Books for Christmas reading
"Lost Causes of Motoring," by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. 224 pp. 8-3/4 in. x 5-5/8in. (Cassell and Company, Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London. W.C.1. 30s.)
In the positive flood of motoring books which have marked the fading of an eventful 1960 a very few stand out from the others and are worth acquiring at all costs, even if this means buying them. Such a book is "Lost Causes of Motoring," the first of a new series of Montagu Motor Books. This one, by Lord Montagu himself, with the help on the research side of Michael Sedgwick, is a splendidly detailed account of makes of cars which have gone out of production – lost causes of motoring, in fact.
Perhaps inspired by our series of articles " Fragments on Forgotten Makes," it is at once a book both informative and vastly entertaining, at all events to the hard-core of enthusiasts who love old cars. There is no particular purpose for such a book, for the author delves about in time, investigating obscure lines of research which do not necessarily have any bearing on the great cars, or the outstanding events, of motoring history. "Lost Causes" is all the more entertaining because of this approach.
Invicta, Squire, Railton, Star, Jowett, Trojan, G.W.K., Napier, Clyno, Lanchester, Leyland Eight, Crossley, B.S.A., the Argyll, Arrol-Johnston and Albion from Scotland and many other defunct makes are dealt with model by model, in fascinating detail. A great number of entirely new facts come to light and production figures are quoted liberally, making this the most satisfying book about vintage cars published to date.
Yet this is no mere catalogue of forgotten cars; each chapter tells a well-woven story, and brings into proper perspective such apparently worthless cars as still get discovered in long-unopened sheds and disused barns – now they seem to have more purpose and one longs to discover and restore even those that, in their day, could hardly have been called successful. We read of the makes built in that City of Lost Causes, Wolverhampton (but not of Sunbeams, for the author considers that Rootes still make them), and of those astonishing cars that had their brief moments of recognition at the Jam Factory at Maidenhead.
A chapter is devoted to a Birmingham miscellany, another to those contrasting Lancashire makes, the Trojan and Parry Thomas Leyland Eight. Rightly, Jowett, Lanchester and Napier have chapters to themselves.
It is all the greatest fun and will, I hope, occupy many V.S.C.C. members very happily over the Christmas holiday. For "Lost Causes" seeks not just to recall an amazing variety of veteran, vintage and p.v.t. automobiles, but to show why the companies making them went out of existence. Lord Montagu draws attention to the demise which often followed the advent of straight-eight designs, which he holds more nearly responsible for insolvency in the motor industry than the small "six" which Cecil Clutton cites as a likely cause. He traces the other reasons for ultimate failure as lack of capital, an unrealistic policy or systematic production of undistinguished cars, tracing which, and to what extent, these applied to each of the makes he chooses to describe.
The result could not fail to fascinate and I read the proofs of this remarkable contribution to the obscurer aspects of motoring history while flying home from Sweden earlier this year in a welter of delight. The more so on account of the amount of detail included and the painstaking accuracy of Michael Sedgwick's research.
The book has an excellent choice of illustrations, which could have been better reproduced; better paper might also have been used. But the contents are a delight, offering hours of enjoyable reading and valuable sources of reference. The material is refreshingly new, because instead of merely closeting himself in his library or the offices of The Autocar Lord Montagu has met many of the people who were closely associated with the cars about which he writes.
I regret he stopped at 224 pages and hope for additional books on the same subject. Incidentally, the second title in the new series of Montagu Motor Books is concerned with MontIhéry Track, a sort of sequel to my tome about Brooklands, and Lord Montago's third book is to be a history of S.S. and Jaguar, for which he will welcome information that anyone can provide on that subject. – W. B.
"Touch Wood!" by Duncan Hamilton, with Lionel Scott. Foreword by the Rt. Hon. The Earl Howe, P.C., C.B.E. 229 pp. 8-3/4 in. x 5-1/2 in. (Barrie & Rockliff, 2, Clement's Inn, London, W. C. 2. 25s.)
Here is another refreshing one – decidedly refreshing! An account of Duncan Hamilton's career could hardly be otherwise. You may not approve of Duncan's hitting of the high-spots, his ability to combine drinking with motor racing, the beat-ups in hotels and bars after the races, and he does seem to have pranged more than his share of fast cars and aeroplanes.
One can well appreciate that when Earl Howe was asked to write a Foreword to "Touch Wood!" he felt compelled to remark that the man is lightly larger than life! Yet amongst the multitudinous motoring books this is another that you are recommended to buy for hard cash. Duncan's life has certainly been charmed, if not charming, and if you don't laugh out loud as you read his story I shall be disappointed!
Here is the autobiography of a driver of pre-war outlook, enjoying the sport of motor racing (and flying) for the fun and adventure he got out of it, instead of habitually huddling in a corner discussing how much he could earn by it.
