Book Reviews, December 1955, December 1955

Author

W.B.

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‘”The Motor’ Road Test of 1955 Cars.” 123 pp., 11½ in. by 8 in. (Temple Press Ltd.. Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1. 6s.)
“‘The Autocar’ Road Tests 1955.” 127 pp., 11¾ in. by 8¼ in. (Iliffe and Sons Ltd., Dorset House. Stamford Street. London, S.E.1. 6s.)

Once again these two books of road-tests reprinted from the leading weekly motor papers arrive to punctuate the motoring seasons. They form an excellent reference to the performance and characteristics of this year’s cars, and once again it is a matter of “paying yer money …” For those who have to decide on one book or the other, instead of both, let its explain that The Autocar book lists 31 separate tests, most of which occupy four pages but some only three or, in the case of the Hillman Husky, two pages, besides which there is an introduction and a two-page table of selected performance data. The Motor book covers 30 separate tests and includes a short analysis of test methods and a summary of performance figures.

The Motor tests range from ho Iso Isetta to Plymouth V8 Belvedere and include such cars as A.C. Ace, Jensen 541 and Swallow Doretti; while The Autocar tests range from the Fiat 600 (also tested by The Motor) to the Oldsmobile Super 88, embracing Frazer-Nash Targo Florio Fast Roadster, Mercedes-Benz 300SL Swallow Doretti and Triumph TR2 hard-top as of especial interest to our readers. Cars which exceed 100 m.p.h. in The Motor tests are the A.C. Ace. Jaguar Mk. VII. Jensen 541, and Swallow Doretti, while The Autocar topped the century with Chrysler Windsor de luxe, Frazer-Nash Targa Florio Fast Roadster, Lancia Aurelia Gran Turismo 2,500, Mercedes-Benz 300SL. (135 m.p.h.), Oldsmobile Super 88, Riley Pathfinder. Swallow Doretti and Triumph TR2 hard-top cars. On a topical note, the best average fuel consumption recorded by The Motor was 50.4 m.p.g. for the Iso Isetta and by The Autocar was 50.0 m.p.g. for the Renault 750.

All The Motor tests are standardised at four pages, of which one is a part-diagrammatic presentation of test figures, car dimensions and maintenance items, shorter tests, usually being early “impressions” of new models, being left to The Autocar. Besides their data page, each test from The Motor has panels relating to the mechanical specification and to the coachwork and equipment of the car tested, as well as a small standardised panel of the main features arising from the test. The Autocar merely gives performance figures, mechanical specification and car dimensions in a single, semi-diagramrnatic table. We prefer The Autocar’s method of setting out body dimensions and their inclusion of a view of the instrument panel and controls, suitably captioned, which The Motor does not give, but like the latter’s diagram showing how driver and passengers and engine and transmission and luggage are disposed in the car.

The last report reprinted from The Motor dates back to September 14th, 1955, and is numbered 21/55 (Continental). while the most recent test in The Autocar book appeared on September 16th, 1955. So far as photographs are concerned, each book provides exterior, interior, engine and other views of the cars tested, and these average out at 6.36 per test in The Motor book and at 7.09 per test, in the pages of The Autocar book.

It is interesting to find that in both cases the tests deal with items of detail and that they seem more critical than was once the case, both trends which follow the Motor Sport policy of road-testing as introduced nearly 20 years ago by its present Editor. — W. B.

“Over the Line,” with Brockbank. 55 pp.. 10 in. by 7½ in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1. 7s. 6d.)
Here is a follow-up volume of Brockbank’s cartoons of the kind which graced the pages and made your sides Oise in “Round the Bend” and “Up the Straight.” They have appeared previously in The Motor and Punch but it is splendid to have the best work of motoring’s greatest cartoonist — he who loves to be at Silverstonte and Goodwood and who motors in a Fiat 1,100TV (having given his wife a Fiat 600, perhaps on account of Roger and Susan Backseat, to whom his present book is dedicated) — all ready and waiting on the library shelf to dispel the sordid moment. No doubt Brockbank’s wish is that the library to which we refer shall be non-public — in that, you can assist him! — W. B.

