Book reviews, August 1989, August 1989

Grand Prix Cars 1945-65

by mike Lawrence. 264pp. 10” x 8”. (Aston Publications Ltd, Bourne End House, Harvest Hill, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire SL8 5JJ. £18.95).

Former Motor Sport Deputy Editor Mike Lawrence spent a long time researching his latest book, and it shows. The fruit of his labour is the most comprehensive of reference books, one which is very easy to start browsing through without realising it and thereafter difficult to put down again.

The author’s proud boast is that he includes every pukka Grand Prix car built and/or raced in this 20-year period, which means entries under almost ninety marques with each chassis type meriting a technical description and a brief racing history. Cars are pictured where possible (mostly in black-and-white), though some of the omissions are frustrating.

The Formula One fortunes of the likes of Brabham, Ferrari and Lotus have been well-documented elsewhere, of course, so the beauty of this volume lies in the stories of little-known dabblers such as Derrington-Frances, Gilby, JBW and Scirocco –plus the sad vignette of the VM special, whose creator fell asleep after a series of “all-nighters” and missed qualifying for the only race he ever entered!

Lawrence is not afraid to debunk myths or criticise where criticism is due, and his reviews of the Aston Martin and early BRM projects pull no punches. All of which adds to the entertainment value of what is first and foremost an authoritative record of fact. GT

Fiat Dino – Ferrari by another name

By Mike Morris. 152pp. 8 ½ “ x 5¼”. (Bookmarque Publishing. £17.95).

To some, the Fiat Dino is a bit of a mongrel, a pauper with pretentions. Mike Morris, Secretary of the international Fiat Dino Register, sets out to disabuse the reader of that notion, and even takes a number of sideswipes at the more glamourous side of the partnership.

Only 7600 Fiat Dinos were made and none were exported to English-speaking countries. They were only made in left-hand drive form, yet have reached that age (the oldest car is 22 years old and the youngest 17) whereby they have reached “classic” status and become desirable even in Britain.

As the owner of one, Morris’ excitement constantly bubbles through the text, but the information is comprehensive. A number of photographs, ranging from good to mediocre, including 29 in colour, break up the text and help the uninitiated pinpoint the subtle differences within the range. Very much a specialist book, it will obviously appeal to the owner, aspiring owner and marque historian, but at £17.95 it is a little pricey. WPK

Jaguar XJR Group C And GTP Cars

by Ian Bamsey. 160pp. 12¼” x 8½” (GT Foulis & Co Ltd, Sparkford, Yeovil Somerset BA22 7QQ. £24.95).

Published appropriately at around Le Mans time, here is the first comprehensive account of the XJRs; while the publisher admits that the story of the historic 1988 race has been told and retold many times already, the purpose of this book is to describe in detail the car which made Jaguar’s victory possible.

No author is better suited to the task than Ian Bamsey, and the large-page format is just the job for setting off to perfection the 80 fine monotones and 24 colour plates which complement his learned text.

The five incident-packed years it took Jaguar to finally overthrow Porsche are described, with details of the V12 prototypes from XJR-9. That this is one of the Foulis series of Racecar Engineering books underlines its technical merit. WB

Inside Formula One

by Nigel Roebuck. 232pp. 10” x 7¼”. (Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd, Denington Estate, Wellinborough, Northamptonshire NN8 2RQ. £14.95).

These are Roebuck’s pithy and outspoken comments on specific aspects of Grand Prix racing from 1980 to 1988, culled from his Autosport column and supported by lots of good pictures.

Many of his views are very much on the sour side, and the presentation smacks of the journalist in action, some of the drivers’ comments no doubt coming from the motor-home interviews which are a feature of modern post-race publicity. That said these 51 short reflections make good browsing – just the job for a holiday read, and, as holidays are not so expensive, there is no need to take the price into consideration! WB

Great American Automobiles of the Fifties

by Richard M Langworth and Chris Poole. 320pp. 12½” x 10”. (GT Foulis & Co, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £24.95).

If American cars turn you on and you are not fussy about confining your view to the 1950s (which will suit the dealers and auctioneers very well), here is a super-heavy treat for your coffee-table – too weighty perhaps for the average bookcase!

