Book for Christmas

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“The Complete Encyclopaedia of Motorcars.” Edited by G. N. Georgano. 751 pp. 10.5 in. x 8510. (Ebury Press Ltd., Chestergate House, Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW 1 V 1 H F. £9.50.)

When the first edition of Nick Georgano’s all-embracing Encyclopaedia was published, Motor Sport described it as a stupendous and complete book. Little did we realise that this publication Rainbird prepared for Ebury Press would have such a ready sale that it would justify reprints of the original 1968 edition in the three following years and that it would be revised and re-issued this year. As a reference work to the World’s cars it is admittedly unique, carrying on what Doyle started as just a list of manufacturers’ addresses and dates of manufacture. As a huge collection of pictures of popular and rare cars dating from 1885 the enormous tome is very fascinating browsing material. But the real proof of its worth to historians, the Industry, old-car restorers and owners, students of the motor-car and the simply curious is this quick re-issue, within six years of the first edition, of what is not exactly an inexpensive book.

The indefatigable Georgano, given the green light, set about eradicating errors, adding a great amount of new text and fresh pictures, and generally tidying-up a reference work covering 88 years of the automobile and every conceivable make and model, alphabetically, from the two different AAAs to Zwickau. In between the coverage is breath-taking, with pictures not only of most of the makes, be they never so rare or unheard of, but of popular models of these makes as well. Fresh authors were recruited for the formidable task, and much midnight electricity must have been consumed in the making of this remarkable book.

There are, as if ordinary text, and pictures to the number of over 2,000, are not sufficient, many fine colour-plates, a long Introduction as to the purpose, arrangement and use of the contents, a glossary of technical terms, and indices covering not only the 4,000 and more makes dealt with in excellent potted-history style, but of personalities, component makers and agents, and sporting events and venues referred to in the text. Stupendous! The Model-T Ford on the first dust-jacket has given place to a 3-litre Bentley and supporting sports cars.

If I had to choose any one annual-type motoring book to take to that proverbial desert island — or more likely, being a motorist, to prison — I would go unhesitatingly for Georgano’s great compilation, if I wanted to have enough to study to remain sane, instead of something light with which to just pass the time. — W.B.

“World Cars-1973”. Edited by L’Editrice Dell’Automobile Lea. 439 pp. 11 in. /. 94 in. (Herald Books, 3, Henrietta Street, London, WC2E 8LU. £5.80).

We have reviewed previously this most useful annual, which every year covers the World’s production cars in great detail, specification-wise and from the viewpoint of performance data. Anyone who requires to know about the intimate details of many different cars needs this book, the 1974 edition of which can be expected by the middle of next year. It contains illustrations of cars and their components, covers all those makes currently in production in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australasia — see what I mean! There are lists of manufacturers’ addresses, prices, top speeds, and a section devoted to the histories, structure and activities of the leading companies. Motor racing in 1972 is written-up by Lurani, the state of play in France, Germany, Gt. Britain, Japan, America and Italy is covered by specialist writers, other forms of racing are reviewed, and there are some colour plates, notably of exotic bodywork by specialist builders.

“World Cars” is an extension of the book reviewed above, and a very necessary one, highly recommended. It weighs about 4 lb.

“The Grand Prix”, by L. J. K. Setright. 320 pp. 91 in. x 71 in. (Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., 36, Park Street, London, WI Y 4DE. £6.50.)

There have been complete histories and coverage of the Grand Prix scene previously, notably by Pomeroy, Monkhouse and Court. So it may be doubted whether another book on the subject is warranted. This has to be qualified in this instance by the observation that the author who has tackled it again, from 1906 to 1972, is the industrious Setright. This means that if you haven’t the previous Grand Prix histories you will find this one good if expensive reading, with technical development of the top-class racing cars over a span of 66 years clearly expressed, with commendable continuity. Claimed to be the only single-volume work of its kind, there are well-chosen if rather “sepia” illustrations to back up the text, and the inevitable colour-plates. Setright uses the sub-divisions 1906-1911, 1912-1921, 1922-1933, 1934-1953, 1954-1960, 1961-1967 and 1968-1972 but there are no tabulated results, and some may find the wad of text rather off-putting. The book is about the cars rather than the races in which they ran, but as such is a good record to have between two covers.

