Books for Christmas



“The Sports Car,” by John Stanford. 224 pp., 9 in. by 6 in. (B.T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1. 25s.)

This is another of Batsford’s beautifully-produced books in their motoring series. The subject is explained by the title and John Stanford has sought to tackle an exceedingly difficult subject by tracing the origin and early evolution of the sporting motor car, subsequently cataloging in description and picture nearly all the sports cars that matter from every country and period.

In writing such a book the author has naturally had to compress his material and in some instances certain desirable items of information have been left out, while naturally he has been to a large extent compelled to rely on contemporary sources of historical and technical data, so that some of his writing is distinctly redolent of the wartime issues of Motor Sport, wherein we endeavoured to seek out and publish fresh aspects and hitherto unrecorded facts about the classic vintage sports models.

The author naturally acknowledges such sources and he is to be congratulated on getting so much valuable information between two covers in a convenient reference form, at the same time writing a very readable book in which he has courageously sorted out the wheat from the chaff and attained an altogether praiseworthy degree of accuracy.

His publishers are to be congratulated, too. They have illustrated “The Sports Car” with some refreshingly fresh early photographs, and splendid line-drawings by John Dunscombe, wrapping the book in a pleasing and durable coloured dust-jacket by the same artist.

It seems mean to offer any criticism at all of such a welcome, long-overdue and excellent book, but we feel a little disappointed at the brevity of description applied to some makes, especially the post-vintage-thoroughbred and modern sports cars, for Stanford, as is perhaps understandable in one who edits the Vintage Sports Car Club Bulletin, deals more fully with the early than the later cars. For example, we are told of the attractive engine of the Lagonda Rapier but not who designed it and we are told that a few supercharged versions were made, but not what supercharger was used or how it was driven. Again, the H.E. is dismissed in a mere five lines and its retention of ¾-elliptic rear springs, unusual for a fast vintage sporting car, is not mentioned.

There are some omissions from this book, cars like the Aries and those Scottish sports cars the Beardmore and Arrol-Aster not being indexed, but fresh facts are to be found by diligent readers and there is a very useful chapter on American sports cars. Altogether, John Stanford’s book represents another useful reference work and closes another gap on the bookshelves of serious students of motoring history and development.  — W.B.


“Adventurer’s Road,” by T. R. Nicholson. 235 pp., 8¾ in. by 5½ in. (Cassell and Co. Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 21s.)

This nicely-presented book sets out to tell the story of two motoring epics, the 1907 Pekin-Paris Race and the New York-Paris Race which took place the following year.

It appeals at once because the author, who is a well-known old-car enthusiast and owner of a 25 h.p. Sunbeam, has so obviously taken very considerable pains to write a comprehensive yet accurate book. He is generous in quoting his many and varied sources of reference, and instead of including all the data he was able to gather piecemeal, he has sifted the probable from the improbable before presenting us with this modern account of two of the most fantastic distance trials ever undertaken by the motor car. Nicholson and his publisher are also to be congratulated on the exceedingly interesting photographs they have unearthed with which to illustrate “Adventurer’s Road.”

Other books have been written about these epic races but usually from one competitor’s angle, where now we have as accurate an account as possible of the events as a whole, with sufficient technical detail of the cars to render this a worthwhile book for motoring enthusiasts as well as travel addicts. — W.B.


“In the Track of Speed,” by Stirling Moss. 212 pp., 8 in. by 5½ in. (Frederick Muller Ltd., Ludgate House, 110, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4. 15s.)

This purports to be Stirling’s own story of his life as a racing motorist. It is rather redolent of the earlier work “Stirling Moss’ Boys’ Book of Motor Racing” and, like that book, is excellent for the younger Moss “fans.” To the serious student of motor racing this account, useful as a “refresher” course on Moss’ achievements, lacks depth and we still await the day when this great British driver writes a detailed and factual report of how it all happened and why.

“In the Track of Speed” takes the reader to the end of the 1956 season and the coloured dust-jacket is a nice souvenir if you saw the Mercedes-Benz team in action at Aintree. — W.B.