“Bees Under My Bonnet,” by Ronald Collier. 48 pp., 8½ in. by (Motor Racing Publications, Ltd., 13, Conway Street, London,W.1. 7s. 6d.)
This little book, aptly illustrated by the one and only Brockbank, reprints from Punch, Ford Family, Time and Tide and Milestones the motoring humour of Ronald Collier, including that famous Motocar road-test of the New Look Cootemaster Corncrake saloon from the Coote Group. There is a report of the Liechtenstein Grand Prix of 1939 featuring reporter Bascombe Mildew of the Sunday Outrage (would that in real life the Guild of Motoring Writers took itself as lightheartedly!), a race won by Girling Foss in a bra, at chapter on the Monte Carlo Rally, the truth about the Goldbrick International Trophy Race, and much more in the same strain!

The author admits he was born, not made, and his book has Press opinions about it from Harold Knockhard, McGregor McGrant, Dudley Foible and other Guilders on its dust-jacket. As Punch may say. “If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing, etc.” — W. B.

“Three-Pointed Star — The Story of Mercedes-Benz,” by David Scott-Moncrieff, with St. John Nixon and Clarence Paget. 360 pp., 8½ in. by 5½ in. (Cassell and Company Ltd., 37-38. Andrew’s Hill London. E.C,4. 25s.) ” “

We were compelled to remark last month on the “sameness” of subject and often of contents of recent motoring books when we received two on the same day dealing with Edwardian cars. Now comes Three-Pointed Star-The Story of Mercedes-Benz,” when only last September we reviewed “The Complete Mercedes Story,’ by W. Robert Nitske. However, this time there is less to complain about. because the latter book has become notorious for its inaccuracies, and “Three-Pointed Star” is infinitely better — Cassell have undoubtedly done Macmillan in the eye.

The main author of this new book on the history of Mercedes-Benz is David (“Bunty”) Scott-Moncrielf and he writes with his customary knowledge. thoroughness and feeling, although there is a suspicion that his co-operators, either Nixon or Paget, have toned down the original text, not altogether, perhaps, to the book’s advantage.

If this is a history of the famous German marque. from its origin and before, to the present day, again, inevitably, there is much repetition. The early efforts of Karl Benz, who built the world’s first practical petrol-driven vehicle, of Gottlieb Daimler and Ferdinand Porsche we have read before in other books, although Bunty retells these stories very nicely.

The rest of the book deals very largely with the racing activities of Mercedes-Benz and here again, of course, George Monkhouse got in first. This would not matter so much if this were an intimate account of the happenings at Stuttgart but, in fact, the contents are almost all straight history, carefully, painstakingly and very pleasingly collected together but giving very little that is new. Certainly little-known successes with Mercedes cars by obscure drivers in minor competitions are included, true Scott-Moncrieff tells its some stories-and scatters some facts not known to us before, and we are not for the moment overlooking the value of a history of Mercedes-Benz ranging from 1844 to 1955 between two covers and so very beautifully printed and illustrated. The fact remains that repetition is unavoidable in this day and age when writing books on the major motoring subjects, unless the author has access to the innermost archives relating to his chosen subject. What does strike a new note is the inclusion of descriptions of the Mercedes-Benz stand at the London Motor Show year by year, even to criticism of the exhibits when this is deemed to be justified, while Clarence Paget, hirnself a keen Sunbeam man, spent much time in the offices of the various motor papers, including Motor Sport, so that extracts from contemporary road-test reports of Mercedes and Benz products could be included.

The whole book has been tackled with commendable thoroughness and the types of Mercedes employed in the races, speed trials and hill-climbs described are quoted, although little serious attempt has been made to sort out the many examples which competed at pre-war Brooklands. Some of the pictures we have seen previously; some carry absorbing captions based on notes contributed by Edward Mayer, who has owned over one hundred Mercedes cars, and one wonders why he wasn’t commandeered as one of the authors.

“Three-Pointed Star” has in its 360 pages some fascinating appendices, of which that by R. H. Johnson, Vice-President of the Mercedes-Benz Club, dealing with the 33/180K, 36/220S, and 38/250SS, SSK and SSKL Mercedes-Benz cars, which first appeared in Motor Sport in January, 1952, and is reprinted therefrom, will be of avid interest. For this alone, Cassell are assured, we would think, of selling 57 copies of the book on publication day, this being the number of persons in this country owning 36/220 or 38/250 models. Some servicing data is given, an idea which originated in “Continental Sports Cars” (Foulis).