This new edition reeks of Ultramatic, Hydra-Matic, Flash-o-Matic V8s answering to names like Firepower and Turbo-Fire, and, as the publisher readily admits of the gimmicks and gadgets of the period. But serious students will find many historic autos here, from Allstate to Willys Aero Eagle/Bermuda, with big colour pictures and erudite text and specification tables by two acknowledged experts. WB

Hot on its heels comes another enormous Haynes tome on Fifty Years Of American Automobiles From 1939, by the auto editors of Consumer Guide. I was just strong enough to lift his 719-page volume from its wrappings, and it really is a remarkably thoroughly and invaluable reference work.  

The first 372 pages given a year-by-year review of key styling, engineering, model changes, performance, sale trends and marketing methods, not only for the whole gamut of production cars but also of show exhibits and experimental models. There follow 348 pages of specification tables listing original prices, production figures, weights and engine details for every model in every series, the whole illustrated with more than 2000 original makers’ pictures many in colour.

Formidable is the word, and the UK price is £39.95. WB

Robin Read’s Colin Chapman’s Lotus is devoted to a fascinating slice of history, covering in 335 pages the early years of these cars (1951-62), the Elite, and the Elan’s origins. This has been done in various ways before, but here is a truly extensive history (one page alone is taken up by the 32 suspension system variants used from the Mk 3A to the 21) which is a tribute to Colin and the sales force at Lotus, by the man who was the company’s sales manager from 1959.

Tales of trouble and strife within the factory, and of how the author was sacked by Chapman, should entertain, and one of the appendices is devoted to company correspondence. The book includes fine studies of Chapman and his colleagues, and costs £24.95. WB

Another comprehensive history book form Haynes is a 25-year review of The BMC/BL Competitions Department when it was run successively by Marcus Chambers Stuart Turner, Peter Browning, Basil Wales, Richard Seth-Smith, John Davenport and the author Bill Price himself.

Price says he had to keep the text within reasonable bounds, but he has recalled the cars, the people and the events in great details and has dug out some excellent pictures, many seen for the first time in a book. In all the story occupies 393 pages with 475 mono and 80 colour pictures, and sells for £29.95. WB

Motor Racing Publications has re-issued Jim Clark – The Legend Lives On by Graham Gauld, with a foreword by Jackie Stewart. First published in 1975, this is the third edition of the biography of the popular Scot who displayed such great skill on the race circuits but who was just as happy on his 1242 acres of arable farmland at Chirnside. It lists all Clark’s racing performance, with new material and colour pictures and includes an epilogue of the mechanics’ memories of this great driver and a technical insight into the mysterious accident in which he died at Hockenheim in 1968. It costs £14.95 for 157 pages. WB

For a long time the best reference source for performance figures and specifications of a wide range of cars had been the Brooklands Books reprints of Press road tests. This useful coverage has now come the way of Allard enthusiasts, in the guise of Allard Gold Portfolio 1937-1959.

Through the generosity of fourteen publishers of motoring journals, this 180-page magazine-size book is full of information on every Allard model from the V8s and V12s to the coupés, saloons, Safari and Palm Beach, including these reports, racing history and construction details. Contemporary reports on the air-cooled Steyer-powered sprint car and Sydney’s dragsters also have their place, and even the ill-fated £268 Clipper . . .

Reproduction of the original reports has improved, though it is irritating to have to refer to the index to discover from which journal each emanates. Wonderful value at £9.95. WB

Coys of Kensington has issue its 1989 International Collectors And Investors Car Value Guide, European edition, edited by Julian McNamara, for £4.50. it may be packed with useful tips for those who frequent auctions or enjoy making a fast buck from buying and selling old cars, but for the enthusiast who likes to drive them it is more of a fun book.

One reads in the chronological one-make histories, for instance, that the Aries was a close rival of the Bentley at Le Mans (in fact, none finished higher than sixth, whereas Bentley won five times), that there was a pre-war Grand Prix Austro-Daimler (which I do not recall), that Berliet went racing at Le Mans “with mixed results” (only one appeared, in 1923), and that a Bedelia is “similar to a GN, of little merit but bags of charm”, so that at £3000 it would be a good buy – okay, you find one!

There is no need to go on, but all praise to Coys for warning against fakes, particularly when it comes to Delahayes masquerading as racing cars or Ballot claiming to be GP model.

Largely superficial stuff, so it is on the usefulness of the auction process that the book must be judged, and these change so frequently. But the pictures are good. WB