Books for Christmas

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[With the approach of winter and British motoring more savagely taxed than ever, solace will be sought in “fireside motoring” through the medium of books, of which a record flood of new titles has been released for the festive season. We are devoting more space than usual to reviews of some of the more outstanding of them in this issue, and another expanded book-reviews feature will be published next month, to meet the period of book-token shopping.

As the books dealt with below range in price from 5s. to 63s 0d. all pockets as well as tastes are catered for. Apart from those reviewed here, our own publications, available from Grenville Publishing Co. Ltd., 15, City Road, London, E.C.1. continue in demand, these titles including “The History of Brooklands Motor Course – 1906-1940,” by William Boddy (50s), “The 200-Mile Race” by the same author (8s. 6d.), and “A Story of Formula One,” by D.S. Jenkinson, covering the 2½-litre seasons. (15s.). – ED.]

“An Illustrated History of the Bentley Car-1919-1931,” by W. O. Bentley. 192 pp. 9. 7/8 in. x 7½ in. (George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 40. Museum Street, London, W.C.2. 42s.)

One day historians will ponder on why the human race reveres ancient relics and especially why in the mid-nineteenth century old motor cars exercised such a gripping fascination for many men and a few women. When this theme is pursued they will undoubtedly reflect on the fact that the pre-Derby Bentley had at least seven full-length books and a number of photostat volumes of magazine articles devoted to it, to supplement the large quarterly issues of the B.D.C. Review.

This latest work is really a repetition, to a considerable extent, of the material contained in W. O. Bentley’s autobiography, yet it is fascinating in the extreme. That Richard Hough, who is W. O.’s ghost-writer, has been able to compile a two-guinea hook from some tape-recording sessions with Mr. Walter Bentley, a collection of his old photographs, some from professional sources, tear-outs from Bentley catalogues and instruction books, and some caption writing, is his good fortune—and fortune is an apt term, for this book should sell well. It begins with the origins and building of the very first Bentley, covers the racing years and the rise and decline of this great sports and high-performance car, in pictures mainly, these tying-in with the text.

W. O.’s comments on cars, people and places are superb, and the annotated photographs of the Bentley works in Oxgate Lane, Cricklewood—not much changed, apparently, today, below the current Simca concessionaires premises—presented as both aerial pictures of the exterior and interior views in which the names of the personnel and even what each pile of spare parts is, in the stores, sets the standard to which Hough and Bentley have presented this further history of the Bentley car.

The contents include Royal Bentleys, a model 3-litre, Bentley’s overseas, the book, which is likely soon to become a collector’s treasure, concluding with a meeting between W. O. and the magnificent Speed Six Bentley open tourer so painstakingly restored by Brian Morgan.

Some of the full-page plates are in colour and almost all the old favourites are there, with many new pictures, including, for example, a Speed Six chassis with test-rig lowing Sir Malcolm Campbell’s latest “Bluebird” Land-Speed Record car through London during a pre-war Lord Mayor’s Show—which pre-dates this year’s Lord Mayor’s Show by many years!

There are no apparent errors, except where—and I suspect Hough, not W. O.—a dynamometer is twice rendered as “dynamotor” which is a very different thing.

The blower-4½ Birkin cars are covered, amongst the enormous number of splendid pictures that make up this remarkable book. W. B.

* * *

“The Rolls-Royce Phantoms,” by D. B. Tubbs. 64 pp. 8½ in. x 8 2/5 in. (Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 90, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 15s.)

If the old Bentley has had a surprising number of words written about it, the earlier Rolls-Royce cars are now coming in for their share! We can expect reviews of several new books devoted to this illustrious make very soon, but this Hamish Hamilton Monograph by Douglas Tubbs is not to be scorned on that account.

