Book reviews, August 1978, August 1978

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“Corvette A Piece Of the Action” Edited by Beverly Ray Kinks 224 pp. 12″ x 9 1/4″ (E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 201, Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y. 10003. £25.35.)

This is a beautifully illustrated book, full of fine colour plates, one of the growing number in the Automobile Quarterly Library Series started in 1971 and which includes one-make books about Cadillte, Ferrari, Kaiser-Frazer, Lincoln, Opel, Oldsnbile, Porsche and two others about the Chevrolet Corvette. This one is centred on William L. Mitchell, who led the Corvette designteam, after he had joined the General Motors’ styling-staff before the war and quickly been promoted to head of the Cadillac Studio. Mitchell confesses that he learned a great deal in those pre-war times from the study of English motoring magazines and he was an ardent follower of Grand Prix rac’ng in the days of Mercedes-Benz domination, although it was not until 1958 that Uhlerhaut let him try a W125 Mercedes-Benz on the Stuttgart test-track. But Mitchell drove many racing and top sports cars and says all his design-team “had gasoline in their blood. Also, all drive Corvettes.”

The text tends to “i-mericanese”, which you may or may not be able to stomach, and when one reads that Mitchell painted eyelashes on his wife’s white Corvette, ebrows may go up. You may not even like to think of the Corvette as a real sports-car. But in this book it is all explained, Mitchell giving reasons for the adoption of an automatic transmission, dual carburetters on the Chevrolet Stovebolt Six engine, stone-guards over the Corvette’s lamps etc. He does know whet it is all about, as a man who used to drive who used to drive from his office in a Shark, rides fast motorcycles, and in his retirement has a Pontiac  Firebird with a Ferrari Daytona engine. Those who seek to understand the ideas behind American fast ears will find it here in this book, including how Mitchell viewed the Ford Thunderbird rivalry, and how the Corvette was developed, recounted by Allan Girdler. If you don’t care for this kind of thing, there are all those countless beautiful pictures to look at, of the Corvette in all its many forms. – W.B.

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“The Mouse & His Master” by Terence Cuneo. 244 PP. 10 3/4; in. x 13 in. (New Cavendish Books, 11, New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE. £25.00.)

This is a truly great work of art, about one of the most industrious, celebrated, and fascinating of British artists. Why are we reviewing it in Motor Sport? First, because we believe that among our readers there will be many who will welcome this ultimate in magnificently-produced coffee-table publications, reproducing as it does all manner of Cuneo’s best paintings and sketches, from his ceremonial, equestrian, military, wartime, railway, industrial, wildlife, travelogue, and portraiture work. These pictures are beautifully reproduced and explained. The artist’s energy almost surpasses belief, and out of his life’s work more than 370 pictures, some 170 of them in full colour, are displayed for our criticism, study, and enjoyment in this superb book. In each picture, of course, Cuneo’s hallmark, the hidden mouse, is incorporated, to add to the fun of seeking to find it; the book, for which HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, has contributed the Foreword he clearly knew Cuneo well takes its title from this famous mouse.

