Book reviews, August 1973, August 1973

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Rolls-Royce Alpine Compendium, 1913-1973
by Christopher Leefe. 160 pp. 9-1/2 in. x 6-3/4 in. (Transport Bookman Ltd., 528-530 High Street, Chiswick, London, W4 5RG. £3.50).

It might be thought with some justification that every possible word about Rolls-Royce had been written and published. That this is not so is evidenced by the keenly-anticipated history of the great Phantom models which John Oldham is writing, while here is yet another R-R book as an accomplished entity.† And very interesting this “Alpine Compendium”, issued obviously to celebrate the ambitious BP-sponsored Alpine Tour of the RREC, is. I was sorry to miss the parties in connection therewith to which I had been kindly invited but possession of this book does much to alleviate my disappointment. It will be the same for all who buy it

Indeed, the contents are new and very appealing. There is an explanation of this 1973 re-enactment of the great pre-1915 Alpine Trials in which Rolls-Royce did so magnificently after one unfortunate copybook blot. There is a very full and interesting history of the very live RREC, with notes on how the prices of Rolls-Royce cars have continually risen since its formation. Most interesting of all, there is an account of the pre-war Alpine Trials (wrongly called “rallies”, surely, for the Alpenfahrts of those times were very tough trials) by C. W. Morton, who includes development notes on the competition Silver Ghosts and does not shirk from including illustrations of the 1913 Coupe de L’Auto Peugeot and 1914 GP Mercedes on which Royce shaped the valve-gear of his war-time aero engines. When, incidentally, will the talented Mr. Morton finish his Foulis Rolls-Royce history?

As if this is not meat enough, the book has photographs and most interesting biological details of all 92 of the Rolls-Royce cars entered for the 1973 Tour, a remarkable achievement which serves as an introduction to many overseas cars. Also, pre-war R-R and Bentley chronological data which I think surpasses that in the Botsford “bible”, coachwork nomenclature, R-R specification tables for the 1904-1971 models, articles on how to sell and buy these cars, a very informative article on the Flying Lady mascot differences, by Joe Fildes, and much more besides, including advertisements. The foreword is by Lord Montagu and there is a picture of the mascot worn by HM the Queen’s Rolls-Royce, published with Royal consent.—W.B.

Incidentally, a 1972 issue of the 20 Ghost Club’s magazine contained an article on how a mysterious and very serious boiling epidemic on 1946 Rolls-Royces was cured by logical investigation, unless its author, W Stanley Bull, was pulling our legs! – Ed.

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Flying On The Ground
by Emerson Fittipaldi and Elizabeth Hayward. 256 pp. 8-3/4 in. x 5-1/2 in. (William Kimber Ltd., 22a Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1. £2.95).

Fittipaldi is World Champion. He is ripe writing material. So Elizabeth Hayward stalked him with her tape-recorder. The result is a long account of how Fittipaldi sees life, sets about motor racing, sees his past and his future, with gory details of his road accident, and accounts of his 1971 and 1972 racing seasons. There is some early history, lots of Emerson in the Jackie safety-at-any-price linage, Emerson on girls, and women generally, Emerson selling Brazil to Elizabeth, Emerson disliking dogs, having his trousers made by a girl-tailor, ordering his first dinner jacket, rushing about the globe, discussing his fellow drivers in the F1 circus, all most professionally recorded by his female biographer.

It is useful as another great racing driver placed between hard covers. It will be easily read and enjoyed by the lay-public and the girl-friend. I do not think it contributes much to an overall knowledge of motor racing—but I found I had to read it, because anything about a man of the stature of Emerson Fittipaldi is compulsive reading. Congratulations to E.H. for getting there first.—W.B.

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My Seventy Years With Traction Engines
by Charles E. Hooker. 45 pp., 8-1/2 x 5-3/10 in., soft covers. The Oakwood Press, Tandridge Lane, Lingfield, Surrey. 75p).

