Book reviews, April 2001, April 2001

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Autocourse
Edited by Alan Henry
ISBN 1 874557 79 9
Hazleton Publishing, £35

Yes, this has been out for three months, but is still worth a look. For many, it is an automatic purchase each year, and perhaps, over time, this serves to make it less special. But this 50th anniversary edition may well attract more than the completists, reviewing as it does the season in which Ferrari shook off a 21-year-old monkey.

The ‘Top 10 Drivers’ remains the book’s star feature (though why this is so remains a mystery; it is merely a journo’s opinion). As for the rest of it, the pictures are very good, as usual, but the design is looking a little tired.

The same accusation can be levelled at Hazleton’s ChampCar and Rallycourse tomes, too, though words and photography are excellent.

David Malsher

Automobiles By Architects
By Ivan Margolius
ISBN 0 471 60786 X
Published by Wiley-Academy, £29.95

There have been more cars designed by architects than you’d think, and this book has no trouble in supplying something eye-opening on almost every page.

Though Margolius is an architect, not a car historian, he knows his automobiles; I hadn’t realised, for example, that the first monocoque car was a 1903 Vauxhall. But it is the crossover between the design disciplines which is the book’s main thrust.

Even if four wheels and two rows of seats has yet to be improved, it can only do the industry good to be faced with the occasional shock from outside the car world. And it may be salutary that Citroen’s most visually creative years were those when a sculptor and then an architect were in charge.

Gordon Cruickshank

Sixties Motor Racing
By Michael Cooper (text by Paul Parker)
ISBN 0 9523 009 7 4
Published by Palawan Press Limited, £250

To capture the spirit of an age is a tough call. But this book manages it. Michael Cooper is a name that faded from motor racing’s view in the early ’70s, but this stylish collection of his work has brought him back to the forefront of motorsport photography, which is exactly where he belongs.

As you would expect of Palawan, the book is beautifully produced — and different. Pulling the images together is a year-by-year narrative by Paul Parker, combined with 165 everyday images, that interweaves the social, cultural and political upheavals of the time with the history of F1. It may sound contrived, but it works.

It’s the photographs, though, that take centre stage. Cooper liked to get close to the action, really close: my favourite image is of Jim Clark screaming abuse at him because his foot is on the Scot’s line — at Eau Rouge!

Superb. Shame it’s not £150 less.

Paul Fearnley

My Life Full of Cars
By Paul Frere
ISBN 1 85960 670 9
Haynes Publishing, £19.99

I ‘discovered’ Paul Frere when he was a correspondent for Motor magazine back in the 1980s, and it was only much later that I learned of his impressive motorsport career.

Now we can at last enjoy, in book form, the intelligent analyses of a fine racer and a top car-tester, who never forgot that the majority of his readers don’t possess his talents, and therefore hadn’t enjoyed the experiences which he described with such clarity.

Many Motor Sport readers will find Frere’s racing career is of the most interest in this book, and that is when his writing is at its best.

But most of the road cars to which he refers are ‘performance’ models, and therefore worth looking at, as are his relationships with the Japanese motor industry.

Some of this is a bit dry — who cares about shaving two-tenths of a second off a 0-60 time? — but it is perhaps predictable that Frere should ensure his facts are correct to the nth degree.

David Malsher

Alberto Ascari — Ferrari’s First Double Champion
By Karl Ludvigsen
ISBN 1 85960 680 6
Haynes Publishing, £25

Most people would put this chubby little Italian in their top dozen drivers of all time. It is remarkable then that so little has been written about him in English.

The latest volume in Karl Ludvigsen’s driver series still leaves the door open for the definitive history of the two-time world champion, but has plenty to recommend it.

For some reason, photographs of Ascari have not lodged in my brain like those of Fangio and Moss, so those offered up in this volume, especially the colour stuff, comes as a delight and a surprise.

The story is told at a fair old clip, and gets the message across —the superstitions, the fastidiousness, the need to lead — but I was left wanting more. And there surely is more.

Paul Fearnley

Driven
By Jesse Alexander
ISBN 8118 2 851 4
Published by Chronide Books, £22.50

It’s through the photos of Jesse Alexander that I should like to imagine the motor-racing world of the 1950s and ’60s.

Alexander enhances his subjects; the characteristic chiarusco lighting effect he so brilliantly captures infuses them with a dramatic intensity, transforming the heroes of the day into mythic superheroes, a frantic pitstop into a furious interplay of light and shade.

This book is one to delight and pore over, the stark design and high-grade paper resulting in every picture being reproduced to best effect.

