Motor books for Christmas

“The Silver Lady,” by Neville Minchin. Foreword by the Rt. Hon. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. 180o pp. 8 7/8 in. x 5 in. (G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, Holborn, London, E.C.1. 2.5s.)

Neville Minchin, now resident in Cape Town, has a vast knowledge of Rolls-Royce matters and in “The Silver Lady,” dedicated to his old friend The Rt. Hon. Lord Hives, C.H., M.B.E., D.Sc., LL.D., he sets down the story of fifty years in the life of a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, told by the car itself. This is an unusual, part-fictional approach to the subject which may not have everyone’s approval, and is naive in places, but which makes it easier to include some hitherto unpublished facts about Rolls-Royce Ltd., some of them insignificant but intensely interesting for all that, in a story that unfolds smoothly and with considerable fascination.

This is a refreshingly new history of Rolls-Royce, which will please all followers of the “best car in the World,” although some of the anecdotes come from earlier works, including Minchin’s fine book “Under My Bonnet.”

It would be unfair to the author to quote any of his fresh facts or even to tell of the exploits of the 1911 Rolls-Royce 40/50 h.p. in whose name the story is told. The book deserves better paper, and proof-reading. The illustrations are fun, such as that depicting a penny balanced on the filler cap of a Rolls-Royce the engine of which is running (I find difficulty in making a penny stand on edge on a normal surface!), but they are indifferently reproduced and some, inevitably, are old “hand-outs.” Mr. Minchin was very anxious, when writing this book, to get hold of a picture of troop trains travelling along the Weybridge-Byfleet embankment on August Bank Holiday 1914 while the cars raced below. He asked me if I could rind one but, alas, I couldn’t. I am disappointed to see that he has compromised with a Gordon Crosby picture of the 350-h.p. Viz Sunbeam on the Railway straight in 1922—true, a train appears above, but surely not a troop train? But other pictures in the book are rare, and illustrations of Sir Henry Royce’s house and drawing office at Le Canadel and the monuments to Rolls in Monmouth and Royce in Derby are included. Obviously the author knew the people of which the car speaks but the car itself is fictitious for it ends its days at the Montagu Motor Museum and although they possess several Rolls-Royce exhibits, there is no 1911 Silver Ghost amongst them.—W. B.

“Racing and Sports-Car Chassis Design,” by Michael Costin and David Phipps. 147 pp. 8 15/16 in. x 6 in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, Portman Square, London, W.1. 30s.)

Road-holding is the essence of rapid motoring and this erudite offering deals with the design of twin-tube, multi-tubular and space-frame chassis through the eyes of Michael Costin, Development Engineer of Lotus Cars Ltd., interpreted by David Phipps.

Years ago Pitman’s published a little book by Maurice Platt, Vauxhall Motors, which was my bible on automobile design, and which I have since recommended to countless students. This new Batsford book does the same job more thoroughly, in respect of cars of today. Two chapters are devoted to analysis of space and unitary construction chassis and of multi-tubular and other chassis, and the closing chapters cover suspension principles, types of suspension and how to design a modern motor car.

Examples of the frame construction of Lotus, Lister-Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Lola, Elva, Jaguar, Austin Healey Sprite, Cooper, Ferrari and Maserati Type 601 are given, backed up by some very clear line-drawings by James Allington.—W. B.

“‘The Autocar’ Road-Tests—Autumn 1961.” 11 5/8 in. x 8 5/16 in. (Iliffe Books Ltd., Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E.1. 6s. 6d.)

“‘The Motor’ Road-Tests—1961 Edition.” 11 1/2 in. x 8 1/4 in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1. 12s. 6d.)

“‘The Motor’ Sports-Car Road-Tests—First Series.” 11 1/4 in. x 8 in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C. 1. 12s. 6d.)

Once again the time has come round for the advent of these welcome road-test annuals, with test reports and tabulated data reproduced from past issues of the two leading weekly motor journals. The Autocar’s offering is an intermediate publication covering their autumn road-tests, from A.C. Greyhound to Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. The fastest car tested in this period was the Jaguar E-type, at 151.7 m.p.h., and this car was by far the quickest over the s.s. 1/4-mile, in 14.7 sec. The most economical of the 20 well-illustrated cars with which this 6s. 6d. book deals was the Citroën Bijou, which returned 49.2 m.p.g. overall.

The Motor annual covers 43 test reports in 176 pages and contains over 420 illustrations. It is splendid value at 12s. 6d. The cars covered range from Bristol-engined A.C. Greyhound to the Warwick G.T. The fastest of the 43 was the Jaguar E-type, which in this case did 149.1 m.p.h., it being a soft-top whereas The Autocar tested the coupé. This Jaguar was also best over the s.s. 1/4-mile (15 sec.), while the most economical was the Fiat 500 Giardiniera station-wagon that gave 46.3 m.p.g.

