Book Reviews, August 1960, August 1960

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Behind the Scenes of Motor Racing,” by Ken Gregory: 296 pp. 8 4/5 in. x 5 3/4 in. (Macgibbon & Kee, 29, Gt. Portland Street, London, W.1. 25s.)

This is a particularly enthralling story of the inside picture of motor racing as experienced by Ken Gregory, a close friend of Stirling Moss, who was Moss’ manager, who looked after the interests of the late Peter Collins, and who himself raced Formula III cars, being connected intimately with the foundation of the 500 M.C. and subsequently with the now-thriving B.R.S.C.C..

Gregory holds the reader’s attention from page one to page 296 and, if he doesn’t let us in on all the intimate details of Stirling’s motor-racing activities and earnings, he has many new facets and fresh details of the game which he expands into one of the most interesting motor-racing books to have appeared for a very considerable time. This is recent history, but one very close indeed to the heart of the Sport. Naturally, Gregory sides with those for whom he worked and is “anti” those journalists who criticised British drivers of being afraid to drive in Monza’s “Two Worlds” track race and who saw little good in the formation of the U.P.P.I. If in this the author crosses swords with Motor Sport‘s Continental Correspondent this merely lends interest to the book, and we believe that very few people who pick up “Behind the Scenes of Motor Racing,” whether in an arm-chair at home, in a deck-chair on the beach, or in bed, will stop reading until they arrive, all too soon, at the back cover.

Inevitably most of the illustrations have been seen before, but they are here well-reproduced.

Fifty Years with Motor Cars,” by A. F. C. Hillstead. 224 pp. 8 3/5 in. x 5 3/4 in. (Faber and Faber, 24, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 21s.)

This promised to be an enthralling book and it captures very well the nostalgic atmosphere of the old days, which M. Hillstead so obviously admires. But as his story unfolds it would seem more suitable for a series of articles rather than a full-length book, much of it being padding of no great significance—in short, this book isn’t on a par with Hillstead’s earlier work ” Those Bentley Days,” although too much detail is, admittedly, infinitely preferable to too little. The author, however, repeats much of what he put over so well in that book, describing the demonstration Bentleys he used when sales manager to the old Bentley Company. His account of the methods used to sell specialist cars in those days is fascinating in the extreme but Hillstead’s real purpose in again breaking out in print is clearly to answer certain accusations he read into W. O. Bentley’s splendid autobiography, which suggested to Hillstead that the salesman’s task was being belittled and that it is now up to hint to emphasise that the sales organisation of a company such as Bentley Motors was as, or more important than, its engineers.

I will refrain from describing how Hillstead argues; suffice it to say that in my opinion “W. O.” comes much better out of this rather empty discussion and that what was enthralling reading in “Those Bentley Days” is, in this later book, rather tedious.

Halstead pads out “Fifty Years with Motor Cars” with the inevitable chapters on youth, horses, memories of Brooklands when he toiled for A. V. Roe, and of a South African adventure involving pre-1914 Commer lorries and a Sanderson-and-Mills tractor. He then describes his association with D.F.P., both before and after the 1914-18 war, and goes on with his intimate associations with H. M. Bentley and Bentley Motors Ltd.; he was Sales Manager to the latter company.

Naturally many personalities and obscure makes of car (which Halstead sold secondhand) are encountered but nothing very new emerges. The later chapters and illustrations of some of the undistinguished cars with which the author continued his motoring career are no better and no worse than articles written for the motor journals. Nor does the chapter on the Bentley back-room boys bring to light many new aspects of the personalities named, while poor Clive Gallop is remembered mainly for one unhappy incident when he buckled the rear wheel of a T.T. Humber when cornering too exuberantly in London. But then Hillstead—the Gilbert Harding of motordom – is critical of a lot of things—people who crashed their gears, engineers, the policy of the old Bentley Motor Company, etc.

Hillstead gives the impression of writing with a chip on his shoulder but to his credit he rightly sets great store in technical accuracy and takes me to task for an error I seem to have made in “The Story of Brooklands Motor Course.” Hillstead refers to my book once only, to point out that when Malcolm Campbell lost both off-side wheels from his Darracq during a race in 1912 he kept the car on the Track and did not, apparently, plough down some railings as I suggested. Curiously, I had been studying a picture of this spectacular shortly before Hillstead’s book came in for review, because R.L. Walkerley had written in The Motor that the wire wheels collapsed, whereas I thought, and still think, the Darracq had disc wheels. Anyhow, this enables me to apologise to Hillstead and others for those railings! It has, however, also been stated in The Autocar that some railings were destroyed on this occasion. May I, however, toss the ball of truth back into Hillstead’s court by pointing out one error of his—I am sure he will find that the giant racer which crashed at Brooklands when he was there on a practice day in 1926 had a V12 Sunbeam and not a Hispano-Suiza aero-engine.

“Fifty Years with Motor Cars” is not, in my opinion, one of the great nurturing histories, but it is very readable and enjoyable for many of its pages, and neatly recaptures the atmosphere of the past, when tine roads were really “open” and the Bentley Motors’ sales-staff battled valiantly to snatch sales from the 30/98 Vauxhall. The ilInstrations, being Hillstead’s own, are refreshing, too, although some of the very endearing D.F.P. pictures are those published before in the unfortunately defunct Vintage & Thoroughbred Car.

“Model Aircraft Engine Tests,” by Peter Chinn. 96 pp. 7+’ x 47,” Soft covers. (Percival Marshall and Co., Ltd., 19-20, Noel Street, London, Ir.!. Ss.)

This little book will interest all who find miniature i.c. engines fascinating. It covers 23 such power plots, from the 0.33 c.c. Cox Pee-Wee to the .5.76-c.c. Merco Stunt-35, with photographs, sectional drawings, data and power curves. The engines described range in price from 34s. 10d. to some £8 and, as Motor Sport has previously pointed out, many of them develop more b.h.p. per litre than the full-size engines you motor behind.

The Editor has an urge to put such an engine in a large model chassis to see if it would keep running r.t.p for a full 24 hours. From this informative little book you could pick the right engine for that job or, more practically, for power boat, control-line aircraft., etc.

The British Road Federation has published an illustrated book, with maps, on the sort of ring roads London needs. “London Needs…” is available free, on application to the B.R.F., 26, Manchester Square, W.1, on quoting Motor Sport.