Book reviews, August 1983, August 1983

“Rolls-Royce — The History of the Car” by Martin Bennett. 184 pp. 111/2 in x 83/4 in (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ. £8.95)

The past month has seen the release of books on one-make subjects which at first sight seem unnecessary because they repeat formerly available information, representing subjects very fully covered in the past. However, one has to remember that the reason publishers resort to this ploy is to fill gaps in their individual lists or to hope to catch the market for less expensive books in a well-served field. This must be the excuse for yet another Rolls-Royce title, this make having been, one might be excused for thinking, very adequately dealt with previously.

What Haynes and Bennett have set out here is a large-page, well-illustrated story of this famous car with most emphasis on the later models but sufficient information about the origins, mascots, methods and the rest of it to instruct anyone ignorant, if that is possible, of what R-R is all about. There are photographs and drawings of engines, interior factory scenes, and many pictures of fine Royces, including the Bentley Silent Sports Cars and the latest models. I was even startled by coming upon opinions I expressed about the Rolls-Royce automatic gearbox and the Silver Cloud III in Motor Sport many years ago. A bit of a hotch-potch, but acceptable at the price. — WB.

“Porsche — The Complete Story” by Chris Harvey. 147 pp. 91/2 in x 61/4 in (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £5.95).

This is another book which at first seems rather unrequired, as we have had Ludvigsen’s enormous history of these cars, Paul Freres book on the racing side of Porsche, others about individual Porsche models, like Michael Cotton’s look at the 911 Turbo and all the 911 range, for Osprey and MRP, Denis Jenkinson’s Porsche memories and his book on the Porsche 356s, one on the Porsche family, and many more besides. But it has to be remembered that Haynes’ has its “Foulis Mini Marque History Series”, as Osprey has its Auto Histories, MRP its “Collector’s Guides” and Octopus it’s “Great Marques”.

This is the Haynes’ Porsche offering, and for those who want a compact history at a sensible price there is much going for it, especially as the competition side is included. — WB.

“World Cars 1983” Automobile Club of Italy, 440pp. (Herald Books, 109 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3ND. £21.00).

Despite, or because of, the enormous number of specialist motoring books now available, it is a blessing to be able to turn to one volume which will answer all those questions of specification which constantly arise. The annual edition of “World Cars” has established an enviable reputation as the sourcebook, covering virtually all models in current production anywhere in the world.

This big hardback book is split into five main sections, one for each of the Continents, and starting with Europe (which is understandable, whereas there is a French paperback equivalent arranged alphabetically, starting with France!). Since there is no cross-referencing, however, the reader has to be aware that, for instance, the Volvo 360 is built in Holland, because he will find no reference to it under Sweden.

Technical information is very comprehensive, although I have my doubts about the worth of including some of the “Practical Instructions” such as the grade of oil in the final drive, and there is a photo for every model, plus three indices of make, model and maximum speed.

An electric vehicle section and a (rather fuzzy) colour spread on special bodies rounds off the factual presentation, and there are articles on the industry in major countries, together with a 1982 F1 season resume. This is a book which quickly becomes indispensable; if it had to be improved, I think my only suggestion would be to include a brief description of each vehicle in place of the “Practical Instructions”. — GC.

“Bebe Auto” by Edoardo Massucci. 126 pp. 10 in x 101/4 in. (Albion Scott Ltd, Barcourt House, York Road, Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0QP. £17.95)

Here is another very entertaining and historical work, about the miniature pedal-propelled and power-driven cars for children, to set beside the many excellent books on much smaller plastic, tin-plate and die-cast toy and model cars. The text is in four languages, so is not extensive, but it does outline the story of many of those cars in which lucky kids have deported themselves along the years; but it is really a picture book, which aspect of it comes off very well indeed. I am pleased to note that three of the truly outstanding children’s cars, namely Ettore Bugatti’s Type 52 electric GP Bugatti, the fine Citroen models, and those Renaults made by Welham’s, the Surbiton Renault agents, are well covered. The little Bugatti gets perhaps the best coverage and kids are seen racing them, at various venues, about which I am sure Hugh Conway knows, although if the picture of 11 of these Type 52s at the Buffalo Stadium in Paris is really of the finishing-line the handicapper is to be congratulated! It must be the start-line, surely? Commercially-available pedal cars along the ages are well depicted, from which I see that the war-time coal-scuttle-bonneted monstrosity that I used to pedal on South London pavements in the early 1920s (and lose control of downhill, when its chain broke) could have been a Triang “Napier”.

The book includes many of the finer examples of Bebe cars, such as the Panhard presented to the son of the Sultan of Morocco and the electric Cadillac for the King of Siam (! thought there was a pair of the latter?) and the Triang Rolls-Royce and Vauxhall are there, but not the Triang version of 4-litre LSR Sunbeam.

The jacket picture, in colour, is of Lord Montagu in the NMM 1914 Prince Henry Vauxhall with his son Ralph in the pedal-version of one of these cars, made for LH. Pomeroy’s son in 1915. The Prince of Piedmont is seen flagging-off a motley line-up of kids’ cars for a 1928 race, which I expect the lone Type 52 Bugatti won, there is an Amilcar of the kind which I seem to recall could be driven on a banked track at a seaside resort here before the war, and our last month’s picture of a model Napier on the road is nicely matched by a child in a similar seemingly-precarious place, but in France, in a scale-model GAR that was shown at the 1929 Paris Salon. It is dwarfed by the real cars around it, all Citroens, except that beside it is a car badged as “Inversable”, which may be a full-size car? Those J40 Austins made by the disabled from 1949 to 1951 get in twice (it is said some 32,000 were made) and the more recent commercial toys, like blower-Bentley, Citroen, Bugatti, 328 BMW, F1 Lancia and Matra, etc., which we have dealt with in Motor Sport, are included, but the fine model of the GP Sunbeam Cub, presented by Lord Montagu to the son of HRH The Duke of Kent, is not.

In a way that is the pity, namely that no publisher is likely to do a similar book for a long time, so omissions are to be regretted, as this book was done on the Continent one cannot expect British models to figure more prominently than they do. But I missed such things as Leslie Wilson’s (of Shelsley Walsh fame) pedal 200 Mile Race Alvises, the pedal Packard Parry Thomas presented to a little girl, which was photographed with his racing Leyland Thomas at Brooklands, the fine kid’s “Chain Gang” Frazer Nash done by avid modeller DM. Dent, Gordon Crosby’s son’s petrol-car of the early 1928s, rediscovered and restored much later, a similar tiny petrol-engined racer made in America at around that time, the pedal-powered Rover 8 and 11.4 Standard made for sons by father executives, the famous two-stroke model of Barnato’s racing 3-litre Bentley, and so on. However, “Bebe Auto” is excellent in the way it captures the spirit of owning such tiny cars — Christmas nostalgia is recalled by the kid gazing at pedal-Triangs in a shop window — and a copy should be in every museum and library. The Rytecraft was perhaps too big to justify inclusion, and surely the little Riley shown with a racing Riley on page 82 depicts, not “Freddie Dixon’s car and Mrs and Miss Riley”, but Percy Maclure with a works car and the little two-stroke Riley in which his small son used to open certain sprint courses in the mid-1930s? Nevertheless, an irresistible book. — W B.