Books for Christmas

“The World Water Speed Record” by Leo Villa and Kevin Desmond. 206 pp. 8 3/4 in x 5 1/2 in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W1H OAH. £4.75.)

This is a most acceptable book, because it covers ground that is entirely new. It is high time the World’s Water Speed Record was fully documented and this Kevin Desmond has now done most thoroughly, with extracts from earlier books about one aspect of the subject by Leo Villa, Donald Campbell’s faithful engineer.

The book takes the reader from the very earliest days of timed speed on water, when the steamboat Sir Arthur Cotton did a rousing 24.61 m.p.h. in 1874, and when the actual water speed record began in 1897 with Elaine being timed at 9.73 m.p.h., to the present astonishing speed of 285.21 m.p.h. set up in 1967 by Taylor’s Hustler. (The propeller-driven boat record, as tables at the end of this informative book tell us, stands to the credit of Duby’s Miss US1, at 200.419 m.p.h.)

The book gives just enough technical information, contains interesting thumb-nail biographies of the well-known speed-boat personalities as the text progresses, and divulges plenty of data about the famous Harmsworth Trophy races of 1903-61 and other important races. Indeed, it does not confine itself entirely to the WSR and to read it is to learn a great deal about fast motor-boating down the years. Naturally, many links with motor-racing will be found, together with a few references to cars used by boating personalities. (Betty Carstairs’ yellow Rolls-Royce and her Bentley from which, as she passed a lorry carrying a rival boat to hers on the road, she called up “This is the only time I shall pass it.”)

If there are a few printers’ errors, with Segrave given that second “a” in the Bibliography, and if the text is sometimes a little flippant, with the great Garfield Arthur Wood repeatedly called “Gar” (he is another personality whose career is revealed for us), and if not all the successful WSR boats are illustrated (but there are fascinating thumb-nail sketches of some of them, and ample historic photographs), this detracts hardly at all from the worth of this, the first complete history of the fascinating WSR, which should have been written long before this. Ilatsford are to be congratulated, along with the young technical journalist who wrote it, for being first in this field. I can assure motoring enthusiasts that they will find much to interest them in this book, which naturally covers the WSR and motorboat racing records of drivers such as Sir Malcolm Campbell, Kaye Don, John Cobb (killed before he ever got the record) and others. Incidentally, the number of persons who met their deaths trying to go really quickly in boats is depressing—it goes much further than the remembered fatalities to Segrave, Cobb and Donald Campbell. By the way, the thought occurs that some of these WSR boats might form a fascinating subject for models; I have only recently learned that in the 1950s and 1960s J. W. Sutcliffe Ltd. of Leeds made tinplate models of Bluebird II. Splendidly, Sir Thomas Sopwith, CBE, who was fastest man on the water in 1912, has written the Foreword to this excellent book.—W.B.

“Lindbergh—A Biography” by Leonard Mosley. 446 pp. 9 1/2 in. X 6 in. (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 47, Bedford Square, London, WC113 3DP. £6.50.)

The story has oft been told of Charles Lindbergh’s first solo flight across the Atlantic, from America to France, in 1927, in his Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis, which crossed in 33 1/2 hours. This book goes much further. It is about the life of the famous pilot and his wife, from his boyhood days, through his “barn-storming” and very accurate mail-‘plane flying, to his great Atlantic flight that gave him not momentary but ever-lasting fame, and the sad effect of such popularity on two people, Lindbergh and his wife.

Indeed, the celebrated biographer, Leonard Mosley, does not dwell too long on the Atlantic flight itself, although that is well described; the drama building-up nicely, so that one is astonished at Lindbergh’s casual circling of fishing vessels to ask the way, which was a part of it. What he is interested in doing is to explain the terrible effect of World publicity on a decent human being (James Hunt, watch out!). There was the kidnapping of the Lindberghs first child, and later the manipulating of Charles Lindbergh by the Nazis for their own ends, so that he was, for long after the Allied victory, tainted as a Nazi sympathiser, and worse. (This interests me, because I can begin to see how one of my all-time heroes, C. G. Grey, another Charles, who so fearlessly edited The Aeroplane magazine in pre-war days, may well have become proGerman in the same insidious fashion.)