Indeed, it is astonishingly good value; at fifteen-bob. The author writes of these great ears, from “New Phantom” to the current “Phantom V” in his inimitable style, after a lead-in through the immortal “Silver Ghost.” More important, he has contrived to include some fresh facts (such as telling us it was the late Geoffrey Smith of The Autocar who dissuaded R.-R. from putting the P.IV on the market and that the works P.IV truck, capable of 90 m.p.h. fully laden, wasn’t scrapped until last January) and a detailed chronological account of technical modifications down the years, model-by-model, in his story. There is a whole section on the little-known Phantom IV straight-eight of 1950-56, sold only to Royalty, with the engine used for military vehicles and Dennis fire-engines of that time—known as SC, far “Short Chassis,” or “Scalded Cat.” There are even catalogue reproductions and pictures of this model, and of the 5.6-litre engine installed in a P. III.

The pictures are plentiful, varied and worthwhile, if rather sombrely reproduced, and extracts from old R.-R. catalogues enable lots of drawings of engine, chassis and details of design to he presented. Although these line cars belong to an era when over- and understeer went virtually unheeded and one aid not choose or condemn a car for the way in which it could be flung through corners, so that the respect this little volume generates for the Phantoms is very different from that in which Pomeroy “Mini Story” engulfs the modern B.M.C. small-cars, the enthusiasm of Tubbs is equally infectious.

A nice touch is his reference to, and illustrations of, cars which were contemporary with and of similar size and purpose to the Rolls-Royce Phantoms, and which, if I may be permitted the remark, were in effect their rivals – 40/50 Napier, Hispano-Suiza, Daimler Double-Six, 32/34 Minerva, Voisin, D8S Delage, 8-litre Bentley, Bugatti Royale, Cadillac V16, Lincoln, Chrysler Imperial and Mercedes-Benz 600-are included by the author in this context. This leads to his only obvious error—the 32/34 Minerva had an engine capacity of just under 6-litres, not 9-litres as quoted. Perhaps Tubbs confused it with the Renault 45? No-one but Tubbs, surely, could have concluded so delightfully, with the words: “Rolls-Royce are like good manners. Even their mistakes are beautifully made.”

This book has been very well thought out and will be in big demand amongst R.-R. fanatics as a very good quick-reference to the technical make-up of the Phantoms-and what they were all about. I envy authors with sufficient time and energy to write such books—by the time I have finished toiling for Motor Sport they will all have been written, and the fortunes made!—W. B.

* * *

“The World’s Land Speed Record,” by William Boddy. 99 pp. 7¼ in. x 4 2/5 in. (Phoenix House Ltd., 10-13, Bedford Street, London, W.C.2. 15s.)

Here is one that I did have time to write—back in 1951. It has been re-published at an opportune tune, inasmuch as in future jet-propulsion is to be permitted for attacks on the fastest-ever land-speed record, so this book probably brings the history of attempts by cars driven through their wheels, which originated in 1898 and possibly concluded with Donald Campbell’s 403 m.p.h. in the gas-turbine, but wheel-driven, “Bluebird,” to a close.

Exigencies of photolitho re-printing have caused me to do a minimum of revision, so that the subsequent fate and ownership of some of the great record cars of the past is inaccurate, but the only serious error I could find in the original Motor Racing Publications’ spirally-bound edition has been eradicated, a description of Donald Campbell’s car and its record attacks added, and the photographs revised and many new ones included.

I have set out to show how the motor-car absolute speed record rose from under 40 m.p.h. to over 400 m.p.h. in a span or sixty-six years, to explain the rules that governed these attempts and how they were revised from time to time, and to describe in fair detail the technical make-up of cars like Parry Thomas’ crude Liberty-engined “Balls,” the twin-engined “1,000-h.p.” Sunbeam (now, like the Campbell 350-h.p. V12 Sunbeam, in the Montagu Motor Museum), the 4-litre V12 Sunbeam “Ladyird,” the Golden Arrow, the many variants of Malcolm Campbell’s “Bluebirds,” G. E. T. Eyston’s fabulously-powerful, multi-wheeled “Thunderbolt” (since destroyed by fire), and Cobb’s so-successful four-wheel-drive twin Napier Lion-engined Railton-Mobil-Special, seen, with the “Golden Arrow” and the latest “Bluebird,” in the recent Lord Mayor’s Show.