Although many might disagree, I feel that grouping the captions at the back allows for uninterrupted absorption of the magnificent images. After all, a picture can say more than a 1000 words.

Ian Marshall

The 1903 Irish Gordon Bennett
By Bob Montgomery
ISBN I 870519 55 8
Bookmarque Publishing, £49.99

Bob Montgomery feels so strongly that this race proved the salvation of motorsport in the aftermath of the horrors of the Paris-Madrid, he has researched far and wide to include many of the reports in Irish papers and magazines of the time. His work has paid dividends. He goes into detail about Jarrott’s crash, the Act of Parliament that enabled the race, and the fire that destroyed the Mercedes 90 intended for eventual winner Camille Jenatzy.

Although a number of the 163 pictures have been used previously, their enlargement is one of the attractive aspects of this book. A high-class record of an important race, it will not only inform but grace the bookshelf. Essential for every motor historian and book collector.

Bill Boddy

Rally Cars
By Reinhard Klein (test by David Williams & John Davenport)
ISBN 3 8290 4625 1
Published by Konemann, £19.99

German publishers Konemann have established an excellent reputation for books of high quality and low price. However, with this monster 600-page publication, edited by ace rally photographer Reinhard Klein, they’ve excelled themselves.

Every significant model of the last 40 years, from early two-stroke Saabs to the latest ‘bells and whistles’ WRC cars, via the outlandish Group B thunderers, is recalled in detail. No aspect of the rally car is left untouched.

Combined with the lavish photography, this is less a fusty reference work and more a joyous celebration.

No more lovingly prepared book will find its way onto the rally fan’s shelf this year.

Ian Marshall

Longford — Fast Track Back
By Barry Green
ISBN 1 875 401 85 7
Published by Barry Green

Three Reims-like blasts, a left-right flick under a railway viaduct, a yump caused by a level crossing and two wooden bridges mark the Longford circuit out as being a bit special. That its lap speed was 20mph quicker — at 122 — than the better-known Bathurst, and that the best drivers in the world raced on it as part of the Tasman series, confirms this. That it is situated in Tasmania adds to the mystery — and perhaps explains why it has taken until now for its story to be told in such depth.

Barry Green’s year-by-year narrative — Longford held races between 1954 and 1968 — is imbued with enthusiasm, which means he almost carries off a format that can get a little tedious. More of the forthright, Aussie-style anecdotes would have been appreciated. But this is still a story worth telling — and reading.

Longford fanclub? Count me in.

Paul Fearnley

Shooting Star — The Life of Richard Seaman

By Chris Nixon
ISBN 85184 065 5
Published by Transport Bookman Publications, £39.95

The ingredients are very Boy’s Own: wealthy British amateur proves the equal of Europe’s best. Yet this, surprisingly the first Seaman biography since Prince Chula’s of 1941, shades the story to give a more three-dimensional and not always more attractive picture.

Seaman achieved his position in the top team, Mercedes, not by luck and plucky sportsmanship, but following a determined campaign fuelled by his burning self-belief.

Seaman’s single-minded dedication shines through Nixon’s copy, and much intriguing detail from Seaman’s mother, his widow, and friends makes this as much a personal as a racing tale, while generous pictures show much more of his off-track life than usual in a biography.

Gordon Cruickshank

Pininfarina Art and Industry 1930-2000
By Antoine Prunet
ISBN 1 85960 684 9
Haynes Publishing, £50

Prunet chooses an unusual structure for this hefty book. He begins with a condensed history of the firm, running alongside a gallery of their design work: trucks, trains, yachts, kitchens, watches and ski boots.

This is followed by a picture-based journey through the staggering range of cars styled or developed by this legendary company, punctuated by short but sometimes revealing conversations with the firm’s clients, key figures and rivals.

An eye for beauty was vital: a Pininfarina veteran is quoted saying: “Pinin had the car in his head, and we had to make it with hammers and tongs.”

Comprehensive and enjoyable.

Gordon Cruickshank

The Science of Safety
By David Tremayne
ISBN 1 85960 664 4
Published by Haynes Publishing, £19.99

In light of the grim accidents in Melbourne earlier this month, and at Monza last September, it seems appropriate that this book is up for review.

Initially, I wondered if The Science of Safety might prove superfluous to those in possession of Life in the Fast Lane by Prof Sid Watkins. My fears were unfounded, however, and the book does indeed live up to its title, though thankfully the science isn’t blinding.

Tremayne’s efforts to quote everyone of significance in these matters is praiseworthy, and though another proof-read would have picked up a few typographic errors and one or two caption mistakes, this book was a revelation. I expected a dull but worthy read, but now believe it an entertaining and significant tome.

David Malsher