Second, as a reason for including what is primarily a non-motoring book in these columns, Cuneo gives us, in his autobiography, his account of a very full and wonderful life. Here motoring interests emerge. For example, he refers to his first motorcycle, a 2 1/2-h.p. New Imperial-JAP, owned when he was 16, which, frequently breaking-down, “taught me a lot”. Cuneo owned three motorcycles over the years, one of them a Budge, and two Morgan three-wheelers; one of the latter, an Aero model, is illustrated and seems to be carrying a competition number…. Cuneo gained his enthusiasm for motoring from a Swift, a Model-T Ford and “and an incredible old Belsize” owned by a Cornish doctor and “maintained in immaculate condition by Ernest the Chauffeur”. By the age of 15, in 1922, he had driven a big Wolseley limousine and in 1934 was running “an old AC”. Other cars, such as a hired Pontiac, a Toyota and a Land Rover provided transport to painting commissions. The Cuneo autobiography contains much to intrigue railway and aviation enthusiasts and, if I found it rather heavy going, the Cuneo pictures are what the book is really about. But there are other references to cars, for instance, the dilapidated Fiat 600 lent to Cuneo in Nairobi. At the age of t8 he drove a London ‘bus during the General Strike of 1926 there is a painting of the Cricklewood Depot as a reminder. Then there is the painting of “Babe” Barnato beating the Blue Train in his Speed-Six Bentley in 1930, at an average of 43.43 m.p.h. I believe one has to accept artist’s licence here, as the car is shown alongside a speeding locomotive on a French road, whereas it is doubtful whether Barnato actually saw his adversary humble apologies if I am proved wrong! and I believe Cuneo painted the loco and car many years later, at different times, a ploy not open to the mundane camera … Besides this painting, there is a sketch of Barnato in his racing Bentley and one of d’Elanger in the pits at Le Mans as Barnato’s Bentley No. 9 roars past proof enough of Cuneo’s sympathy with motor racing. There are, in addition, all those railway and aeroplane paintings and drawings, etc.

“The Mouse & His Master”, which The Duke of Edinburgh suggests might have been called “The Mouse & His Partner”, is for all artists, and for those interested in all forms of art, and for them, in that horrible but expressive term, it is “a must”. – W.B. 

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“The United States Grand Prix 1908 – 1977” by Doug Nye. 143 pp. 10 in. x 7 1/2 in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London W1H 0AH. £4.95.)

Here is another of Nye’s race-histories, set out in his meticulous style, with starting-grids, results tables, lists of entries and retirements of the “modern” races, to supplement his ample descriptions of each of the American Grands Prix up to last year’s. There arc many good pictures, too, and this book is especially welcome because up to now not a great deal has been known of the first seven races in this series, which occupied from 1908 to 1916. Nye fills in these for such historians as are eager for such information, before going on to cover the post-war US Grands Prix of 1959 to Hunt’s victory in 1977. We must hope for more of these compact, informative, one-race Batsfords even if they cannot be quite up-to-date when races, still being held, are attempted. -W.B.

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Those who are interested in trucks and othe commercial vehicles (and this must surely includ many of those entrusted with driving thes technically-efficient monsters?), will welcome th news that a “World Truck Series” of books ha been introduced by Patrick Stephens Ltd., Ba Hill, Cambridge. The first two titles, covering th, history and development of ERF and Scanii trucks, both copiously-illustrated hardback written by Pat Kennett, Editor of True/ magazine, and each containing over 120 photographs and drawings, are now available, a £2.95 each. Future titles are intended to covet Sedden-Atkinson, MAN, Volvo, Dennis, DM and Scammell. W.B.

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Brooklands Books of “Holmerise”, Seven Hills Road, Cobham, Surrey, have brought out two further titles in their comprehensive range of one-make publications based on articles and road-tests published previously in the contemporary weekly and monthly motormagazines. these are “Jaguar E-Type 1961- 1966” and “Jaguar Sports Cars 1957-1960”, and I see that extracts from Motor Sport are now included. Each of these soft-cover publications costs £2.80 from the motor bookshops or £3.15 each if posted by the Publisher. I see that some of my old Jaguar material has been reproduced therein. – W.B. 

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Grand Prix Models of 173-175, Watling Street, Radlett, Hens, have issued a soft-cover book of 73 large pages, called “Model Cars 1978”, which lists all the ranges of both hand-built and kit models in small-scale that are currently available and, in their opinion, will make worthwhile additions for collectors. The book is full of illustrations of these available metal and resin miniatures, with articles on the reasons for collecting them, how to set about this, an index of manufacturers from Autodin and AutoReplicas to Walldorf, etc. This useful catalogue costs £2.00 post-free in the UK, air post extra. Hurry, if you want one, because only 2,500 have been printed…. 

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The famous Foyles Bookshop in London opened its Motoring Bookshop, at 115/117, Charing Cross Road, WC2, on June 26th, a certain indication of the prevailing demand for such books.