Prescott Speed Hill-Climb 1938-1988
by Peter Hull. 139pp. 9¼” x 6½” (Bugatti Owners Club, Prescott Hill, Gotherington, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 4RD. £7.50).
In 1976 the Midland AC celebrated the seventieth birthday of Shelsley Walsh by asking the late Harold Hastings to compile a book about the history of the course, to which the late Walter Gibson contributed a table of FTDs at this famous hill between 1905 and 1976. The BOC’s Prescott Hill is now 50 years old, and not to be outdone the club commissioned Peter Hull to write a similar history of its hill-climb.
Any book by Peter is worth reading, and this little volume is no exception. He has relied heavily on extracts from the club magazine Bugantics to leaven the statistics, which embrace all FTDs fro 1936 to 1987 (for both the original and extended courses), best ladies’ times, VSCC best times, the Prescott Gold Cup and British Hill-Climb Championship winners, fastest Bugatti climbs, and a full list of times recorded at the opening rally.
Since I see that on the last-named occasion I beat Eric Giles in a T50 Bugatti and 21 other cars with a Lancia Aprilia. I had better come clean and admit I had practiced beforehand, whereas most were fresh to the sinuous new course.
This soft-covered little publication has more than 100 nostalgic photographs, poems, personality pen-pictures, contemporary reports, articles, cartoons and reproductions of historic documents. It makes a fitting companion to the Shelsley Walsh book, and should be ordered now, before supplies dry up. WB
Video: Supercar – The Story of the Panther Solo
52 minutes (Lombard Productions Ltd, 115 South Bank House, Black Prince Road, London SE1 7SJ. £17.50 + £1.50 p&p)
As designer Ken Greenley candidly admits on film, “it wasn’t the textbook way of putting a car together”. But that manages to make this documentary on the manufacture of the four-wheel-drive 150 mph Panther Solo 2 all the more fascinating.
Chairman Young Kim’s decision to allow the camera to pry into the boardroom as well as the workshop (and even into collaborator March Engineering’s Comet plant) was a very brave one, especially after calling a sudden pre-production halt to the Solo I project and thereby casting doubts upon Panther’s future. But the resultant six-month insight into the struggle of a small British company to break into the supercar market is a rare privilege.
Two main themes emerge: an escalating conflict between the design and engineering teams which eventually forces unwelcome compromises particularly for the latter and a desperate race against time to completed a show-car for Solo 2’s Frankfurt debut in September 1987.
This race is won – just – and smiles of relief and optimism greet the sound impression which is made on industry and public alike in Germany (see Motor Sport, January 1988). But then the customer only ever sees the sparklingly perfect exhibit on the stand, never the elbow-grease and mental torment which have gone into its creation – unless of course, he watches this revealing video. GT
Grand Prix ‘88
by Stuart Sykes and Roger Moody. 176pp. 8¼” x 5¾”. BBC Books, Woodlands, 80 Wood Lane, London W12 0TT. £5.95)
Following up a similar publication in 1986, this offering from a racing journalist and a former producer of BBC Television’s successful Grand Prix programme is intended as an armchair guide for those whose appetites have been whetted by Murray Walker.
By and large, it succeeds admirably, with rambling but sensibly-planned articles looking behind the scenes at engines, tyres, computer technology, circuits, safety, marshalling, sponsorship, administration, regulations and history.
Appendices act as an impressively up-to-date guide to the Grand Prix drivers of the 1988 season itself, although James Hunt’s disparaging comments about Messrs Caffi, Gugelmin and others might rebound on him later. His verdict on Larini – “I know nothing about him” – might be honest but hardly adds to the book’s credibility!
Further complaints are easily made: there are half-a-dozen simple factual errors (most of which, it is true, will not bother the targeted reader one jot), and a most curious appendix page which for no apparent reason lists the F1 record since 1972 of the Brabham team alone.
Worse, excessively solid binding and smudgeable print makes this an uncomfortable little paperback to read.
With its chattily informative style and easily digestible statistics, this is no doubt a welcome companion for the television addict; it comes less highly recommended for the connoisseur with sweaty palms… GT
Free for a blast
By R King-Clark. 272pp. 8 ¼” x 5 ¾”. (Grenville Publishing Company Ltd, Standard House, Bonhill Street, London EC2A 4DA. £11.95 including p&p).
I found this quite exceptional book impossible to put down once it had been started. The title is taken from the author’s family motto of Clerk of Penicuik and Clark or Paisley (the former dating back to 1646), and the foreword is by David Shepherd OBE, whose painting of King-Clarke’s Miles Whitney Straight monoplane G-AERS forms the frontispiece to a fascinating autobiography.