“The Green Helmet,” by John Cleary. 256 pp., 81/8 in. by 5½ in. (Collins, St. James’s Place, London, S.W.1 13s. 6d.)

This is a motor-racing novel by an Australian author. It is a change to have fiction, complete with plenty of love interest, allied to our favourite sport but, like nearly all motor-racing novels, “The Green Helmet” over-dramatises the racing driver’s concern with accident and death. But if you enjoy fiction or like to have everything there is with a motor-racing flavour, here is a very readable addition to your library list. Le Mans and the Mille Miglia form a realistic background to a good and in parts authentic story. But can you really imagine a racing driver with the name of Ham Rafferty? — W.B.


“Great British Drivers,” by S. C. H. Davis. 102 pp., 8¾ in. by 5½ in. (Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 90, Great Russell Street, London, W. 1. 12s. 6d.)

This slim volume covers the careers of S. F. Edge, Charles Jarrott, “Algy” and Bill Guinness, Sir Henry Segrave, Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry Birkin, Bt., Brian Lewis, John Cobb, Dick Seaman, Reg. Parnell and Stirling Moss, each chapter ending with a table of successes.

Most prolific authors produce a “pot-boiler” sooner or later and this seems to be Sammy’s. Easily read, there is not a great deal of “meat” in “Great British Drivers.” The style is fictional in places, some inaccuracies occur and regular readers of The Autocar will have seen most of the pictures before; it is irritating to find that the pictures are out of step with the text. There are a few fresh facts in this lightly-written book but it is not an important work for serious students. Surely a better picture of the late R. I. B. Seaman could have been found for the frontispiece? — W.B.


“Hot Rod It,” by Fred Horsley. 264 pp., 8¼ in. by 5½ in. (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 3,95 dollars, or Bailey Bros. & Swinfen Ltd., 46, St. Giles High Street, London, W.C.2.  32s.)

This book sets out to explain what a hot rod is, the types of hot rods, how to build them and how they differ from proper sports/ racing and Grand Prix cars. Its value is mainly confined to American readers and even then we have a feeling that the author may generalise too often and fail to be sufficiently technically specific for his clients. He describes existing hot rods but does not seem to go quite deeply into how to make one of your own. In telling the classic story of what happened when the first Bentley engine was run in London, Horsley spoils the effect by getting it a decade too late in history — which raises suspicion of other facts. — W.B.


” ‘The Autocar’ Road Tests of 1957 Cars.” 63 pp. 11½ in. by 8¼ in. (Iliffe and Sons Ltd., Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E.1. 5s.)

The Autocar announces a change in its road-test publications policy, the full book of tests which would normally appear at this time of year being superseded by a new issue which is to appear in the spring so that it can contain reports on new models seen for the first time at Earls Court or introduced early in 1958 for what The Autocar calls next year’s car-buying season.

Consequently, the present book is merely an interim publication, containing but 15 test-reports and therefore rather expensive at 5s. The cars included range from 328-c.c. Berkeley to 4,887-c.c. Bentley Continental d.h. coupe. Fastest was the Bentley, at 120½ m.p.h., most rapid over a s.s, ¼ mile the Lotus II Le Mans, in 17.9 sec., most economical the Berkeley, at 40½-54 m.p.g. — W.B.


“Renault,” by Saint Loup. Translated from the French edition, “Renault De Billancourt,” by Amiot Dumont. 316 pp. 8½ in. by 5½ in. (The Bodley Head, 10, Earlham; Street, London. W.C.2.  25s.)

To the student of motoring history this book tends to be disappointing as a history of the great Renault Company, until one remembers that it sets out to record the life of Louis Renault and not the cars that he built.

The text is very much padded, to make this a readable story rather than a dull history, so the motoring enthusiast has to separate fact from fiction as he goes along. As an absorbing and tragic book about one of the greatest industrialists of the motor age, a man who rose from humble beginnings to a position in which Henry Ford could teach him nothing, and who, surviving flood, strikes, racing accidents and attack by business opponents, sought to slow-down the German war effort in World War Two by running his factory at low speed, rebuilding it, after the R.A.F. had tried to destroy it, so that his workers should not be transported to Germany, only to be arrested and brutally murdered when peace broke out, this is an outstanding, courageous work, which should strike hard at every Frenchman’s conscience.