There are references in this book to Lindbergh’s early motor vehicles, such as the V-twin Excelsior motorcycle he owned while at University, which is illustrated. But mainly this is a book about aeroplanes and aeroplane people. It is a sordid story, which makes sense of the adage that to live happily, you must live without attracting attention. The book is a long, very detailed, and reasoned biography of a character who must be very close to all our hearts—a man who was less worried in the lonely cockpit of his trans-Atlantic aeroplane than in his subsequent, outwardly successful and affluent, career. Those who dabble in writing history will admire the author for his painstaking research, as outlir.ed in his 34 pages of source-notes at the end of the book. Heavy going, this one, but essentially interesting. The sort of book, perhaps, to read over the Christmas break—W.B.

“Death Race” by Mark Kahn. 159 pp. fti in. X 5, in. (Rarrie & 7enkins Ltd., 24, Highbury Crescent, London, IN15 1RX. £3.95.)

This ghoulish book, taking us step by step through the 1955 Le Mans catastrophe, is at once unnecessary to the student of motor racing history and compulsive reading for those who wallow in blood and destruction. The latter is no doubt why Mark Kahn wrote it, and why his publishers were glad to publish it.

At first one thinks that this will be a revealing of facts that may shed some new light on the cause of the Le Mans catastrophe, in which 82 people died. At the time of the accident suspicion fell on the drivers who were near the pits when Levegh’s Mercedes-Benz hit Lance Macklin’s Austin-Healey and shot up the bank and into the crowd, namely Macklin and Hawthorn. Does this book do anything to clear up any further points about this horrific accident? It does not. As one reads on, one is sickened to find that although it adds nothing new it does appear to pin some of the blame on Mike Hawthorn, who cannot answer back. “Death Race” is really a book about Lance Macklin, and as the study of a typical play-boy racing-driver of the pre-war years it has a mite of interest in it. But the author’s judgement of the Le Mans disaster is seen very much through Macklin’s eyes, and 20 years is a long time ago. How clearly can this driver be expected to remember the second-by-second happenings leading up to the impact between the ill-fated Mercedes and his own car? Not clearly enough, might be the verdict, especially when one discovers that Macklin thinks he finished second at Sebring in 1954, when reports tell us that, in fact, he was third, and fourth on the road, under rather different circumstances from these recounted by Kahn! Kahn himself is also a bit hazy about the gory subject of which he is writing. He refers more than once to a mysterious driver called Waddei, thinks Arnage is a hairpin, gets odd dates incorrect, which admittedly can happen to the best historians, and tries to pin a very funny piece of alleged cheating on Mercedes-Benz. The pictures in this book are pathetic, too. I would recommend spending the 395p they hope to sell it at on a bigger turkey—W.B.

“Graham” by Graham Hill with Neil Ewart. 175 pp. 8 3/4 in. X 5 1/2 in. (Hutchinson Publishing Group Ltd., 3, Fitzroy Square, London, W1P 67D. 3.95.)

We all, of course, admired Graham Hill enormously. It was terribly sad when he took a chance and flew his aeroplane, and its luckless passengers, into a hill near his home in fog. One respects the memory of this great driver and forthright human personality. For this reason I hope those who are of the same mind will not overdo the biographies, articles and recollections of Graham Hill until this respect in which he is held is in danger of becoming tarnished.

Those were my thoughts as I read yet another book on Hill, by Graham, about his motor-racing career. It is a sort of briefer version of his “Life at the Limit” and takes his career on beyond 1969. Fair enough! Because Graham’s own account of how he recovered from the Watkins Glen crash, how he eventually retired from motor-racing, how he ran his Embassy team, and what it was like to be a constantly occupied jet-setter/ businessman, is well told and readable. The book is embellished with splendid pictures, too, many of them in good colour, and the Foreword is by HRH The Prince of Wales, KG, GCB. No publisher could resist that . . and serialisation in the Sunday Express.

What sickens me is the last chapter, by Bette Hill. It isn’t all that long ago that Graham and the others died, so one hardly expects a blow-by-blow account by his wife of how the news was brought to her and how she reacted, all in tear-jerking detail. I shall probably be told that although people of my generation prefer to keep personal grief to themselves and have some respect for privacy, for themselves and their children, in times of tragedy, the world changes and you cannot expect the jet-setting fraternity to forgo the limelight and publicity they have long been used to, under any circumstances. That is no doubt very true, may possibly be even right and proper, so I will try not to express surprise at Bette Hill describing her husband’s funeral as “most impressive” . . .