This little book, modestly written by a man whose whole life, almost, has been spent working with, and driving, traction engines, may not look very impressive. But it contains some very real meat! Apart from some very fascinating anecdotes, Mr. Hooker has some extremely valuable information to impart about handling, repairing and generally looking after and living with traction engines. Steam enthusiasts will adore it, apart from its considerable value to the present generation of steam engine hobbyists.

The author, 89-years-young, has had experience of traction engines, steam-rollers, thrashing machines, and steam waggons and writes about them all with a simplicity and command born of thoroughly understanding what he is describing. He has also had five steam cars and includes a few lines about these—two Gardner Serpollets and three Whites, warmly praising the White engine.

His comparison of the merits of various makes of steam waggons used in his father’s and his own contractor’s business is very interesting. Of the traction engines, his favourite was the Fowler, and he thinks the Foden waggon superior to the rest. This really is authoritative writing, with correct terms, etc., undoubtedly used. The pictures, if only of snapshot quality, are in keeping. There must be other valuable pieces of transport history which could profitably (from the reader’s viewpoint) be presented in this way. The Oakwood Press are to be congratulated on getting Mr. Hooker to set down his reminiscences and knowledge in this “Locomotion Paper No. 67”.

He concludes by saying “I have tried to cover a lifetime of experience in an hour’s reading, a very difficult job. So if it has been disappointing, please excuse me.” It hasn’t, Mr. Hooker! And if you can write more, it must be published—I see we had to wait eight years for this book. We need more little books of this genuine sort—and may I remind the publishers that something on country ‘bus services of the 1920s would be another welcome subject?—W.B.

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The Olyslager Auto Library, publishers Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., 40 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3HE, have produced two more of their landscape-shaped series of motor histories namely “British Cars of the Early Thirties” and “British Cars Of the Late Thirties”, the former covering the years 1930-1934, the latter 1935-1939. These are mainly browsing books, on account of the fascinating pictures. The Rootes Group seem to have provided many of these and if the pictorial coverage is composed of mainly good contemporary pictures interspersed with occasional reproductions of contemporary advertisments, modern photographs of old cars and even a cigarette-card reproduction of a blower Bentley, this can be excused at the price of £1.80 per volume. Some amusing models and episodes are recalled in this coverage, which is done by years, with brief details of the cars concerned. Unimportant, but pleasing to look through.

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One of the latest Foulis’ Overhaul Manuals is that covering the Ford Cortina Mark II by John Organ. Specially commissioned to appeal to the owner-driver, it costs £.3.40. The publishers are G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 50a Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon.

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Providing information about where to eat and what to visit off the Motorways, the Don Guides to “Service Off the Motorways” are published by John Waddington of Kirkstall Ltd., of Leeds and sell for 60p each. The first covers the M1 area.

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This year marked the Silver Jubilee of the VMCC Banbury Run. To commemorate it Turntable Enterprises, 23 Portland Crescent, Leeds LS1 3DR have published a soft-cover book “Men And Machines in the Banbury Run” by Jim Boulton. It consists of 65 photographs, reproductions of machines and riders in various Banburys, and, ranging from Abingdon to Wooler, and including three Morgans and a New Hudson three-wheeler which was destined to take part in this year’s Run, admirably conveys the fascination and nostalgia of VMCC events. It costs 50p.

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The Veteran Car Club, 14 Fitzhardinge Street, London, W1, has published its 10th Handbook, which has articles about how the Club evolved, the future, an outline history of the VCC, and Leon Serpollet, steam-car pioneer.

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Alan Clark, the well-known vintage and historic car enthusiast, has written “Aces High” for Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd., 11 St. John’s Hill, London, SW11 1XA. It is about the air aces of the First World War and while this is a subject which has had considerable coverage elsewhere, Clark has a new presentation of it, including the use of three and five-dimensional plans of famous WW1 aeroplanes, extracts from fighter-tactics manuals, and a host of dramatic pictures. I am glad to note that he, too, has had pleasure from the writings of Cecil Lewis, and although I recognise some of the pictures as old handouts, one even appearing in my schoolboy days “Wonder Book of Aircraft”, the overall result is effective. The price is £2.50.—W.B.