Apart from the fun and games – you add up how many cars Hamilton pranged and write and tell me; if I tell you, you won't believe it: – there is a great deal of excellent description of real down-to-earth serious motor racing in this book, and some interesting technical comment emerges. Hamilton comparing disc with drum brakes, for example, describing what a V12 Ferrari feels like after a four-cylinder of the same make, discovering another reason why Jaguar needed dry-sump lubrication apart from keeping the lubricant cool and the ground clearance high, and his theory as to how Jaguar evolved the short-lived XKSS model.
Duncan's accounts of the Le Mans races in which he shared the winning car alone make his book worthwhile, and I admire him for touching only briefly on the 1955 accident which almost every person who saw it has felt compelled to dwell upon in lurid detail*. Hamilton saw it from uncomfortably close quarters before getting back into his Jaguar but dismisses it in 20 adequate lines. His description of how he and Tony Rolt won the 1953 Le Mans race after a night on the bottle and only six hours' sleep is one of the highlights of the book. That Duncan normally took motor racing seriously is proved by the surprising sacrifice on the part of so active a man, of spending a fortnight at Enton Hall on a dieting course.
I enjoyed Duncan's accounts of his friendship with King Feisal, of how the King would leave his Mercedes-Benz 300SL in the middle of Stratton Street in the rush-hour (knowing that a Mk. VII Jaguar full of chauffeurs was following, one of whom would park it!), of how Duncan gave the King tuition in driving a racing car at Odiham aerodrome. I admire a publisher who can provide three indices – of personalities, cars and races – and who uses the end-papers of the book for a delightful annotated illustration of a Jaguar pit-stop at Le Mans in 1957. The other illustrations are so good that I can almost overlook several irritating spelling errors and minor inaccuracies in the text.
Duncan's childhood was uproariously funny, his Brooklands days nostalgic, and the rest of his racing career fantastic. Out of this racy, never-dull book emerge his affection for the Lago-Talbot, his explanation of why Jaguar sacked him after he had won the 1956 Reims 12-hour sports-car race, his love of friends such as Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn, and the thought of how much his charming wife Angela has had to contend with!
The lives of those who dwell in offices or follow other mundane pursuits in search of a livelihood will be brightened momentarily, and very vividly, by taking "Touch Wood!" from the book-case occasionally. Now Duncan Hamilton has retired from racing and sails his 38-ton yacht Valmara. He contemplates a three-year cruise round the world, leading him to another book. Good! – W.B.
* The latest being Gregor Grant, in an article in Weekend for October 29/30th, which includes two disgusting photographs of the dead and dying.
"The M.G. Companion," by Kenneth Ullyett. Foreword by Capt. G. E. T. Eyston, O.B.E., M.C. 168 pp. 8-5/8 in. x 5-1/2 in. (Stanley Paul and Co.. 178-202, Great Portland Street, London, W.1. 15s.)
This is a history-cum-handbook of the M.G. marque by an author who has previously done the same service for Jaguar. There is new material in this little book, including the result of recent research into which (and when) was the first M.G., about M.G. personalities like John Thornley, Director and General Manager of the present M.G. Car Company, and about early Morris and M.G. cars There is also useful technical data for owners of past and present M.G.s. Although one day a full-scale history of the M.G. would be welcome, meanwhile "The M.G. Companion" fills the gap and is eminently readable. – W.B.
"Living With a Car," by Alexander Spoerl. 250 pp. 8 in. x 5-4/5 in. (Frederick Muller Ltd., 110, Fleet Street, London. E.C.4. 16s.)
Translated and adapted from the German by Otto Gregory, this book is too elementary to appeal to many of our reades, unless they read it for a laugh, and although it consists of humorous chapters followed by supposedly serious information, at the price it is a rather expensive laugh.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of good sound common-sense imparted to motorists by Spoerl, such as "Girls who thumb a lift only want a lift. They have had plenty of lifts in the past and usually look that way," or "Most people like sports cars. Older men feel young in them and attractive young women twice as attractive.'' If you want to learn erudite things like "Super fuels with a high benzole content are suspected of damaging the pistons of the newer types of two-stroke with their better fuel performance but tests are not yet complete. French types of super petrol containing alcohol may lead to damaged bearings but there are no exact data so far," or, of car-radio interference, "This can also be suppressed by fitting carbon brushes in the axles." Spoerl gives you plenty! – W. B.
"'The Autocar' Road Tests – Autumn 1960." 90 pp. 11-5/8 in. x 8-1/4 in. soft covers. (Iliffe & Sons Ltd., Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E.1. 6s. 6d.)