To look for errors in a book of this kind, obviously carefully and conscientiously checked, would be paltry, and the only ones our eyes alighted on were a reference to the Paris-Madrid race of 1930, the statement that an old Mercedes chassis was used by Zborowski for Chitty IV when we believe (vide “The Story of Brooklands,” Vol. 1, pages 204/5 — Grenville) that this Chitty had its own chassis; and the date of 1920 as about the last time when Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric omnibuses plied for fares in London; whereas the writer used to go to work in them at least as late as 1931.

The book, which really ends in 1954, only touching briefly on the 1955 season when Mercedes-Benz won the Sports-Car Championship and Touring-Cur Championship; concludes with a very interesting table of major racing successes from 1894 onwards and tables of Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz production and racing cars from 1900 to 1954, Benz cars from 1886 to 1926, and Canstatt-Daimller cars from 1885 to 1900, Daimler-Benz having co-operated by checking this valuable data.

Altogether “Three-Pointed Star” is a worthwhile addition to one-make literature and a credit to David Scott-Moncrieff. The preface is by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon.

 

“Rudolf Caracciola.” An autobiography, translated from the German by Charles Meisl. 175 pp,, 8½ in. by 5½ in. (G. T. Foulis and Co., Ltd., 7, Milford Lane. London, W.C.2. 15s.)

Here is the autobiography of the famous German racing driver Rudolf Caraceiola, who drove in the fabulous Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix team before the war.

Caracciola tells his story dramatically, so that his victories, narrow escapes, crashes and the rest, are told as in a novel. His entry into racing really commences with a victory at the wheel of a four-cylinder 6-11.p. Ego cyclecar at Berlin Stadium in 1923, against Omikron, Coco and Goade rivals. As if these names sound improbable, the publishers include on excellent picture of the winning Ego to prove them true!

The story of Caraccioles life unfolds easily, as if he is speaking to you himself. The later races in which he drives are also described in various other books, such as “The Grand Prix Car,” “Motor Racing with Mercedea-Benz,” Lang’s autobiography, and the two histories of the Mercedes-Benz Company, but it is nice to have a new angle on them, as well as on Caracciola’s earlier exploits with Alfa-Romeo and at the wheel of Mercedes-Benz sports cars.

The book is nicely illustrated, there is a foreword by George Monkhouse in which he clearly outlines the Caracciola characteristics, and the book has been translated by Charles Meisl, who is making a name for himself in this field.

 

“How to Draw Cars,” Volume 2, by Frank Wootton. 64 pp., 6¾ in. by 5½. in (The Studio Ltd.. 66, Chandos Place, London, W.C. 2. 5s.)
Here is the second volume of a useful work for would-be car artist, by Frank Wootton. It contains chapters on veteran, vintage and racing cars, with examples by the author/artist of early Humber, Rolls-Royce, 1913 Morris-Oxford, 1928 4½-litre Bentley and many action views of famous racing cars. Obviously just-the-job if you wish to convert doodles into portraits. Wootton includes some fine scenic studies.

 

The Dunlop Rubber Company has issued a very lavish and beautifully-illustrated book relating to their research activities. Motoring subjects covered include accelerometers, tyre acoustics, bodywork adhesives, anti-vibration mountings, car mats, chassis-testing, tyre research in all its aspects, disc brakes, Dunlopillo, racing tyres, rubber flooring, piping, etc. Those interested should apply for a copy to the Dunlop Rubber Company Ltd., St. James’ House, St James’ Street. London, S.W.1, mentioning Motor Sport. Now that Mr. Butler is curbing expenditure this should be the last of these lavish publicity publications for some time, so collectors may be interested.

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Those of our readers who are in their first childhood, or, like the Editor, have reached second childhood, will be interested to know that Meccano Limited have added two more “Dinky” car-miniatures to their extensive range. These are the Sunbeam Alpine (3¾ in. long), complete with competition number, and the impressive left-hand-drive Packard convertible in open form,(4½ in. long). They are available from the better toy-shops and sports dealers, and are fit to grace any enthusiast’s study.

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“Background to Victory.” by T. H. Wisdom, is a very attractive, well-illustrated booklet about Aston Martin’s successful 1955 season in sports-car racing. It is available from the David Brown Corporation (Sales) Ltd., 96/97, Piccadilly, London. W.1, on mentioning Motor Sport, and we advise you to write for it now.

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Students of car design will be interested in “Colour at the Show,” an analysis by the paints division of of colour trends at Earls Court. It is obtainable from the Press Section, Central Publicity Dept., Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd., Millbank, London, S.W.1, if you read Motor Sport.

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