Book reviews, August 1956, August 1956

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“Juan Manuel Fangio,” by Gunther Molter. 184 pp, 81/2 in by 51/2 in (GT.Foulis & Co Ltd, 7 Milford Lane, Strand, WC2. 21s)

This is perhaps the most interesting of all the recent biographies of famous racing drivers—we have had others (some autobiography) relating to Moss, Lang, Caracciola, Kling —because Fangio is reigning Champion and his skill is legendary.

The translation is ably done by Charles Meisl. who, in a charming forward, offers thanks to those who assisted him, including his wife. Gunther Molter is a German journalist and if he has pieced his story of the great Juan Manuel together as journalists do, it loses little in consequence. He has, perhaps a trifle dramatically rather than tactfully, commenced his story with a graphic description of Fangio’s escape at Le Mans last year when Levegh and so many spectators were killed. He visited father and mother Fangio in the peaceful potato-producing town of Balcarce and here he gleaned the interesting insight he gives us into Fangio’s youth and his early races with Ford and Chevrolet based specials of his own conception.

One chapter is devoted to the late Alberto Ascari, but mainly the book traces the rise to fame of Fangio, to his present World Champion status.

A good story in any case, the book is improved by many really excellent photographs, some of which we have seen before, others, notably of Fangio’s parents and early cars, new.

This is a must for any enthusiast’s bookshelf.—WB.

“A Picture History of Motoring,” by LTC Rolt. 160 pp, 11 in. by 81/2 in. (Hutton Press, 18-22 Furnival Street, London, EC4. 30s.)

This is a new book by Tom Rolt, of vintage-car fame, in the Halton Press picture series. Reproductions of photographs out of the past are always appealing and in this lavish book Rolt presents, with a few drawings, 475 illustrations depicting the entire history of the motor car and its medium.

We have seen many of these illustrations previously, because the famous Picture Post Photographic Library consists of many Press Agency negatives, from which prints can be hired for reproduction by editors and authors. Inevitably, therefore, Rolt has had to use some non-original pictures, but to have so many fine illustrations gathered together after skilful selection, between two covers, knitted together by the author’s captions, is indeed good value at thirty bob.

The contents are divided into three main sections—-“The Horseless Carriage (1769-1900),” “The Formative Years (1900-1914)” and “Between the Wars.” There are further sub-divisions, the Sport for example, being classified under such headings as Trials and Hill-Climbs, Paris-Madrid, Brooklands, the French Grand Prix, the 1914 Tourist Trophy Race etc. Particularly pleasing to enthusiasts for the Edwardian racing car is a full page plate showing a car passing (one suspects during practice) some pedestrians in the Isle of Man on the occasion of the 1914 TT Race–but how many of you can identify the car ?

Naturally, most of the photographs are beautifully reproduced, but it is a pity that a better print could not have been found of a Prince Henry Vauxhall.

The captions tell an absorbing story in Rolt’s capable hands, but space-cramp has occasionally resulted in cars being depicted but not referred to, a 200-mile Race Samson and a GWK light-car suffering this indignity. Moreover, one is rendered slightly suspect of the accuracy of the dates quoted by finding, without combing for errors, Percy Lambert’s famous 100-in-the-hour record at Brooklands with the Talbot ascribed to 1912, whereas the correct date is 1913, and Giveen’s crash in the Kop Hill-Climb with the ex-Mays Bilotti which ended public-road sprints in this country, quoted as having happened in 1926, whereas early 1925 is the correct date.

But the pictures are the thing, and whether you enjoy pictures of old cars or of historic traffic and sporting scenes, you will have to be very hard-up to forgo the pleasure of this Hutton Press publicstion.—WB.

“Daily Mail Motoring Guide, 1956.” 128 pp. 71/2 in by 41/2 in. Soft cover. (Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, Landon, EC4. 2s 6d).

This annual reference work from the able and industrious pen of Courtenay Edwards is an excellent reference work and one, moreover, which strikes a useful balance between sporting and ordinary motoring matters.

