados are well steeped in. The real meat for ‘I-type addicts is in the information of a more practical kind essential to the restoration and day-to-day running of the models.

I thought I had seen the majority of MG archive photographs when I shared an office with them at Abingdon. Familiar ones appear in the book, but Harvey (assisted by Paul Skilleter) has succeeded in finding additional historic photographs which are new even to me. The beautiful illustrations include twenty-one colour plates weighted too much in favour of much-modified, current ‘I-type racers, although there is a nice action shot of Steve Dear’s ex-Bastock PA Cream Cracker (how did that infiltrate the ‘I’-types?) and another of my old boss, the gentlemanly John Thornley, with his MG-B GT, registered MG 1, to whom Harvey gives due credit for his contribution to MG success.

Without a doubt this is the new bible for T-type enthusiasts everywhere, while for enthusiasts with a more general MG interest it adds an additional dimension to that offered by general histories of the marque. -CR.

“The Jaguar Driver’s Year Book 1977” by Paul Skilleter. 112 pp. 12 in. x 8 1/2 in. (The Magpie Publishing Co., “Holmerise”, Seven Hills Road, Cobham, Surrey. £5.25.) Anybody with an interest in Jaguars cannot help but be captivated by this largely pictorial work compiled by Paul Skilleter, author of the authoratitive book on Jaguar sports cars. This is a book for Jaguar admiration rather than information, there are no great revelations amongst the 120 black and white pictures (though I can’t recall having seen previously the mysterious, pretty, prototype sports car, with lines reminiscent of an XK 120, which Skilleter believes may have been constructed by an outside coachbuilder, hoping to interest the factory, just after the War), about half of which are devoted to a pictorial record of Sir William Lyons products from the first Swallow sidecars of 1927 to the latest delectable X J-S.

Last year marked not only the fiftieth anniversary of I.yons products, but also the 21st anniversary of the Jaguar Driver’s Club and the loth anniversary of that Club’s XK Register. Skilleter, editor of the Club’s magazine Jaguar Driver, has devoted separate pictorial sections to the Club’s activities in 977 and to a review of the XK Register’s first decade. As he remarks in the introduction to the latter section, “even after 29 years, the XK sports car is still immensely good to look at”, a remark which could be made justifiably about any of the Jaguar products and the reason why Jaguar buffs will find this book so rewarding.

Though text is kept to the absolute minimum, this Year Book does contain a useful list of the dates of introduction and discontinuation of post-war Jaguars, together with the appropriate first-of-the-line chassis numbers, and a similar list for post June 1960 Daimler models made under Jaguar aegis. Two pages are devoted to details of the Jaguar Driver’s Club officials, Registers and areas.

This is a book for the marque enthusiast browser rather than a reference work for the historian. Skilleter hopes to make it an annual production. -C.R.

“The Ferrari Legend The Competition 250GT Berlinetta” by Jess G. Pourret, 382 pp. 10 in. x 8 1/2 in. (John W. Barnes, Jr., Publishing Inc. Box 323, Scarsdale, New York 50583, USA.) (Price -a lot of money.)

This is one of those books produced regardless of cost and size, the all-important factors being to do a good job and put everything between the covers, in this case bright red ones with a golden prancing horse embossed on the front. It is such a remarkable tome that it does not display its price; if you are a Ferrari enthusiast you just have to get a copy. You would not think it possible to write a 382-page book on one Ferrari model, but Jess Pourret has done just that, with all the racing history and every detail you can imagine about the 250GT Ferrari from the first long-wheelbase car of 1954 right through to the ultimate GTO of 1964.

If you are not a Ferrari enthusiast then this book is not likely to interest you, and if you are a Bugatti or Maserati enthusiast then it will make you green with envy and sad that there are not similar books about the Type 57 Bugatti or the 2501: Maserati. “The Ferrari Legend” is a book written by a Ferrari enthusiast, published by a Ferrari enthusiast, to be bought by Ferrari enthusiasts. If you are not in the last category, then this book will probably convert you. D.S.J.

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“Automobile Year No. 25”, that de luxe Edita Lusanne annual, is now available in the English Edition from Patrick Stephens Ltd., Barr Hill, Cambridge, for £17.50. Edited by Douglas Armstrong it remains the high-class publication it always has been, the advertising matching the editorial pages in colour and quality. There are 150 pages, 12 1/4 in. x 9 3/8 in., 500 pictures and 25 maps. It may not be quite as exciting as it was originally, when we depended on it for racing results, etc., because other similar annuals have since joined it. But it is still at the top of its class. The 1977 edition looks back 25 years, through the eyes of Ami Guichard and John Bolster. Leonard Setright covers last year’s technical automotive developments, with the year’s motoring novelties looked at by J. Farenc. Last year’s racing is reported on by a strong team, including Paul Frere, Gerry Crombac, Peter Windsor, Armstrong himself, Murray Taylor, etc., with Enzo Ferrari commentating on drivers he has known. All this is supported by full 1977 competition results and those masses of fine colour and ordinary photography. — W.B.

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A worthwhile record of that Transport Trust/R-R EC Parade, past H.M. The Queen, of a vast cavalcade of Rolls-Royce (and a few Bentley) cars last year is available in the form of a pictorial publication issued by the R-R EC and illustrating a great many of the cars that took part, with details, such as owners, bodywork, Reg. numbers etc, appended. There are articles about how the idea originated and was developed, the special long-distance runs performed in association with the Parade at Windsor, like Kenneth Neve’s top-gear haul from Edinburgh to the Royal Palace in his London-Edinburgh 40/50 Rolls-Royce, much more besides. All those who took pan who like Rolls-Royce motorcars should enjoy book; and it must contain more photograph Her Majesty than any comparable publicai provides, as she is seen in most of photographs (over 300 of them) of the cars depicted at Windsor and Ascot. While the supply lasts copies of “Royal Silver Jubilee Souvenir 1977” by Colin Hughes, edited by R. J. Gil are available from Capt. Peter Baines, Cross Tree Cottage, Wickets, Milton Keynes, MK19 6BX, at £3.50, cheques or POs to be in payable to the R-R EC. — W.B.