Both books have soft covers and carry some advertising, The Autocar’s more so than The Motor’s, and The Motor is more thorough in presenting specifications and data, even to inclusion of coachwork equipment and servicing information.

This year, for those who are interested only in sports cars, The Motor publishes its First Series Sports-Car Road-Test book, which covers 26 selected sports cars from the 328-c.c. Berkeley to the 6,286-c.c. Facel Vega HK500, all, in fact, British apart from the latter. This fascinating book, which ranges from A.C. Ace-Bristol to Warwick G.T. and includes such exciting machinery as the Morgan Plus Four, Jaguar E-type, Daintier SP250, T.V.R. Grantura with M.G.-A 1600 engine, and Aston Martin DB4 and DB2-4 with Vantage engine, is no bad idea in view of the fact that Mr. Harriman of B.M.C. drew attention recently to the fact that sports cars are resuscitating the Corporation’s exports. The period covered goes back to 1951, for inclusion of the Allard J2 with Cadillac engine, and it is significant that of the 26 sports cars tested 16 exceeded 100 m.p.h., most of them by a generous margin, and half-a-dozen were timed at over 120 m.p.h. The “ton,” obviously, is out of date. This book costs 12s. 6d.—W. B.

“Motor Racing Facts and Figures,” by Rodney L. Walkerley. 196 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 11/16 in. (B. T. Botsford Ltd., 6, Fitzhardinge Street, Portman Square, London, W.1. 18s.)

We cannot think what prompted the publishers to issue this book, which must not be confused with the excellent Foulis work with a similar title, by George Monkhouse. This one is purely a work of reference, illustrated merely with a few mediocre lineblocks, which purports to list facts and figures of racing from 1894 to 1960. As such, you would think accuracy an essential. Alas, a great many errors have intruded, destroying any value the book might have had. For instance, Sommer is described as dying in a Cooper 500 whereas he was at the wheel of a V-twin Cooper when he crashed. Segrave’s first success is given as occurring in 1922, yet he won the J.C.C. 200-Mile Race of 1921. Duray’s Christian name is rendered as Albert on page 26, as Arthur, correctly, in the index. Speeds are quoted as World records when they were timed in one direction only, as with Duray at Ostend in 1913 and Oldfield at Daytona in 1910, whereas after 1910 the A.I.A.C.R. insisted on two-way runs. Marriott’s Land Speed Record is given as 127 instead of the official 121 m.p.h. Race results are given variously as first place, the first two, or all three places, for no apparent reason, drivers’ Christian names or initials sometimes included, sometimes left out, races appear in any order, and engine sizes are sometimes incorrect, such as 2 1/2-litres for the 1,998-c.c. straight-eight Triumph Dolomite, 15-litres instead of 7.7-litres for Edge’s 1907 24-hour-record Napier, 15 1/4-litres for the 16.2-litres of the 1907 G.P. Fiat and 20-litres for the 21.7-litres of Eldridge’s aero-engined Fiat. Scales is quoted as winning Montlhéry’s inaugural race, whereas Boddy in his book about Montlhéry gives the first race to Dhome’s Morgan or, of the four-wheelers, Gordon England’s Austin Seven. Scales’ victory came at a meeting some weeks later! A V12 Lagonda is quoted as having won the 1935 Le Mans Race, whereas no such car then existed, the winning car being a 4 1/2-litre Six.

Indeed, the further you read the more astonishing become the number of errors and your surprise that Batsford let them through. It is possible to come upon a driver declared as killed in a race, only to find the same man a finisher in a race further down the page. The 1937 G.P. Mercedes is given coil rear springs instead of torsion bars, the new Alfa Romeo racer of 1938 is given as Type 157 on page 75, but as Type 158 ten pages later, on page 78 an Avus race is listed but no results are given, the P3 Alfa Romeo of 1932 is said to have “lasted for five years” on page 45 but is declared as “obsolete in 1936” on page 63, and its engine size changes from 2.7 to 2.9-litres, Pat Griffith who won the 1952 T.T. with Collins is called Peter, page 124 tells us the first Vanwall victory was in the 1956 International Trophy Race, regardless of Schell’s Vanwall being given as winner at Castle Combe in 1955, similarly the 2 1/2-litre B.R.M.’s first victory is quoted as the 1957 International Trophy, whereas Behra gained its first victory at the Caen G.P. that year, as listed on the next page. On page 128 Hawthorn is described as finishing second at Naples in 1957 in a V6 F.2 Ferrari, whereas it was Musso who had the new car, and Moss’ B.R.M. is named as a private R. R. C. Walker entry in the 1959 French G.P. whereas the car was a B.R.P. entry, while we wonder whether Mickey Thompson would agree with Walkerley that his Challenger record car “proved unstable at speeds 50 m.p.h. below the record”? Page 148 refers to Ferrari’s V12 3-litre as a rear-engined car, an Appendix listing the first major victories by given cars in major races quotes 1926 for Austin (1923, surely, at Monza), mistakes the 1954 British G.P.-winning Ferrari for a “Squalo” and quotes the C-type Jaguar that won Le Mans in 1951 as an XK120. The B.R.M. is again given its first victory at Silverstone instead of Caen, ditto for Vanwall, overlooking Castle Combe. And so on…. Avoid this one.—B. J.