As a history of the Renault car it is almost a dead loss. We learn of Louis Renault’s early endeavours, but of his participation in motor racing, the fatal accident to his beloved brother Marcel in the Paris-Madrid, and victory in the first French Grand Prix, there is but a glimmer of fresh facts and other writers in other books tell us far more.

We learn of Citroen’s jealousy of Renault but not very much about the cars which built for Louis Renault his immense fortune. In the translation engine dimensions become distorted and such comments as “The loss in petrol will be stopped (on the 1907 20-h.p.) by using better quality leather at the joints of the differential” leave the technically-minded gasping.

There are a few interesting remarks about the later Renault models, such as the bad roadholding of the Nervasport, how flexible engine mountings were first developed for the Vivaquatre in 1931 to beat Citroen who had agreed to pay big royalties to Chrysler for “floating power,” and of poor roadholding and bad brakes of the 1932 Primastella. This is the only period when the origin of the various models of the Renault range is given and with some output figures relating to the different types merely whet the appetite for more. But no more is given.

The author is not to be blamed, for his object has been to invent dialogue, paint past scenes and so lead the reader to stay the course with him until he is able to reveal, in text and X-ray photograph, the brutal end met by Louis Renault in Fresnes prison in 1944. The author suggests that it is still not too late for justice to be done and for Renault’s murderers to be ferreted out by the Government of France. His task in writing a compelling, powerful book and making out a convincing case for the innocence of Louis Renault is admirably done.

But as motoring history ” Renault De Billancourt ” is disappointing. Even when the records set up by the Renault 45 are described we are not reminded that the car ran in both closed and open form, it is described as a 40-h.p., and Renault is said to have tested two different valve springs for the project by jumping on them — which seems like another piece of padding, improbable from several points of view. The author deals in considerable detail with Renault’s work in the 1914/18 war and interesting accounts of the first French tanks are given. The very fast, long-distance drives made by Renault back and forth across war-ridden France in his 40-h.p. Renault fire the imagination — but, alas, details are lacking. We are told that it took the record-breaking Renault 45 to move the radiator of production Renaults from the traditional place behind the bonnet to the front of the car. The saloon record-breaking 45 did have the radiator at the front but was this, or fashion, the true reason for Louis Renault finally coming into line with other makers in the matter of radiator location? The manner in which the prototype Renault 750 was constructed during the war is touched on, its origin being owed in part to the opportunity the war gave Renault to study the technicalities of the VW.

This is a book well worth reading — but a proper history of the Renault Company has still to be written — W.B.


“‘The Times’ Survey of the British Motor Car Industry.” 64 pp. 14 in. by 10½ in. (The Times Publishing Co. Ltd., Printing House Square, in the Parish of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe with St. Ann, Blackfriars, in the City of London, E.C.4.  2s. 6d.)

This annual survey of the British Motor Industry brings with it such colour plates and art-paper pages as to dispel some of the envy of the lavish colour publications that emanate from Italy, Germany, Switzerland and other foreign countries.

The 1957 edition, lavishly illustrated, contains an interesting variety of articles. After editorials on various aspects of the Motor Industry and a survey of British Cars in various categories, the leading car-producing companies of this country each have a potted biography devoted to them. Elsewhere there is a long article on Mr. David Brown, with an excellent picture of his one-time racing car, a Vauxhall Villiers, backed up by a full-page colour-plate of the Aston Martin DBR1 winning at Nurburg. Sir Patrick Hennessy, Chairman of Fords, deals with “Crisis on the Roads — The Price of Delay,” which has nothing to do with a broken-down Dagenham product, of course. Gordon Wilkins writes about disc-brakes, J. A. Christensen on Motor Cars as Cargoes, A. G. Douglas Clease deals with spare parts for British cars and William Boddy covers one of his favourite topics, Brooklands Track.


