Book reviews, August 1972, August 1972

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“Aces Wild—The Story of the British Grand Prix”, by Peter Miller. 160 pp. 8 4/5 in. x 5 1/2 in. (Pelham Books Ltd., 52, Bedford Square, London, WC1 3EF. £2.30).

On the face of it, this is another useful book for those who like their motor racing history in one-race volumes. It is not as painstakingly researched as Lord Montagu’s history of the Gordon Bennett races, nor is it unique, because Richard Hough wrote a book called “British Grand Prix” fourteen years ago—and did not then deem it necessary to use such an oddly journalistic title as “Aces Wild” to preface it. So what Miller’s book does is to take the story on from 1957, where Hough left off (he did get the 1958 result in, just as Miller has put in a forecast about this year’s race, with driver biographies). This, of course, underlines the weakness of writing a history about something which is still going on, unlike doing a history of Brooklands Track, for instance, which unfortunately is dead, and rapidly decomposing.

Miller has a superficial lead-in describing those British Grands Prix held at Brooklands in 1926 and 1927 and (very exciting these!) at Donington Park in 1937 and 1938 but he is obviously far more interested in the Silverstone and subsequent series of British GPs and the table of 1, 2, 3 results at the end of the book, about the most useful part of “Aces Wild”, covers only the races of 1948 to 1971, at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Aintree. Moreover, Miller calls the 1937 Donington race “This first Donington Grand Prix”, whereas this happened in 1935, being won by Shuttleworth’s Alfa Romeo and there was another in 1936, won by the Ruesch/Seaman Alfa Romeo.

Hough devoted, quite properly, two full chapters to the British GPs run at Brooklands. Miller only devotes a few pages to each of the post-war races and omits grid positions and lap charts, so I cannot accept that this is a particularly important contribution to motor-racing history, although the illustrations are nice. It might have been more appropriate, now that Mr. Wheatcroft is hoping to re-open the Donington circuit, if the book had been about racing there. — W. B.

“The Daimler Tradition”, by Brian E. Smith. 334 pp. 9 1/2″ x 7″ (Transport Bookman Publications, 524-530, Chiswick High Street, London, W4 5RG. £6.00).

Daimler, as the oldest Britsh make, the Royal car for many decades and a renowned quality car produced in a bewildering variety of models and body-styles, deserves a proper history, and this Brian Smith, Honorary Registrar and Historian to the Daimler & Lanchester O.C., has now provided. Mr. Smith has owned more than 20 Daimlers, which is proof of his interest in this famous and very English make; he is also a solicitor by profession, which may not be relevant but is interesting in view of other motoring histories by fellow-solicitors Blight and Court.

The author of the new Daimler history, which is printed on glossy art paper doing full justice to the many interesting photographic reproductions, pays tribute to the late St. John Nixon’s earlier work on the same subject and then proceeds to greatly and most usefully expand it. The book is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the evolution of the Daimler Company from embryo to maturity, that is to say from 1896 to the end of the Second World War, the second covering what Mr. Smith calls “the Living Legend”, which covers Daimler cars likely to be encountered today, each model having a section to itself, from the DB18-2 1/2 litre and Consort of 1945-53, to the new Double-Six of 1972-73—in which latter respect the book rather naughtily jumped the starting gun.

The second section of “The Daimler Tradition” will be of the utmost interest and usefulness to those contemplating buying a post-war Daimler or who are engaged in the restoration of one of these distinctive cars—with a view, of course, to joining the Daimler & Lanchester O.C., if they have not done so already.

Not only is the book very well endowed with pictures of all the great Daimler models, including some of commercial vehicles, coaches, buses and armoured cars, but there are extracts from Press comments and road-test reports, the manufacturers’ instruction books and publicity material, etc., while lists of coachwork numbers against chassis numbers give, admittedly on a minor scale, a touch of the comprehensive record which has been a feature of recent Rolls-Royce literature, and chassis numbers of all the post war models are listed. Drawings augment the very generous selection of photographs and there is an excellent index, but no list of models down the years.

In brief, Brian Smith has done an excellent job for the make of car he favours. As one who is never entirely appeased, no matter how much detail an author provides, I feel there are still gaps to be filled in the Daimler story—why designer Laurence Pomeroy did it this way, or C.M. Simpson did it that way, and so on. But Mr. Smith is perhaps more concerned with sorting out the post-war Daimlers, which he does admirably, than with very dissected early history, and anyway there is plenty of fascinating detail—for example, did you know that Daimler oil was still supplied up to the time when the Majestic ceased ?. The book tells you who blended it. Motor Sport has played its part in putting over the importance of the Daimler as an historic and desirable car and anyone who is the least interested in the subject will derive great pleasure from this new history. It goes into matters such as the work of Daimler Hire, pioneer wireless experiments in Daimler cars, etc., but I am sorry to see that the author is yet another writer who cannot spell correctly the Brooklands’ firm, Thomson & Taylor Ltd.! The Foreword is by Sir William Lyons, Chairman and Chief Executive of the present Daimler Company, which has just re-introduced a Double-Six model 46 years after the first great 50 h.p. V12 left their Coventry factory. — W. B.

“The Story of Lotus, 1961-1971 The Growth of a Legend,” by Doug Nye. 228 pp. 9 1/2″ x 7 5/8″ (Motor Racing Publications, Ltd., 56, Fitzjohns Avenue, Croydon, Surrey CRO 5DD. £4.00).

We have dealt above with a history of Daimler cars from the very earliest times to the present-day. Now we come to a much more recent history, that of Lotus, both the production cars and the packed competition career of this comparatively recent make. Doug Nye, moreover, finds enough to put into this large book without going over earlier ground, which is adequately dealt with in the earlier Lotus volume, by Ian H. Smith, by the same publisher, which covers the years 1947-1960.

Nye gives a complete, chronological account of Lotus racing and development over the past furiously-active decade and includes some splendidly typical and pithy anecdotes in a book which he clearly, and rightly, intends to be a tribute to Colin Chapman, the remarkable personality who made it all possible.

The book is packed with line pictures of cars and personalities, although the presentation is rather “flat”. There are four appendices, listing, respectively, Lotus Specifications for 1961-71, from Lotus 19 to Lotus 74, a register of F1 Lotus cars for the same period, a record of Lotus’ formidable F1 performances in 1961-71 World Championship races and the statement issued by Lotus FJ after that remarkable clash with van Frankenberg and the very successful and conclusive outcome of it. There is a comprehensive index.

This is a book most of the followers of present-day motor racing will buy and it is obviously an essential component of any racing reference library — W. B.

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