Book reviews, April 1985, April 1985

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The Ordinance Survey has published a second edition of its large format paper-backed Motoring Atlas which has several improvements. Most of the country is now shown at a very detailed 3 miles: in, with the exception of the north of Scotland, and the place names are now in a more legible, if less attractive, typeface. Colouring appears to be less distracting than on the first edition copy which we reviewed, while a wide range of symbols indicates items of interest; there are also clear town maps and a large index. With its large pages, the Atlas covers an area of 65 x 45 miles per spread, which reduces page turning during solo drives. The price is £3.75, and the publisher is Newnes Books.

Even more comprehensive is the AA 3 mile road Atlas, which, though to the same scale as the OS offering, comes as a thick, heavy and expensive hard-backed volume of 282 pages at 04.95. Generously endowed with town plans (central Whitley Bay even!), it also sports an introductory section of the sort the AA specialises in — Living with Motorways, From Village to Town, and other cheery articles. Fine to read once perhaps, but not necessary in an atlas. Otherwise it is clear, if not as pleasantly coloured as the AA’s own 4 miles: in maps, and it shares with the Ordnance Survey atlas the advantages of National Grid references, essential for following the RAC Rally, for exarnple. One novel feature is the provision of a clear plastic overlay with arrow stickers to assist route-finding — potentially rather useful. The book is ideal for office or home reference, but really too bulky for day-today use in the car. It is available from AA Centres, bookshops, or by post at £16.40 including postage from the AA, Mail Order Dept., PO Box 51, Basingstoke, Hants RG21 2BR.

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I really did not expect to enjoy a book called “Muscle Cars”, but the cheerful Introduction to John McGovren’s book of that name rather caught my attention.

The meat of the book actually makes very interesting reading, for apart from describing the Chargers, GTOs and Road-Runners, it discusses their marketing and the effect this performance image had on the big manufacturers of Detroit, with a brief digression about European equivalents — such as the Chrysler-engined Bristols. No mention of the big Iso cars, or of the Pantera, but Facel Vega is included. Mind you. I thought the particular model illustrated was called the Facel II, but perhaps the publishers were making a point in their caption which calls it the Fecal II…

Another interesting chapter is one on “Alternatives”, which oddly includes any of those American cars which have ever had pretensions to being what we might call “real sports cars” — the Corvette, the Cobra (yet again Carroll Shelby gets most of the credit for these astonishing machines in which AC actually had a vital hand) and the Shelby GT350, the Mustang-based supercar which undoubtedly was Carroll Shelby’s own project, and which was one of the few genuinely fine-handling cars to come out of America.

Apple Press (Gray’s Inn Road, London) have done a fine job of the generous colour illustrations, and have kept the price to a very reasonable £5.95. — G.C.

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The industrious Graham Robson has been compiling an MRP “Rally Library”, No. 3 of which is now out, covering in picture and text the story of the Talbot Sunbeam-Lotus cars, which really got off the ground with Tony Pond’s 4th place in the 1979 San Remo Rally, which a colour plate in the softcover 64-page book recalls. Specifications of the cars and a table of how they performed, in this case from 1978 to 1982, set off this useful record and all rally-fans will need these little publications to relive great days. Motor Racing Publications Ltd, 32 Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London W4 2HD offer it at £4.95, the previous books having covered Audi Quattro and Vauxhall Chevette HS and HSR. — W.B.

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Some highly desirable cars, in the guise of the YJ-series Jaguars and the 1945-1985 Rolls-Ropers and Bentleys, are the subject of the latest informative books in the “Collector’s Guide” publications from Motor Racing Publications Ltd, 28 and 32, Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London, W4 2HD. The Jaguar book is not unexpectedly by Paul Skilleter and the other two, divided into two volumes of which the first is about the standard-production R-R and Bentley cars up to 1965 (omitting Bentley Mulsanne and R-R Silver Spirit). The second volume taking in these makes in coachbuilt form up to this year, are by Graham Robson. These very attractive “Guides” cost £9.95 each. W.B.

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Bob Stearn has had the ingenious idea of compiling a book about car makers in the area in which he lives, called “Croydon Cars”, although we believe other titles, related to regional manufacturers, are contemplated. It will be interesting to see what historians make of his first effort. The book covers more than 25 makes from AC to Wingfield and although coverage of many is necessarily brief, new facts emerge, such as the first fatal accident to a motorist and the first fatality to a pedestrian by a motorcar allegedly happened in the Borough of Croydon. The book covers the Trojan in some detail, including the Company’s Elva and McLaren connections. It is not quite certain whether its brief is to include commercial vehicles or not but there is much of interest and 30 illustrations. Minor criticisms are that there was more in AC history between the Sociable and the Light6, although this belongs to Surrey history, and Austin hardly pursued a “one-model policy” after introducing the A7. It is also news to me that De Soros were assembled at Croydon — I would have said at Kew, and in my younger days the exciting General racing car would have been called a GMC. However, here is another book for old-car buffs to buy, by sending £2.25 to Stearn Publishing, PO Box 297, Croydon, CR3 3TZ and it was clever of Bob to get Oxo among his advertisers, as the present Brooke Bond (Oxo) Company once had 2,000 Trojan vans. — W.B.