“‘The Motor’ Road-Tests of 1957 Cars.” 128 pp. (Temple Press, Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1. 7s. 6d.)

Once again this extremely welcome reprint of The Motor road-tests in book form makes its appearance. The 1957 edition, copiously illustrated and bound in durable covers, contains full test reports on 30 recent cars, together with an introduction and a tabulated summary of the test data.

The cars covered include such interesting makes as the Berkeley sports model, B.M.W. Isetta 300, Citroen DS19, Fiat 600 and 1,100, 3.4 Jaguar Automatic, 3-litre Lagonda, Morris Minor 1000, Renault Dauphine, Rover 105R, Triumph TR3 hard-top, and Wolseley 1500.

So much information is gleanable from The Motor test reports, not only relating to performance but also to specification and equipment provided, and the excellent photographs which accompany each report give such a clear picture of a car, that this annual publication is an invaluable work of reference. At the extremely modest price of 7s. 6d., very few of our readers can afford not to buy it.

It is interesting to note that of the thirty 1957 cars tested, the fastest this time is the 3.4-litre Jaguar, which achieved 119.8 m.p.h. The fastest over a s.s. ¼-mile is also the Jaguar, in 18.0 sec., and the most economical is the B.M.W. Isetta 300, which recorded 58.1 m.p.g. The tabulated data include figures for three three-wheelers and two Continentals additional to those cars about which full reports are included. — W.B.


Apart from the foregoing books, several volumes of a practical nature have recently been published, which would make useful presents for practical folk interested in the appropriate subject. These books include: “Value for Money Motoring,” by John R. Davey — 120 pp., 7½ in. by 5 in. — dealing with the choice and care of an economy car (Iliffe & Sons, Ltd., 7s. 6d.), ” Hints and Tips for Motor Cyclists, Scooter and Moped Riders,” by the staff of The Motor Cycle — 184 pp., 7½ in. by 5 in. — which is self-explanatory (Iliffe & Sons, Ltd., 7s. 6d.); “The Book of the Trailer Caravan,” by Arthur E. North –135 pp. — also self-explanatory (Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd., 8s. 6d.) and “Miles Per Quart,” by J. M. Nuttall, A.F.Inst.Pet., M.S.A.E. — 87 pp., 7¼ in. by 4¾ in.  — giving data in great detail about modern lubricating oil and lubrication systems (Scientific Publications, Ltd., Brosely, Shrops., 8s. 6d.)


A useful pocket reference to present-day cars is a booklet of specifications and prices issued by The Motor (127 pp., 4¾ in. by 3 in. Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1. 1s.) Amongst 1958 motoring diaries Collins list a very substantial Motorist’s Diary with over 120 pages of engineering, mathematical and motoring data, a mileage chart, pages for entering personal motoring data, squared paper and maps, and a page marker, for 5s. 3d. to 10s. according to binding, an ingenious idea being stick-in slips to remind the owner of anything from his wife’s birthday to when to buy a new Collins diary. “The Modern Motoring Diary,” published by H. O. Quinn Ltd., 151, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4, contains similar data, maps, town plans, maps of various race circuits, a motor sport section and a plan of London’s Underground Railway system. This one is edited by J. W. Knox and costs 5s. bound in rexine or 8s. 9d. in pigskin.


The British Road Federation has issued the 1957 edition of “Basic Road Statistics” — 64 pp., 8½ in. by 5½ in. — which contains so much information of use to politicians, journalists, lecturers and others, relating to number of vehicles in use down the roads and of different types, road mileages, how road tax has been applied, the revenue it produces and how the Road Fund has been raided down the years, etc. It is obtainable for 1s. from the B.R.F., 26, Manchester Square, London, on referring to Motor Sport.


Ferodo Ltd. has issued a little booklet, “Braking with Brockbank,” in conjunction with their Diamond Jubilee. The cartoons are excellent, but what a pity they cannot spell the name of Segrave correctly.