The annual appearance of an interim edition of the full book of reprints of detailed road test reports which have appeared in The Autocar is always welcome and this year's autumn edition particularly so, because it includes such interesting cars as the Lotus Elite, Porsehe Super 75, Renault Floride, Fiat 2100, DAF 600, Chrysler Valiant, Volga, Lancia Flaminia coupé and Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud amongst the 19 reports. Fastest car tested was the 3.8 Jaguar which attained 126 m.p.h. in overdrive top gear; most accelerative of the 19 cars the Jaguar again, which covered a standing-start 1/4-mile in 16.3 seconds; most economical the DAF 600, which returned 36-49 m.p.g.; a table at the end of this absorbing study of up-to-the-minute motor cars neatly summarising the figures The Autocar obtained.
The tests are very detailed and comprehensively illustrated, and no enthusiastic follower of matters motoring will regret spending a modest 6s. 6d. for so much useful information. – W.B.
"Cars of the Connoisseur," by J. R. Buckley. 272 pp. 8-9/10 in. x. 5-9/10 in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1. 30s.)
It is difficult to see the purpose of this book, apart from it being a very beautiful production, for although descriptions and illustralions of the world's better motor cars are collected between two covers, nothing much emerges that has not appeared previously in other books, many of them from Batsford themselves, or in the bound volumes of Motor Sport. The author chooses as his cars of the golden age, in this "Treasury of the Years of Grace," Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, Invicta, Lagonda, Bugatti, Delage, Ballot, Talbot, Isotta-Fraschini, Frazer Nash, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Duesenberg, Cord, Packard and Stutz, and we are left wondering why at least two purely sporting makes are included while such obvious aristocrats as Daimler, Lanchester and Sunbeam are excluded.
Each make is written up extremely well by the author and he appends attractive standardised specifications of the leading models at the close of each chapter. But thirty shillings is a lot to spend on a book which repeats mainly what has been written before and drags up so many old illustrations – the picture of the SSKL Mercedes-Benz, to name but one, is a manufacturer's hand-out which appears in Muller's "Book of Sports Cars," which is now available in an English edition, and the Talbot pictures have been used before.
Buckley might well own a used-car emporium trying to trade in the cars he describes, so eloquent is his praise of them, and his book lacks the detail and down-to-earth observations of Lord Montagu, for instance, in his "Lost Causes of Motoring." Perhaps the best aspect of "Cars for the Connoisseur" is the attention devoted to Rolls-Royce, which is not surprising, for the author owms a very fine 1933 short-chassis "Continental" Phantom II H. R. Owen Barker sedanca coupé; in the text he brushes off the smaller Rolls-Royce model – "the ladies' Rolls" – in a line or two. On the subject of Rolls-Royce this book does include useful detail, quoting chassis numbers at which certain changes in specification occurred, sorting out the differences in the "Continental" model and telling how the slogan "The Best Car in the World" originated – reminding us, incidentally, that Rolls-Royce servo braking owes much to Hispano-Suiza and Renault, the late-lamented centre-lock wire wheels to Hispano--Suiza under licence, and the present automatic transmission to General Motors of America.
The chapter on Rolls-Royce, which is the first in the book, is truly fascinating and this latest Batsford book will probably sell mainly to Rolls-Royce addicts, who should be able to find the rather high price the publishers ask and who may find in this chapter new facts, if these have not appeared previously in one or other of the R.-R. club bulletins. – W.B.
"Designing and Building a Sports Car," by N. Lockwood. 168 pp. 8-3/4 in. x 5-9/16 in. (G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 21s.)
All who yearn to build a sports car of their own, either for use on the road or in competition, thereby, incidentailly, saving themselves 50% purchase tax, will welcome Mr. Lockwood's book.
He goes step by step over the work involved in building in the home workshop a two-seater sports car, in his case with a Standard Eight engine, giving reasons behind his plans, calculations, the tools and equipment available, an account of how the all-enveloping body was made with sheet aluminium, and including information on how to licence the completed sports car. A useful guinea's-worth! – W. B.
"Farewell Victoria," by T. H. White. 187 pp. 8 in. x 5-3/8 in. (Jonathan Cape, 30, Bedford Square, London, W.C.1. 18s.)
Amongst all the foregoing motoring books we are glad to include a novel, by T. H. White, which touches on the subject but briefly. "Farewell Victoria," in its new illustrated edition, tells in inimitable T. H. White style, of the transition from Victorian to modern (well, 1929) times, seen through the eyes of a groom to the owner of a fine country estate. Mundy, this groom, never really comprehends the changes which come fast after King Edward has taken to motoring in Daimlers.
White never over-writes and to this reviewer has long been a favourite author, from the pre-war days when Motor Sport drew attention to his references to his 3-litre Bentley and his flying lessons in "England Have My Bones." "Farewell Victoria" has gone into five editions since it first appeared in 1933. We suggest you buy it and see if you like T. H. White as much as we do – if not, pass it on to those members of the family who think of other things besides motor cars, particularly to anyone who knows well the Hastings/St. Leonards area! – W. B.