I have tried to explain the problems and perils which each of these great cars presented to their constructors and drivers and to include details of unsuccessful or never-undertaken attempts by Lockhart’s little Stutz, Foresti’s Djelmo, Kaye Dons Sunbeam “Silver Bullet,” the 44½-litre Mercedes-Benz, and others. The venture has been marred by memories of the shock of Parry Thomas’ fatal accident, read as a newspaper story when I was 14, by the people who are even now pointing out the few errors that incomplete revision of the text has incurred, and the attitude of one of the big petrol companies, which refused to review the book in their house-journal because I have not included any reference to record attempts sponsored by them but broken after the book went to Press!

May I be permitted to explain that the retention of much of the text in its 1951 form enables the publishers to offer the book for 15s. This book does tell a good deal about this specialised and, to me, fascinating aspect of high-speed motoring, and I would like to thank Capt. G. E. T. Eyston, O.B.E., M.C., who himself took the record to 357.5 m.p.h., for writing the Foreword, as he did for my book about Montlhéry Track. He generously says: “This excellent book, sometimes going into great detail, should stimulate the imagination about what might be possible in the future, and leaves no doubt as to what has already been accomplished. Bill Boddy has done much to help us appreciate what is entailed in one of the ways of swallowing up the ground faster and faster. He has shown how determination, courage and a strong sense of purpose have brought the record-breakers to a successful journey’s end.”—W. B.

* * *

“The Mini Story,” by Laurence Pomeroy. 176 pp. 7½ in. x 6½ in. (Temple Press Books Ltd., 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 21s.)

One-make histories are legion; here is a book about one model, or type, from the British Motor Corporation (or Austin) drawing office. Pomeroy has written a very complete, honest, analytical and readable account of how the Issigonis ADO15 Mini Minor was wooed, conceived, weaned and brought to maturity. More than that, he parts the curtains a little on the private life of Alec Issigonis, the elusive. And has not offended, apparently, because quite one of the most delightful parts of this unique book is the Introduction by Alec Arnold Issigonis, C.B.E.

In his Introduction, Issigonis remarks that he hopes he has made a small contribution to humanity by converting Pomeroy to the advantages of a front-, versus a rear-engined, car. Certainly, after digesting Pomeroy’s many words of wisdom, one is forced to the perhaps startling conclusion that the Mini Minor and its ADO16 and 51 derivatives are not just very good cars in comparison with those from other factories, but really bear no resemblance to them—they are something at once superior and entirely different. Or were, until the Autobianchi Primula and Peugeot 204 arrived in the same image, albeit with less sophisticated transmission and suspension.

As such, the Mini fully deserves Pomeroy as its chronicler, biased as he must be, with his B.M.C. Press associations. He has accomplished this task, or calling, with commendable industry. The book goes into a few absorbing details about Issigonis’ early career including the advanced 3i-litre o.h.c. V8 car with ingenious transmission and pioneer interconnected hydraulic suspension he designed for Alvis in 1954/55, and describes Pomeroy’s own rival to the ADO15, in the form of a light-alloy transverse air-cooled rear-engined small car with Firestone air-bag i.r.s. It covers every conceivable aspect of Mini-lore—development, variants, design problems, production troubles and how they were overcome, International journalists’ opinions of the Mini impact, rally and racing successes, presentation to the World’s Press (Pomeroy had to include that chapter!), the relationship of the Mini (originally to have been a 425-c.c. twin-cylinder) to conventional cars, the Cooper, Cooper-S, Moke, Twinis, Wolseley Hornet, Riley Elf, and other off-shoots of the original ingenious conception—it is all there, presented with Pomeroy persuasion, so that this is a book easy to devour, difficult to put down, and one which will enhance Mini owners’ warm affection for their little cars.