The contents include car and caravan specifications, travel data, maps of race circuits, conversion tables, data under many headings, race results, accessory reviews etc. Get it today and slip it into the car’s cubby-hole.— WB.

“Vapour Trails,” edited by Mike Lithgow. 199 pp, 81/2 in by 51/2 in. (Alan Wingate (Publishers) Ltd. 12, Beauchamp Place, London, SW3. 13s 6d)

Following our reference last month to books relating to high-speed flying, here is an interesting treatment of the same subject. In “Vapour Trails” edited by the famous Vickers test-pilot Mike Lithgow, various test-pilots each devote a chapter to an experience or experiences of their own choosing. The pilots who do this are Jimmy Orsell, Sandy Powell, Henri Biard, Neville Duke, Roland Beaumont, Jeffrey Quill, Dave Morgan, Teddy Tennant, George Errington and Ben Gunn and their collective reminiscences make absorbing reading, especially as Biard writes of the “stick-and-string” days of aviation (he won the Schneider Trophy Race in 1922 and was test-flying before World War 1), Errington touches on light aeroplanes and larger stuff of the Nineteen-thirties, a period sadly neglected by aviation writers, Beaumont gives us an extremely fine study of fighter-raids in the last world war with Typhoon and Tempest aircraft, and Duke deals with flying through the sound-barrier, etc.

The book is thus versatile but also up-to-date, and is good value at 13s 6d. One unintentionally amusing error occurs on page 71, where “brakes” is rendered as “breaks.”

Incidentally, with the aftermath of Le Mans, 1955. still affecting motor-racing, we are reminded in Neville Duke’s chapter, titled “The Big Bang,” that at the Farnborough Air Show of 1952, the DH110 which broke up over the crowd, killing John Derry, his observer arid 28 spectators, was the first prototype. Not only was this experimental aircraft allowed to make two supersonic bangs over the airfield, but after the accident Duke was permitted to go up in the Hawker Hunter and repeat the supersonic demonstration—and Farnbarough still displays notices on its approach roads warning you motorists to take care, but welcoming speed in the air ! —WB.

“Un des Vingt an Depart,” by Paul Frere. 165 pp. (Editions Jack, 34 rue de to Tulipe, Bruxelles. 100 francs Belge.)

Drivers are easily found and so are journalists, but good drivers and good journalists are rare, and when you get the two attributes combined in one person, together with a technical brain, as in the person of Paul Frere, the result is exceptional. Noted for his deep knowledge of racing, his ability as a sports-car and Grand Prix driver, his journalistic talents and a fluent command of French, German and English, it is not surprising that a book by him is outstanding. Written in meticulous French, typical of the man, this book is an account of all the racing Frere has done up to the end of 1955. The joy of this book is not so much his personal achievements, but the honest and true accounts of various races as seen from behind the steering wheel.

There are so few really good drivers and fewer still who are articulate, so that race stories from one who is are all the more valuable. That Frere can really drive is shown by his inclusion in the Aston Martin, Ferrari and Jaguar works teams, his second place at Le Mans last year, fourth in the Belgian GP and second in the same race this year.

The only regret is that this book appeared when it did, for it deprives the reader of Frere’s account of driving the latest Lancia/Ferrari V8 Grand Prix car. For anyone who is a purist for racing and enjoys the truth without “journalistic” trimmings, this look is a must, even though it may mean a lot of dictionary translation. The numerous photos are rare indeed, for many are from private sources and have not been seen before in public.—DSJ.

“The Triple Crown.” 38 pp, 91/2 in by 71/2 in, soft covers. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London EC1. 3s 6d)

This copiously illustrated little publication records Britain’s speed supremacy on land, water and in the air—and rightly so, for our world records in these three mediums, standing. recently at 394, 216 and 1,132 mph, are deserving of the greatest possible acclaim. Besides descriptions of the machines which broke these records and the men who piloted them, the book is well stocked with action and other pictures and includes a table of the records held in all three mediums from the early days to the present. and pull-out cut-away drawings of Campbell’s boat and Cobb’s car—good value indeed — WB