Maybe this is the kind of thing the present generation laps up? If So, after the Christmas turkey, the brandy and the cigars, you may be able to digest and relish this book, right down to the last page. But to me, the ending is in very poor taste (and then there is the picture on the dust-jacket of Bette kissing Graham). If you agree with me, you will no doubt give this one a N,vide berth. These days, unfortunately, there is an insatiable demand for sensationalism in most things, sex, motor-racing, and a love of death and destruction. So it may be that Bette Hill’s authorship will make “Graham” a best-seller and thus put a bit more in the kitty, towards “the good life for the children that Graham planned for them”. Good luck !—W.B.

“Gurney’s Eagles” by Karl Ludvigsen. 136 pp. 9 1/2in. X 7 3/4 in. (Motor Books International, 3501, Hennepin Avenue, South Minnesota, Minnesota, 55408, USA. $10.95.)

Karl Ludvigsen made his name as a one-make historian with his detailed history of all the Benz (and Mercedes-Benz) racing cars. Now, in this book, published in the States last summer, he recalls the glory of the Eagle cars of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers team. The memory is getting a little rusty here and so this book is welcome as a memory reviver. As one has come to expect with Karl’s work, there is copious information, dispensed in text, 139 photographs, drawings and appendices. The seven chapters deal with the formation of the AAA racers by Gurney (who contributes the Foreword) and Shelby, the advent of the English Weslake V12 GP engine, the Eagle successes in Can-Am racing, the difficult period following the 1968 Indianapolis .success, the arrival of the 1972 Eagle, the F5000 cars, and the Bi-Centennial Eagle. Good history, this.—W.B.

“Milestones Behind the Marques” by Paul Sheldon. 128 pp. 83 in. X 6) in. (David & Charles, South Devon House, Newton Abbot, Devon. £4.95.)

This is a piece of very painstaking work on the part of Dr. Sheldon of the Formula One Association, assisted by John Thompson and Duncan Rabagliati, in which are set out the individual histories of each car in the F1 BRM, Cooper, Ferrari, Honda, March, Matra, Repco Brabham, Shadow and Surtees teams, between the years 1966 and 1975. As Denis Jenkinson says in his Foreword, every racing car has personality and individuality and if only they could write their own biographies (he means their auto-biographies), what tales they would tell—no one can dispute that.

The next best thing is for dedicated enthusiasts to undertake the task, as Paul Sheldon has done in this hook, his research nicely backed-up with page-size pictures of the relevant Grand Prix cars. I think he would agree that such a work would have been far more difficult in older times, because then each car of a team was indistinguishable from its fellows to anyone outside the racing organisations concerned. Today racing is better documented, and thus it has been possible to describe the successes and failures of the individual cars in this book and how these Were achieved or came to happen, Under each car number—such as BMW Type 153, cars 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06 and 07, or Surtees TS.7 001 to TS14 005, to run from one end of this fascinating volume to the other. The result is very interesting and highly valuable, especially as the text is supplemented by tables of car specifications and make-bymake race results. The author actually asks that any errors be notified to him, for subsequent correction. But his accuracy has D.S.J.’s approval. Highly recommended—if not as the book to read on Christmas Day, certainly one to be much appreciated if it comes as a gift, to be put on hand for frequent future reference.—W.B.

“Safety Last” by George Fyston. 158 pp. 7 1/2 in. x 43/4 in. (Vincent Publishing Company, 313, King’s Road, Chelsea, London, SW3. £3.95. Leather bound and out £12.75.)

Captain G. E. T. Eysthn, who modestly omits his titles, had perhaps the most intensive and interesting motor-racing career of anyone in the vintage-to-the-Second-World-War period, from winning minor races at Brooklands in Aston-Martin and Bugatti cars to putting the Land Speed Record to 357k m.p.h. in 1938 with a fabulous giant car of his own creation— and taking records innumerable in between. Had “Safety Last” been a Complete autobiography of this tenacious man and his remarkably successful career, it could have been the motoring Book of the Year.

Alas, it is so superficial (and so expensive for what it imparts) that one wonders who first brought it about, Eyston, or Vincent ? This little hook starts off all right, modestly outlining George Eyston’s early life, and his 1914/18 experiences in the Army. He was definitely in the “gentleman racing-driver mould”, _although he will not like me mentioning this. So to read of the Eyston family-seat at East Hendred, where at the chapel attached to the ancient house there are relics of Sir Thomas More and John Fisher and where the Catholic Faith has been preserved for centuries, of his exciting Army career from private to ADC to General Wellesley, and of Eyston’s post-war return to Trinity College, Cambridge, is to be pleasantly projected back (always modestly, at I have said) to fascinating age, long since departed.