“To the Ends of the Air” by Group Captain G. E. Livock, DEC, AFC. 204 pp. Soft covers. 74 in. x 44 in. (Imperial War Museum, HMSO, London. 70p.) Having written last October that I so greatly enjoyed “BIack Lysander” by Wing Commander Nesbit-Dufort (Jarrolds) that I hoped other books about flying with the RAF between the wars would be written, especially the early nineteen-twenties. I was pleased to receive another truly excellent account, by Group Captain Livock, which covers the period 1914 to 1931. It is about flying in seaplanes and flying-boats, during the war and in long-distance RAF flights in peacetime. Usually I prefer the accounts of aeroplane pilots but this book is the exception, the author making his life in float ‘planes and flying-boats absolutely enthralling. He writes with commendable briskness, as did the Wing Commander and does not omit detail. The result is a quite fascinating book about a little-known period and sphere of RNAS and RAF activity.

The book is a soft-cover publication, as the third in the Imperial War Museum’s new publishing venture, and while it would merit better treatment, production-wise, it is commendably inexpensive. It has maps and some splendidly-informal snapshot-type pictures, and the interest, even for general readers, is well maintained to the end. Those who only like cars will have to excuse this review, although the author does refer to his war-time 34-h.p. TT Rudge motorcycle, which had been raced at Brooklands. It was bought for £15 in 1914 and sold for this sum in 1918. He also refers to cars in the Far East — a Model-T Ford carrying 14 people, an old (in 1927) bull-nose Morris used by a rubber-planter, and the Bean (a make which is never heard of these days) he hired in Penang for the 1927 survey through Malaya. I wish he had named the many other cars used.

The book is about flying and fighting in machines such as the early Short seaplanes, with Gnome, Salmson, Sunbeam and Renault engines, according to date and type. There is a glossary, by Martin Brice, of the 56 different aircraft mentioned in the text, and mostly flown by the author, and the six Aircraft Carriers involved at the end of the book.

This is no eye-wash story by a “brass-hat”. The author describes the mistakes and stupid moves by the RAF alongside its great achievements and as a personal story of a very experienced seaplane and boat pilot who took Supermarine Southamptons to Egypt and Cyprus in 1926 and to Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong in 1928, the latter an historic and eventful 27,000-miles’ flying, it is compulsive reading. Apart from one extraordinary spelling error, this is a book I cannot fault and which I enjoyed enormously. I liked the author’s remark, when quoting performance data for a Napier-Lion-engined Southampton boat; “I realise that these figures are not according to the book but pilots are only interested in what a plane will actually do, not what it ought to be able to do.” That sets the measure of this excellent auto-biography. I commend both it and the Imperial War Museum’s entry into publishing — will it please do more of this kind of thing, with, perhaps, a book about motor transport in the First World War ?

“The Dangerous Sky” by Douglas H. Robinson. 292 pp. 9t in. x 6 in. (0.7. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 50g, Bell Street, Henley-on-ThameS, Oxon. £5.35.)

This is a rather specialised book even for Motor Sport to review, but it could be of interest to doctors engaged in motor-racing tasks and will be valuable to those concerned with aviation medicine, for it is a complete history of this aspect of medicine, from ballooning days onwards, by an author who flies his own Cessna 17013. The standard of production, illustration and bibliography is what one expects from this publisher.

“The Book of the Veteran Car” by Phil Drackett. 146 pp. 8i in x 5i in. (Pelham Books Ltd., 52, Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3EF. £2.75).

This could be an excellent introduction to the veteran-car movement for the up-to-now uninitiated, or a child, especially as I know that Phil Drackett, Director of Press and Public Relations at the RAC, writes well and has a command of the subjects he tackles. But when I read of how he dressed up as a red-flag-man to precede the veteran cars down the Madeira Drive at Brighton in 1956 and narrowly escaped being winched down from a helicopter, I read no further, realising that this is not a serious book about the veterans. Incidentally, aren’t books expensive these days ?

