Book reviews

"The Gordon Bennett Races," by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. 251 pp., 8 3/4 in.x 5 3/5 in. (Cassell and Company Ltd., 35, 144 Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 30s.)

Lord Montagu instituted the "Montagu Motor Book New Series" with the idea of producing, through the Cassell organisation, worthwhile histories of various aspects of motoring—books going into considerable detail and copiously illustrating a chosen subject. "The Gordon Bennett Races" is the fifth of these books, the others to date comprising "Lost Causes of Motoring," "Montlhery" by William Boddy, "Jaguar" and "A History of Coachbuilding" by George Oliver.

The Gordon Bennett book, in which, as in the case of "Lost Causes" and the Jaguar biography, Lord Montagu has had the research talent of his Museum Curator, Michael Sedgwick, covers not only these famous inter-Nation car races of 1900 to 1905, which were contested in France, Germany and Ireland, producing as victorious marques Panhard-Levassor, Napier, Mercedes, Richard-Brasier, but also touches on the aeroplane and balloon Gordon Bennett contests.

As is to be expected when Lord Montagu writes or sponsors a book, the history of these pioneer road races is told in commendable detail, supplemented with tables of results, complete with lap times, not only for the races themselves but for the eliminating trials that preceded them. Technical details of the competing cars are given in one of the Appendices.

This book, properly produced and well illustrated, is a valuable reference work to these early contests by International teams of cars, races which have been strangely neglected by historians, until Lord Montagu took up his pen. As always, I would have liked even more detail, but 1905 is a long distance away in time and, in general, there is very little that matters that has not been included in "The Gordon Bennett Races." There is even a fascinating Epilogue, dealing with the subsequent fate of drivers and cars who took part in the races sponsored by the strangely illusive American millionaire from whom they take their title.—W. B.

"The Veteran Motor Car Pocketbook," by Anthony Bird and Francis Hutton-Stott. 256 pp., 5 3/5 in. x 4 1/5 in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd, 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W. 1. 9s. 6d.)

Batsford have made a feature of these splendid little books, which, when you take into account the information and very large number of illustrations packed into them, represent remarkably good value for money. The first was about vintage cars, by Cecil Clutton and John Stanford, Boddy followed with his Sports Car Pocketbook, Jenkinson contributed one on racing cars, and now Anthony Bird and Francis Hutton-Stott have written a book of identical size and form about veteran cars, taking veteran to mean built down to the year 1916.

This little book is at once extremely entertaining reading and a useful quick reference to the historical and technical complexities of the older mechanically-propelled vehicles. Arranged alphabetically, from A.C. to Züst, with a clear picture of every vehicle that matters, there is a wealth of data here, especially as specifications of the more important models, covering such items as engine location, cylinder arrangement, type of ignition, method of actuating the inlet valves, and so on, with, of course, cylinder dimensions, are given. From this Pocketbook you can quickly ascertain, for instance, what was the nature of the Knox or the mechanical make-up of a 1900 Bégot et Mazurie.

Because the book takes in cars made up to 1916, the more exciting Edwardians are here, like the Alfonso Hispano Suiza, Prince Henry Vauxhall, 30/35 Napier and Russo-Baltique, etc. Some people may find the writing of Anthony Bird rather too flippant for such a serious subject as veteran motor cars but his style is essentially readable and his statements painstakingly accurate.

These Batsford Pocketbooks are extremely enjoyable as well as useful and if you arm yourself with all four, which will cost you less than 40s., you will possess a first-class pocket reference work to cars of all ages and types.—W. B.

"The Thoroughbred Motor Car—1930-1940," by David Scott-Moncrieff. 279 pp., 8 7/8 in. x 6 in. (B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W. 1. 30s.)

Having published a most enjoyable book on vintage cars and a rather ponderous one on Edwardians, Batsford were, I suppose, compelled to have one on p.v.t.s, although I would have thought that "Cars of the Connoisseurs" might have sufficed.

"The Thoroughbred Motor Car" recalls, somewhat superficially, most of the makes and models of 1930-40, with the author's memories of many of them and lots of illustrations, some of which are new.

The text is amusingly written, because it is impossible for Bunty Scott-Moncrieff not to write in that way, and his personal recollections of some of the great cars out of history make entertaining reading. This author came to journalism by way of the used-car trade and no-one except the professional motor writer himself drives a bigger variety of cars than those in the Trade. However, whereas the conscientious motoring journalist spends almost every mile in every car he drives concentrating on its characteristics, the motor trader is more likely to be thinking of how much the vehicle he is driving will earn him. Which may be why one must not take all Scott-Moncrieff's recollections of the great p.v.t. automobiles too literally. The fuel consumption of the V16 Cadillac as 4 m.p.g., for instance. Of the Alta, the author remarks, "I never drove at above ordinary fast road speeds, so I can't say how it behaved at the top end—something in excess of 80 m.p.h.—but certainly at speeds up to 70 m.p.h. the Alta handled impeccably," which is surely a superficial verbosity of wordage. Rolls-Royce gets as much mention as any of the thoroughbreds—"one of the most delightful cars to drive that I know"—I believe the author has a small advertisement in this journal advertising those he has for sale—but Scott-Moncrieff says that Sunbeams are just not "fashionable" among collectors and restorers, which should keep down the price of these cars but may come as news to members of the S.T.D. Register! All through the book there is an undercurrent suggesting that the value of old cars to American collectors is never far from the author's thoughts.

There is the impression that this book was written in a hurry; the best part of it is the opening chapter describing the change which took place in the motoring scene between 1930 and 1940 and the last chapter entitled "The Fourteen Crafts of Coachbuilding," but both are far too brief. Sports cars and racing cars are included and even the Hampton is deemed to be a thoroughbred. There is a great deal that is of interest in "The Thoroughbred Car," even if it does not represent an essential contribution to motoring history, nor does it contain more errors than is common in books of this kind. But it is a pity that the Armstrong Siddeley, or at least the Siddeley Special, is not deemed a thoroughbred by the author in a book that recognises Triumph, M.G., Adler and Rosengart as such. Perhaps, however, the publishers are to blame, because the comprehensive Index gives page 20 as bearing reference to both these cars but on reading it very carefully all I can discover is a description of contemporary shock-absorbers!—W. B.

***

As a sequel to "Rolls-Royce in the Twenties" and "The Vintage Bentley Book," Autobooks of Brighton are able to offer "Rolls-Royce in the Thirties" and "Another Vintage Bentley Book." These are photostat reproductions of descriptions and road-test reports from contemporary issues of The Autocar and The Motor, and although reproduction is not always very good, the wealth of information provided must prove irresistible to R.-R. and Bentley fanatics. These big soft-cover books are the work of R. M. Clarke of Ealing and the thought occurs that it is exceedingly generous of Iliffe and Temple Press to allow him to publish their valuable historic material. The price is 10s. 6d. each.