There are technical drawings, historic photographs and Issigonis’ own characteristic sketches of a project for which Lord Lambury (then Sir Leonard Lord), when he was head of B.M.C., promised bravely to sign the cheques, and which has subsequently sold over a million cars, cars which have lifted Britain out of the rut of building only dated, conventional automobiles. Naturally, much of the material has been published previously in The Motor (as it then was) but there is but little disadvantage in that.

This could so easily have become a necessary but dull treatise, entrusted to anyone else but to Pomeroy. As it is, it is enjoyable in the extreme and a tremendous tribute to Lord Lambury, to whom “The Mini Story is dedicated, and to Issigonis. All the more pity, therefore, that better paper wasn’t used, and the proofs read more carefully. As it is, at least one sentence does not make sense and there is a number of other errors. The index is superficial.

This does not prevent the book from being one of the best pieces of motoring entertainment I have enjoyed for a long time. How the publishers have the audacity to charge a guinea for it when it is written by someone who is closely associated with B.M.C. publicity and will help to sell a great many more frontdrive, “East-West,” or “’Chinese’-engined” B.M.C. cars, is their affair!—W. B.

* * *

“‘Motor’ Road Tests-1964 Series,” 276 pp. 11½ in. x 8 1/8 in. Soft covers. (Temple Press Books, 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 17s. 6d.)

This big soft-cover volume constitutes a better present than many of the more conventional, and often more expensive, conventional books, at all events to keen students of modern car design and performance, because it is packed with data and performance figures, in the form of reprints of fifty Motor road-test reports.

This means masses of pictures, figures, facts and tables. The cars dealt with range from 600-c.c. N.S.U. Sport Prinz to the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III, seventeen of the cars tested exceeding too m.p.h. The tests range over seven estate cars, five sports cars, twelve GT cars, the fastest of them being the 146.6-m.p.h. Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.

Tabulated data at the end of the book shows that this Chevrolet was also the most accelerative of the cars tested over a s.s. ¼-mile (14.6 sec.), while the most economical was the Austin Mini Super de luxe, with an overall 37.3 m.p.g.

Altogether a most informative work of reference which would be welcome in the “Christmas stockings” of many husbands and boy-friends.—W. B.

* * *

“Motor Car Index-1928-1929.” 175 pp. 10 in. x 8 in.
“Commercial Motor Index-1913-24.” 106 pp. 10 in. x 8 in.
“Motor Cycle Index-1913-24.” 107 pp. 10 in. X 8 in. (Autopress Ltd., Bennett Road, Brighton, Sussex. Respectively 25s., 21s. and 21s.)

Having had great success with their reprint of Fletcher & Son’s “Motor Car Index-1918-29,” two years ago, and for which a demand continues to exist, Autopress Ltd. have put in hand reproductions of the above titles. They give detailed specifications of the cars (260 makes), commercial vehicles (210 makes) and motorcycles (203 makes) for the periods specified, and form a truly valuable and absorbing source of reference, long out of print. W. B.

* * *

“Parker’s Lot,” by Alan Zafer. 120 pp. 8½ in. x 5 1/5 in. Soft covers. (Frederick Muller Ltd., Ludgate House, Ito, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4. price 5s.)

This little book consists of some 60 photographic reproductions of those arch-enemies of the motorist, the Traffic Wardens, at work. The pictures are by Alan Zafer, Youngman Carter and Michael Geare, some possibly pre-meditated, even posed, the rest pretty spontaneous—and combustible.

Normally we do not like captions deliberately written to fit a picture of something quite different, but those in this little book are really very funny and take the “micky” out of the Wardens very effectively.

If you have managed to escape scotfree from their manifestations, you might well celebrate by buying this book. If you have been fined on account of them, buy it as a means of condolence. You might even wrap one up as a Christmas present for your “favourite” warden !—W. B.

* * *

“Works Driver,” by Piero Taruffi. 120 pp. 8 1/5 in.x 5 1/5 in. (Temple Press Books, 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 30s.)