"Grand Prix World Championship," by Louis T. Stanley. Foreword by Jack Brabham. 199 pp. 11-1/4 in. x 8-1/2 in. (W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd., Essex Street, London W.C.2. 45s.).
This is a pretty fabulous work by a journalist/photographer who has previously concentrated on golf, tennis and football. The book is a record of the Grand Prix season but as it deals with 1959 it is already dated. It is full of photographs, but Mr. Stanley is clearly better at "still" than action shots and some of the captions are more suited to the popular press than to a specialist publication.
But the author's descriptions, not only of the races but of the venues where they took place – he will surely be lynched by Liverpudlians for his honest account of that ghastly area – are entertaining, even more so his sketches of the drivers. There are complete lap charts, some extremely fine close-ups of celebrities, but blurred pictures of cars going fast and one of Moss so smudged that it should not have got anywhere near the book.
Jean Stanley, the only woman with a half-share in B.R.M. racing cars, is seen, as are all the personalities of the G. P. circus. There is plenty to enjoy in this great tome – the dust jacket contrives to be really beautiful and the rare posters that form the end-papers set the key-note to this ingenious book. – W. B.
"Racing an Historic Car," by Peter Bull. 160 pp. 8-1/2 in. x 5-5/16 in. (Motor Racing Publications, Ltd., 62, Doughty Street, London, W.C.1. 18s.)
Here is a little book which is great fun. It is Peter Bull's account of how brother Douglas races E.R.A. R9B, with many interesting asides on the enthralling subject of racing historic motor cars. Expensive for its size, this book will have to be afforded by all keen vintage-car chaps. It has some good pictures, better anecdotes and contains an appendix on E.R.A. history with notes on all the existing E.R.A.s, another on great moments in the life of R11B a third giving notes on E.R.A. operation (R9B runs on 84% methanol, 10% acetone, 5% pure benzole and 1% castor oil, which Douglas Hull mixes himself) and tabulated results of the Richard Seaman Memorial Trophies Race from 1950 to 1960.
The spirit which moved Peter Hull to write this inevitable book is well conveyed by his remark to a friend that although his Hawker Hunter aircraft accelerated faster than the E.R.A., he felt safer in it."Ah," retorted the friend, that is because in the Hunter you were under control. but in the E.R.A. you aren't! – W.B.
Sampson Low, Marston and Company have published "Sport International," edited by Charles Harvey, which is a companion volume to their extremely successful "Encyclopaedia of Sport." Motor racing gets its fair share of the well-illustrated contents, occupying six of the very large pages, compiled by W. Boddy. Editor of Motor Sport, who provides a short history of Grand Prix races in different countries as well as long tables of race results, etc. Other "mechanical" sports dealt with are cycle speedway, cycling, gliding, motorcycling (by Brian Collins of Motor Cycle News), speedway racing, and air records by (J. W. B. Taylor, Editor of Jane's "All the World's Aircraft "). At a mere 12s. 6d. this book represents astoundingly good value; it is an ideal Christmas present. It was a nice gesture of the publisher to hold a luncheon at the Waldorf Hotel for contributors and their guests; this resulted in a record assembly of world-famous personalities. For example, Boddy attended accompanied by Tony Brooks.
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"The Book of Sports Cars," by Charles Lam Markmann and Mark Sherwin, has gone into an English edition. We reviewed the American edition last March and felt obliged to point out that text and captions in this enormous 321-page tome contained some serious errors. A half-hearted attempt has been made to eradicate some of those we enumerated in the new edition and while the information it imparts is not entirely reliable, it does constitute a remarkable treasury of pictures – over 700 – of the world's fast cars of all ages. Autobooks of Brighton are supplying it, for £3 3s.
We have referred previously to the attractive key rings made by Richard E. Gomm, 63, Ford Street, Hockley, Birmingham, 18. Their latest key chain incorporates a Morris Mini-Minor/Austin Se7en motif, the car being available in the six colours in which the real cars are finished, in jewellers' enamel and chrome. At 4s. each these key chains should be in big demand amongst drivers of the B.M.C. twins. They are obtainable from Halfords and the leading garages.
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Those who enjoy decorating their cars with all kinds of badges and signs should know that plaques 7-1/4 in. x 3-1/4 in. bearing the name of a county and its coat of arms are sold by T. S. Ware (Wildhern) Ltd., Andover, Hampshire, for fixing to radiator grille, boot lid, etc.
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Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1, present The Motor Portfolio of Grand Prix Cars, 1960, this containing four folded supplements from that journal, covering the F.1 Cooper-Climax, Lotus-Climax, B.R.M. and Ferrari cars, each described in six illustrated pages, with a total of 22 full-colour pictures. 'the price is 3s. 6d.