“My Way with a Camera”, by Victor Blackman. 260 pp. 7 in. x 9i in. (The Focal Press, 31 Fitzroy Square, London W1P 6BH. £3.00)

Although containing little of motoring interest, save some rather nasty accident scenes of the type which news editors feel the public wants to see, Victor Blackman’s book “My Way with a Camera” is a must for any photographer who wants to learn the trade secrets that make the Fleet Street photographer so successful.

Victor Blackman is a respected professional of long standing in the newspaper world, and his approach to photography is eminently practical. He abhors all unnecessary technicalities both in the taking and processing and concentrates on getting the right picture on every occasion. His writing and thinking on the subject of photography is clear, concise and to the point, and the anecdotes of “the Street” with which this book is filled, make it amusing as well as instructive.

A chapter on sporting action includes comprehensive instruction on motor racing photography and to some extent explains the necessary philosophy of these, when the job forces them to photograph accident scenes when they would rather walk away.

This is a book on photography, pure and simple, for photographers by an ace photographer. It should be read by everyone with any photographic ambition.

At £3.00 it seems costly, but the production by Focal Press is well up to their standard and the invaluable advice contained will enable the purchaser to recoup the outlay with the sale of his first picture.

My only reservation, as a working professional photographer, is that the author might have given away too many professional secrets!

The Bulletin of the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club is a splendid monthly dose of Morganatics which I read avidly, in spite of shamefully not having exercised my 1927 Family Morgan for a long time. So it is excellent that the Club has issued a 96-page booklet called “The Best Of The Bulletin” in time for Christmas. It contains reprints of some of the better Bulletin articles and pictures, and thus provides a fine cross-section of past and present competition Morgans, amusing anecdotes and, particularly, some very essential advice and hints and tips for those rebuilding and maintaining Morgans. Enjoyable! It is offered for 41.00, as an attempt to raise funds for the Club’s photographic library, and is obtainable from the Registrar, Barry Davison, of 63, Etchingham Park Road, Finchley, London, N3, who would appreciate early Morgan photographs for copying for the archives of this active and happy Club.

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The 13th volume in the Olyslager Auto Library series is about “Fairground and Circus Transport”. As these books which Bert Vanderveen edits contain a fabulous collection of rare pictures, the subject this time whets the appetite for them. You should not be disappointed with the pictures packed into this 64-page landscape book, published at £1.95 by Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., of 40„ Bedford Square, London, WC1B 311E.

Normally I do not like reproductions of magazine articles or catalogues done up as books. But there is more excuse for treating the Catalogue of the first SMM&T Motor Show, held at the Crystal Palace in 1903, in this way. Patrick Stephens Limited, Bar Hill, Cambridge, have made it into a big hard-cover book, selling at £2.00.

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These days body repairs are rife, so “Do Your Own Body Repairs” by Paul Revere should make an acceptable Christmas present. It is a 96-page book of practical instruction, with photographic illustrations, published at £1.75 by W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd., Yeovil Road, Slough, Bucks.

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The “Castrol Racing Drivers’ Manual” is a guide to racing from the pen of Frank Gardner, who was British Champion Driver in 1972, after starting to race in 1949, and who is a well-known saloon-car and Formula 5000 champion. It’s all there, in this Doug Nye ghosting of Gardner, which Castrol have sponsored, so that you can get it for £2.20. The Foreword is by Eric Broadley of Lola. The book has 160 pages, 8 ¼ in. x 5 ⅞ in. and contains 92 pictures and seven drawings. It is published by Patrick Stephens Limited, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8E1. This one I really do recommend as a present for the race-mad.

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Don Brake Linings have issued an 84-page, spirally-bound Guide to “Service Off the MG Motorway”, in conjunction with John Waddington Ltd., which sells for 80p.

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If the present is for a motor-minded kid I suppose you could do worse than invest in “A Mini Called Zak” (a racing Mini to boot) by William Stobbs, although luckily they gave me more erudite motor books when I hung up my stocking — well, a pillow-case. The Bodley Head do this coloured thing, and sell it for £1.20. Their address is 9, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7A1.