When the well-known engineer, gentleman and racing driver Piero Taruffi, wrote his book “The Technique of Motor Racing,” he promised us his autobiography. This is it—translated front the Italian by Douglas Tubbs.

It is an absorbing story, by a top-rank driver, competing mainly for pleasure, in all the principal branches of the Sport as a works driver for Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lancia, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Delage and Vanwall. From Formula Three 500-c.c. dicing to Grand Prix racing, culminating in victory in the Mille Miglia, Taruffi keeps the audience, his readers, enthralled.

Taruffi also writes, too of his motorcycle races and his record-breaking runs. He has balanced judgments to make about the World’s leading racing drivers of several different periods and apparently disliked Farina and thought Bonetti a fool.

The book is splendidly illustrated throughout its art-paper pages and has an appendix listing the author’s driving record from 1923 to 1957. There are few serious errors, although Taruffi is wrong in ascribing victory at Tripoli in 1933/34/35 to Varzi, because Caracciola’s Mercedes-Benz was victorious there in the last-named year. It is somewhat debatable whether “British Racing Green” stemmed from the colour of Jarrott’s Panhard in 1901 Paris-Berlin race, as the book states, or from the hue of Edge’s Napier when it won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1902. Certainly, on page 77, the “key” corner at Berne where Varzi was killed and about which Taruffi has much to explain, goes right- not left-handed! Geoff. Duke won the G.P. des Nations at Monza, not Monte Carlo (p. 124), and it was Levegh, not Lebeque, who was involved in the terrible accident at Le Mans in 1955.

But those are minor, if rather surprising; errors. “Works, Driver” is one of the great racing-driver autobiographies of our time.—W.B.

* * *

“Most Women Do It,” by Joyce Wilkins. 151 pp. 8 1/5 in. 5 2/5 in. (George Newnes Ltd., Tower House, Southampton Street, London, W.C.2. 16s.)

This is a lighthearted account by the eye-catching wife of motoring journalist and TV broadcaster Gordon Wilkins of how a girl can learn to drive better than a man. The illustrations, aptly, are by the inimitable Brockbank.

Finding life intolerable without a car when her husband was away, Joyce Wilkins acquired a B.M.C. Mini Pick-Up. She tells of the trials of learning to drive this and then unfolds the story of her motoring life to date, with great helpings of advice and philosophy, in chapters headed Navigation, Night Driving, Solo to Monte Carlo, Minor Repairs, Safety Equipment, Bad Weather Driving, Passengers, Luggage and Picnics, Road Law, etc.

I have heard this little book described as superficial by an expert motoring editor, but perhaps he is too expert to appreciate it. I liked the slight intrusion of autobiographical anecdote into the story and no doubt this one will be found in many wives’ and girl-friends’ “Christmas stockings.” Unless the title troubles them…—W. B.

* * *

“Farewell To Wings,” by Cecil Lewis. 84 pp. 7½ in. x 6 2/5 in, (Temple Press Books, 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 16s.)

“Sagittarius Rising,” by this author, is one of the finest books ever written about flying during and just after the 1914/18 war. Now Cecil Lewis, who was one of the founders of the B.B.C. apart from his flying activities and who flew a Miles Gemini from England to Johannesburg after the Second World War, has followed it up with this delightful account of the early aeroplanes he remembers.

Each short chapter deals with one particular aeroplane— Maurice Farman Longhorn, Shorthorn, B.E. 2c, Avro 504, F.E. 2b, B.E. 12, Bristol Scout, Morane Parasol, Morane Biplane, Morane Scout, Bristol Fighter, Martinsyde Elephant, Sopwith Triplane, D.H. 4, R.E. 8, S.F. 5, and so on, concluding with the big Handley Page and Vickers Vimy twin-engined machines.

Sometimes Lewis includes a chapter on a type he flew but once, or not at all. Some of his reminiscences have been lifted unaltered out of “Sagittarius Rising.” But always he captures exactly the spirit of the old R.F.C. days, with asides about fighting tactics, formation flying, forced landings and so on, and briefly but very effectively he aptly captures the characteristics of each aeroplane (I wish he wouldn’t call them aircraft) that he flew.