The story covers the author’s cars and his motor racing at Lewes, Shelsley Walsh, Filey Beach, Wetherby, Saltburn Sands and Brooklands, where his single-seater J4 MG dead-heated with Roy Eccles’ Rapier Special in 1936. It also covers his flying days.
After learning in Gipsy Moths and a BS Swallow at York, he bought a Miles Hawk which he crashed at Doncaster in 1936, killing his passenger – an incident about which he is absolutely honest. There follows a detailed account of how, although he was in the army, King-Clark was able to fly the Miles Whitney Straight from York to Ismalia, then on from Cairo to Singapore and Bali in 1937.
There is much, much more – the young man’s upbringing and quest for an adventurous life in the 1930s, his tour of America, his command of one of Orde Wingate’s three Jewish Special Night Squads in Palestine during the 1938 “Troubles”, for which he was awarded the Military Cross. There are also innumerable photographs of the cars, the ships, the girlfriends and, above all, the aeroplanes, and pen-portraits of Mussolini (whom he met), Orde Wingate, Jack Churchill and many other army acquaintances.
When I read Robert (“Rex”) King-Clark’s work in manuscripts form I knew it had to be printed, and I am glad to have played some small part in this. So soon after bringing out Kenneth Neve’s fascinating A Bit Behind the Times, it seems Grenville Publishing has done it again!
The Michelin Buildings
By Wendy Hitchmough. 64pp. 7 ¾” x 8”. (Octopus Publishing Group, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 6RB. £4.50).
Motor Sport was first after World War Two to appreciate the historical significance of the 1911 Michelin Building in Fulham, photographing the 34 Montaut tiles (mostly of motor racing scenes) which decorate it in 1963. Other journals and museums have since cottoned on, and it is nice to see the latest little offering.
Do not be deceived by the number of pages! There is a vast amount of fascinating information in this beautifully-produced book. Wendy Hitchmough covers the planning, development and construction of this unique edifice, describing the art-deco embellishments and Hennebique ferrro-concrete cladding (still in use in 1988). There are colour reproductions of those famous tiles and of the building itself.
The author exaggerates in claming that 300-400 people were killed during the 1903 Paris-Madrid race, nor was Henry killed by a flying splinter of glass during the 1908 Grand Prix (he was second on a Benz, in fact). But on its main subject the book’s detail is highly commendable.
It is to the everlasting credit of Sir Terence Conran and Paul Hamlyn, who acquired it in 1985, and adapted it to the needs of their Habitat and Octopus Publishing businesses, that as much as possible of the historic building’s original concept has been retained.
Architects as well as historians should read this informative little publication, for other famous buildings in Paris and London get a chapter to themselves, including the opulent dix-huitième-style RAC clubhouse in Pall Mall and the Lancia showrooms in Albermarle Street (both also built in 1911). Both Conran and Hamlyn contribute forewords. WB
Lotus twin-cam engine
by Miles Wilkins. 223pp. 10 ½” x 7 ¾”. (Osprey Publishing Ltd, 27a Floral Street, London WC2E 9DP. £19.95)
At first glance this publication looks as dry as dust, but it takes only a few pages to become fully absorbed by the subject.
Part one deals with the development of the twin-cam engine. Miles Wilkins talked to a great number of people in his research, and this shows in the historical outline. The greater part of the book is taken up with practical aspects which I, suspect, will be the principal reason why most purchasers buy it. Only of interest to the specialist, it contains a great deal of useful information and practical hints.
The final section deals with essential data, specifications and other topics, including a reprint on a John Bolster article on Ian Walker’s Lotus Elan.
Considering there is no colour this is an expensive purchase at £19.95, but it nonetheless fills a gap on the motoring enthusiast’s bookshelf. WPK
Challenge me the race
by Mike Hawthorn. 240pp. 8” x 5”. (Aston Publications Ltd, Bourne End House, Harvest Hill, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire SL8 5JJ. £13.95)
For those who missed it first time around in 1958, Aston Publications has republished Mike Hawthorn’s autobiography.
Although the style is now somewhat dated, the book still makes for a good read, reviving memories of what motor racing used to be before it became too commercialised. There are a number of amusingly told anecdotes and incidents, as well as an insight into how the business of motor racing was conducted over 30 years ago.
The book itself is rather in the style of the Sixties, with photographic inserts placed at various intervals in the book, while the dustjacket reminds one more of a video. For all that, it is a welcome re-release which should provide many hours of good reading. WPK