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“Brockbank’s Grand Prix” by Russell Brockbank — No need to recommend this one! It is 96 pages of Brockbank cartoons aimed mainly at the Grand Prix circus. If there is a snag, it is that I seem to have seen ’em all before. But they are knitted together by a lighthearted recitative by Henry Manney III and to have them in one volume is nice, and it makes a good present — at £1.45, from Eyre Methuen Ltd., 11, New Fetter Lane, London, EC4P 4EE.

Cars in Books

Napier enthusiasts will be troubled to learn from “A Victorian Son” by Stuart Cloete (Collins, 1972) that, living in Paris as a child, his “first mistrust of motor cars” arose from rides with the Rusts, who had the Napier agency because, we arc told, these cars were always breaking down! Later he attempted to drive a car while at school, which ran away, so his opinion of cars was not of the best. But we learn that in his first Regiment during the 1914/18 war, although cars were scarce and confined to Fords, one Officer had a Sunbeam and that Cloete had a Triumph motorcycle and sidecar in England during the war, as a wounded Officer. When Mr. Rust retired from the Napier agency he bought the Chateau d’Hardelot.

Apart from all the aviation interest, there are two intriguing references to cars in “Barnes Wallace” by J. E. Morpurgo (Longman, 1972). We are informed that the great scientist made his first acquaintance with the then new-fangled automobile at the age of 17. It was a tiller-steered, single-cylinder Oldsmobile which someone had sold cheaply to his father and which had been sent by train from the friend’s house in Newcastle to King’s Cross. Barnes was sent to fetch it and, never having driven before, “began a dashing tour of London, including a sprint through the heavy traffic of Park Lane”. That would have been 1904. The author says that “each time the cylinder fired the Oldsmobile leapt forward making progress like a kangaroo, at what seemed a terrifying pace. But the driver’s efforts failed to overtake a smart-stepping pair of horses pulling a smart barouche!” Later Barnes Wallace was to work “on the first racing-car built in England and on the prototype London taxicab” while employed by the Thames Engineering Company, about which historians may wish to comment. Much later, when his fame was fully established and he was working at Brooklands, Wallace and his wife are described as driving to look for a house, which he eventually bought at Effingham, in “their two-cylinder car”. The year was 1930. What would this car have been? A Jowett?

You would scarcely expect to find anything for this column in “Rascal – The True Story of a Pet Racoon” by Sterling North (Hodder and Stoughton, 1963) even if it did win the Dutton Animal Book Award. Yet there it was, and by page 35, showing that I never shall escape from cars! Here is the first mention of the author’s father’s Oldsmobile. The interesting thing is that the story relates to the closing years of the First World War and this Oldsmobile has a fold-flat windscreen, although it is also equipped with hood and side curtains. A woodcut by John Schoenherr makes it look in front view not unlike a Le Mans Bentley and I leave it to American-car buffs to tell me what model it would have been.

This Oldsmobile was used when “There were no super-highways . . . to streak impersonally toward some distant goal, scoring the countryside with ribbons of unfeeling concrete.” So the Oldsmobile, its driver, son and racoon roamed over “friendly little roads, muddy in wet weather, dusty in dry, but clinging to ancient game and Indian trails…”. This was of course in America, the route on this occasion being toward Fort Atkinson to ascend Rock River Valley, on the journey to Green Bay. The car, presumably a 1916 if not a pre-war model, made excellent time, in spite of two blow-outs, which involved struggling with “tire irons, inner tubes likely to be pinched, and hand pumps”. Incidentally the car had a key, and if ignition key is meant, I found this perhaps unusual for a pre-war dashboard? Finally, the book includes an account of a race between a clergyman’s brass-radiator Model-T Ford and a race-horse, which the horse won, on handicap, as the excited Ford driver wasted precious time cranking-up. The author obviously knows about Model-Ts and refers correctly to starting procedure and control by hand-throttle.
W.B.