The illustrations, simple, very clear drawings by Leonard Bridgman, are exactly in sympathy. Technical errors there may be but, if there are they are few and unimportant—the most powerful Wolseley-Hispano engine used in the S.E. 5 was of 220 h.p., not 250 h.p., and if Lewis, aged 17½, rode past the sewage farm to the aeroplane sheds at Brooklands in 1915 on his 2½-h.p. Lea-Francis two-stroke motorcycle, on his way to train on Farman Longhorns, he was presumably permitted to ride along the Railway straight. Such carping apart, this is an altogether admirable book for those who thrive on nostalgia, capturing so very well the atmosphere of flying aeroplanes as a leather-helmeted pilot, when, as the author has it, such men “were the last to enter the age-long lists of single-handed combat. Alone, without parachute or radio, we fought our own fight high in the sky like champions before the eyes of the armies beneath. There we won, or lost, lived or died, by our own skill and courage —and no Big Brother breathed down our necks and told us what to do.”

The aeroplanes out of history which made such exploits possible live vividly again in these brief pages, and anyone who remembers the “bitter nutty tang of burnt castor oil” (p. 71) from the days when the author flew a Sopwith Pup 50 miles from Rochford to take supper with friends in Suffolk and “put down in a field where the Kingston by-pass now runs, to walk up to Combe Hill and spend the evening with Lily Elsie and Ivor Novello),” will enjoy this splendid little book.—W. B.

* * *

“Bristol Aircraft Since 1910” by C. H. Barnes. 415 pp. 8¾ in. x 5 3/5 in. (Putnam & Co., 42, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 63s.)

This is another of Putnam’s painstaking aviation history hooks. C. H. Barnes devotes 43 pages to a history of the Bristol Aeroplane Company itself and then covers all the Bristol aeroplanes, from the Bristol Zodiac of 1910 to the Types 172-188 turbo aircraft of today, in text, picture, scale drawings and tabulated specifications.

To the serious aviation student the result is an absorbing, highly informative work, with new photographs, fascinating data and fresh facts on nearly every page. The Bristol post-Armistice association with Armstrong Siddeley bodywork and the experimental monocars is touched upon; but mainly this is an authoritative amid very detailed study of Bristol aeroplanes down the years. Ironically, the Frontispiece is of the Shuttleworth Trust Bulldog, alas since destroyed.

It is in such books as these that British publishers excel, and Putnam’s aviation titles will do much to stem the sale of foreign publications in spite of their exemption from the new imports: surcharge. The intimate detail devoted to the development of the various Bristol types, the notes on their success in active combat during the wars, and notes on the ultimate fate of individual aeroplanes, together with the excellent and profuse pictures, make the cost of this book entirely acceptable.—W. B.

* * *

“The Mad Motorists,” by Allen Andrews. 256 pp. 8½ in. x 5 3/5 in. (George C. Harrop & Co. Ltd., 182, High Holborn London, W.C.1. 25s.)

This is another account of the fantastic Peking-Paris Race of 1907. Great research has been undertaken to write it and the style is of a journalistic, roes’ story, with much reported conversation, the great Majority of which, the author assures his readers, is authentical, 57 years later! The dramatic story of how Charles Godard’s Spyker tried to Outwit Prince Scipione Borgherse’s Itala is told—dramatically. But T. R. Nicholson has done it all before, more calmly, in his masterful “Adventurer’s Road” (Cassell, 1957).—W. B.

* * *

Hugh Evelyn Ltd., 9, Fitzroy Square, London, W.1, have issued another of their enormous pictorial history books, this one dealing with early ‘buses and trams, the work of David J. Trussler. It will be a source of joy to tramway enthusiasts and includes the 1909 Commer single-deck country ‘bus, L.G.O.C. 1910 B-type and 1919 K-type London motor-buses. It costs 55s., and single loose plates from it 8s. each.

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