“Death and Four Lovers,” by Joseph Carter. 332 pp. 8 1/16 in. x 5 3/8 in. (Cassell and Co., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 16s.)

This is a motor-racing novel, of which there is now quite a selection, but few good ones, amongst which, however, one can include “Speed Triumphant.” The sinister title is perhaps an apt one in view of the obsession novelists have for the thrill and danger aspect of motor racing. Carter is as bad as the rest of them! The “Death” hero is an American driver, No. 2 in a top-line team of what would be fictitious Ferraris or Mercedes-Benz if they were not painted blue. The author, who has raced himself, writes good descriptions of racing cars and the driving of them. He makes his drivers intelligent, educated men, not the dare-devil grease-boys of paperbacks, and you will have to read closely to detect errors—although one doubts whether the Team Manager would himself work on the cars’ engines. It is clear that Joseph Carter doesn’t like Germans or own a Porsche! And one becomes bored to tears with the innumerable drinks and women his American hero-driver requires to keep him going—which should make Phil Hill raise his eyebrows.

There is a strong love interest involving American girls throughout the book, written vividly in the modern manner—what John Galsworthy could do in a few lines by innuendo today’s writers do in lurid detail with an eye on the censor…..

Not an important book, this is light sexy Christmas entertainment for those who like motor racing mixed with this sort of thing.

The Model Aeronautical Press Ltd., 38, Clarenden Road, Watford, Herts, has published a truly comprehensive book of great value to model aeroplane enthusiasts. It is the “Control Line Manual,” by R. G. Moulton, price 15s.

A curious little picture book by Warren Seymour, called “Looking Back—Cars,” price 2s., has reached us. The author acknowledges the help of National Benzole, the V.C.C. and the S.M.M.T., so the errors are all the more curious—the odd statement that “it was never really decided whether the Amilcar was a sports or a racing car” below a picture of one of the most pedestrian of Amilcar light cars, a picture of a circa 1923 B.S.A. claimed to belong to the 1933-36 era, a Belsize Bradshaw with no worthwhile explanation of why it is in the book, a long-chassis Bentley tourer labelled a Le Mans model, a racing Brescia Bugatti dated “early 1930,” the 5-c.v. Citroën “Cloverleaf” endowed with an 11.4 engine, a large Humber designated an 8/18, the wrong h.p. for a Lagonda light car, a Paige captioned as a Palladium and a La Salle as a Panhard-Levassor, a 6-cylinder Talbot posing as a 10/23, etc. Rather a lot of mistakes, even if we all commit them! Avoid Mr. Seymour. He will only confuse you.

Motor Racing Publications Ltd. have again co-operated with Charles Letts in producing the 64-page Letts Motor Racing Diary. This contains a lot of motor-racing data, such as circuit maps, rules and regulations, lists of race winners, and pictures of 1961 racing cars (important for identification purposes now that all racing cars are so similar!), the usual maps (on which navigation is possible, although it once led the writer to end up in Wales on a journey from Cornwall to London) and the usual diary features. The Editor of Motor Sport has used a Letts Motor Racing Diary with every satisfaction all this year. These diaries come in four colours, green, brown, red or blue, include a pencil, and cost 7s. in leather or 9s. 6d. in de luxe leather. Postage is 6d. extra, from MRP, 62, Doughty Street, London, W.1. Here, certainly, is an ideal Christmas gift.

A Further Selection: In case your choice of Christmas reading is not satisfied by the reviews above we have asked an unbiased member of the staff to list a recommended selection of the 1961 motoring “best-sellers.” Here they are:—

“F. W. Lanchester—The Life of an Engineer,” by P. W. Kingsford (Edward Arnold, 30s.).
“Montlhéry—The Story of the Paris Autodrome-1924-1960,” by William Boddy (Cassell, 25s.).
“Sir Henry Segrave,” by Cyril Posthumus (Batsford, 21s.).
“The Grand Prix Year,” by Louis Stanley (Max Parish, 45s.).
“The Sports Car Pocketbook,” by William Boddy (Batsford, 8s. 6d.).
“Jaguar—a Biography,” by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (Cassell, 30s.).

Good reading!