Reviews, April 2009

Ayrton Senna
Memories and Mementoes from a life lived at full speed
Christopher Hilton

Written in conjunction with the Istituto Ayrton Senna fronted by the great Brazilian’s sister Vivienne, this is described as ‘an interactive voyage’. Books are rarely so, but this is without doubt a voyage, and one that is worth much more than the amazingly low price tag it carries. No other book on Senna has offered the same attention to detail. Put simply, it is an absolute must buy.

Many photos come from the family files, including images such as Senna’s birth certificate. But other personal effects have also been reproduced as separate inserts, from his Carta de Apresentação for the 1978 karting championship to his official invitation to the prize-giving after his 1990 world title win. Stored in pockets between the pages, these items make it more like
a research file than a mere book. A personal favourite is a Christmas card from Lotus team boss Peter Warr depicting Senna’s close win over Nigel Mansell at Jerez, with the words “please not so close as this in ’87” penned inside.

This well-written account of Senna’s life is a class apart from other biographies of the driver, and indeed other motor sport books, as it offers something new, refreshing and frankly quite brilliant. EF
Published by Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84425 655 6, £30

Motor Racing at Nassau in the 1950s & 1960s
Terry O’Neil

Terry O’Neil has already produced the definitive book on this subject with The Bahama Speed Weeks. This is an abridged and cheaper version, and the latest volume in Veloce’s fun ‘Those were the days…’ series.

From 1954-66 the Nassau events were a popular end-of-season jaunt for the cream of European and US sports car racers. In the mid-50s the likes of Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, Stirling Moss, Masten Gregory and Alfonso de Portago were regulars at the Speed Weeks, which were as much about the socialising as the racing.

O’Neil whisks us through the years, adding programme covers, event badges and pit passes to the collection of (mostly) excellent photographs. This is an accessible overview of a fascinating era, and at this price it’s perfect if you don’t feel inclined to invest in its big brother. DS
Published by Veloce Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84584 198 0, £12.99

Driving it Home
100 Years of car advertising
Judy Vaknin

Sprinting from 0-1999 via magazine ads, this shows how concerns changed, from Edwardian ‘ease of driving’ through performance and glamour between the wars, styling and technology after, to safety and the environment.

Most are bursting with confidence, but the teeth-gritted wartime efforts when there were no cars to sell are fascinating – “what will the post-war Lanchester be like?” The wry self-deprecation of VW and Citroën contrasts with the stretched truth of others – huge Hillmans occupied by tiny humans, or the outright dishonesty of the Buick Breezeblock claiming to be aerodynamic by posing with Concorde. The text is an odd mix of the informed and the po-faced (“Vogue, a magazine read predominantly by women”), but it’s an entertaining work. GC
Middlesex University Press, ISBN 978 1 904750 35 2, £14.99

Shaken & Stirred & GT-Racer: The Series
Two Alexander Davidis Films

These DVDs take you to the heart of historic GT racing at circuits such as Spa, Silverstone, the Nürburgring and Laguna Seca. Being on board with some special cars from the 1950s and ’60s is a joy, but these films could do with some commentary – in Shaken and Stirred it takes a while to work out that you’re watching the 2006 Spa 6 Hours. Some of the cutting is suspect, with clips from other races thrown in (I don’t recall a D-type in the 6 Hours), and audio of people cheering seems out of place when no one in shot is making any noise. My highlight was seeing myself racing my MGB at Spa, shutting the door on a DB4. Good viewing, but perhaps not for everyone. EF
Spirit Level Films,, £9.99 and £24.99 or £20 for both

Shelby, The Race Driver
Art Evans

As the title suggests, this is the story of Carroll Shelby’s racing life before he left his big Texan mark on Cobras and Mustangs, covering the years from 1952 to 1960 when he raced – and beat – the best in both Europe and America.

The author’s previous driver biography, of Ken Miles, set high standards. Happily, Evans has matched that level with his latest softback work, which includes a wonderful selection of black and white photographs from the likes of Bernard Cahier, Dave Friedman, Karl Ludvigsen and Pete Lyons.

Much of the story is told in Shelby’s own words, Evans having used large chunks from Carroll’s 1965 book The Cobra Story. Between them, driver and author tell the tale of an ambitious man who progressed remarkably quickly from small US race meetings to a factory Aston Martin drive in Europe, thanks to a chance encounter with John Wyer in Argentina. Shelby, resplendent in his signature farmer’s overalls, raced a colourful variety of sports cars, including numerous “big hawg” Ferraris and Maseratis. But of course his greatest achievement was that Aston Martin Le Mans win 50 years ago, before heart problems curtailed his driving career at the age of 37 in 1960. Who could have guessed then that an incredible motor sporting life had only just begun? DS
Published by Photo Data Research, LLC, ISBN 978 097972190 8, $29.95

Morgan, Malvern & Motoring
Martyn Webb

In this centenary year of the Morgan car there has been a spate of histories of the tiny manufacturer. This, though, is rather different: it’s only partly about Morgan, and only about part of Morgan’s history.

Much of the early section is about pioneer transport experiments in and around Malvern, from ironmongers selling bicycles to possibly the very first car (as opposed to steam carriage) built in Britain, and whether the Santler brothers who built it influenced Carl Benz. Webb presents an enormous amount of research about this and other vehicles, with many photos and drawings, before moving on to Morgan.

Access to family archives makes this the personal story of company founder Harry Morgan, and his early drawings and photos give a nostalgic view of Victorian childhood. Webb keeps to the three-wheelers, showing how a sketch for a motorbike became a practical vehicle for which demand would swamp the factory.
Many photos show the close family involvement, and there’s a lot of new material, some of it too intense – plans of a factory extension are not that interesting… But a useful addition to a specialised field. GC
Published by The Crowood Press Ltd, ISBN 978 1 84797 039 8, £29.95

The man who would not die
The remarkable story of ‘lucky’ Herschel McKee
Stephen Olvey

This is a true story of the extraordinary Herschel McKee, nicknamed ‘the man who would not die’, who lived a ‘Boys Own’ adventure at every turn.
He fled his home in Indianapolis to join the French Foreign Legion aged 16 and fought in the First World War. This provided the lust for life he longed for and soon got him into the Lafayette Flying Corps to become the youngest-ever ace.
After the war McKee returned home, but his adventures were just starting. In 1919 he tried his hand as riding mechanic in the Indy 500, the first of many attempts at the Great Race which all ended in failure or, more often than not, a huge crash from which he walked away to cement his nickname. He became a daredevil motorcycle rider, took up barnstorming and, after numerous crashes and lucky escapes, got involved with developing the Boeing B17 ‘Flying Fortress’ and saw active service in WWII. All this excitement was nothing compared to the tales of numerous women and several wives he collected on the way.
This is a hugely entertaining tale
of a man who lived his life without fear. Fantastic stuff. DC
Published by Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84425 510 8, £19.99

Formula 1: Technical analysis 2007/08

Giorgio Piola A little late, but a fascinating look at F1 machinery. Piola’s drawings explain what those fiddling fins do, what mass dampers are and how a no-keel chassis works, in a unique graphic way.
Published by Giorgio Nada Editore srl, ISBN 978 88 7911 435 6,33 euros

Fiat 131 Abarth Graham Robson

The latest addition to Veloce’s Rally Giants series, this book on the Fiat 131 Abarth provides a good insight into the story behind one of the most successful rally cars of the 1970s.
Published by Veloce Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84584 182 9, £14.99

101 Brockbank Cartoons Foreword by Quentin Blake

Fans of the Brockbank website helped persuade Haynes to re-publish a selection of the artist’s cartoons. Amusing and frequently hilarious, this would be a welcome addition to any motor sport library.
Published by Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84425 647 1, £6.99