But thereafter the book seems to change arid although Eyston has much of interest to impart, he does this only briefly, and as if for the general rather than the specialised reader and sometimes does not even tell us the make of the cars in incidents he is describing. Disappointing! A few fresh facts do emerge. And George has a sense of humour; I like, for example, his comment on the LSR,—”… if You do not do 240 m.p.h. in second (gear) you might as well stay at home”, and similar pithy comments. His description of taking the World’s 24-hour record at Utah with Speed of the Wind is truly great descriptive writing; but this is taken from another book, published in 1936. ‘The chapter of personalities covers only Segrave, Campbell, Cobb, Eldridge, Kimber, and Victor Riley (nothing here about Bert Dimly) and takes less than twice as much space as a chapter on the MG Car Club. The Paper is very high-class, but apart from One or two Pictures of Eyston’s early motorcycles, all the illustrations have been used before and, most unfortunately, the text by no means ties up with all of them. These illustrations conclude with a motley assortment of Bugattis, one of which seems to have been taken, without acknowledgement, from Motor Sport. So “Safety Last” must be written off as a big disappointment, at least to one person who waited expectantly for it. It gives the unfortunate impression, no doubt quite erroneously, that Eyston was “conned” into writing it, and too hurriedly. There is far more technical information about the cars he drove, in my interview with him, published in Motor Sport for October, 1974. A great pity, because this versatile gentleman could write such a rewarding book, and perhaps one day he will. His versatility is emphasised in the present work by a picture of George Eyston driving a 1903 Mercedes in the 1928 Veteran Car Run to Brighton, as a contrast to Thunder-bird – W.B.

“Making of the Motor Car” by Michael E. Ware. 158 pp. 9 1/2 in. x 7 1/4 in. (Moorland publishing Co.. The Market Place, Harlington, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 OAL, £4.20.) This is a pictorial study of how cars were made, rested. publicised, and delivered, in the vintage years. I note from the Acknowledgements that the idea came to John Robey of Moorland’s after reading the series of articles I wrote for Motor Sport called “Factory Methods of the Vintage Era”. But he did not have the courtesy to ask me to edit it… .The result is a fascinating book, with many new pictures, beautifully reproduced on art paper, although, naturally, the interiors of factories are not the most luscious subjects for pictorial plates. A splendid browsing book, this, and one which, were it not somewhat expensive for the quickly digested contents, would make a very acceptable title to put on the Christmas books buying list.—W.B.

Motorbooks International have brought out a one-make, or rather a one-period, book, about the post-war years of Chrysler and Imperial, by Richard M. Langworth. It has 216 101 in. x 7k in. pages and contains 469 photographs. The price is 15.95 dollars, which those who seek such intimate history should not grudge.

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Hints for cutting the ever-rising cost of motoring are contained in “Reader’s Digest Basic Guide”, priced at 75p, which should be available from most of the Well-known book shops.

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“A Motoring Heritage—the Story of Some Historic British Vehicles” edited by John McLellen, is a sort of pictorial pre-view of the Leyland Collection of Historic Vehicles now incorporated in the Donington Museum. It has been produced by Bartholomew’s in conjunction with British Leyland Ltd. Or perhaps I should refer to it as a pre-catalogue of the Leyland Motors’ part of Tom Wheatcroft’s Museum. Its text may not convey much that is new or of interest to the experts. But its illustrations, many in colour,. do depict some unusual vehicles, such as Maudslay cars and commercials, a Bean lorry, a Morris Commercial van used by The Dogs’ Home. at Battersea, a Guy Star-Flyer chassis on test, and others. Those who see most of the historic vehicle literature will complain that the majority of the pictures have been seen before. But at £1.75 for more than 100 pictures this one might make a useful present for members of the younger generation.

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Those seeking to learn about the technical side of the i.e. engine will find “The Automobile Engine” by M. J. Nunney (NewmcsButterworths, Borough Green, Sevenoaks„ Kent. £4,50) quite a useful introduction. It covers all kinds of car engines clearly, with information on fuel-injection as well as carburation, but not electronic ignition. Twostroke engines are included.

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Guinness Superlatives have brought out -a revised edition of their copiously-illustrated “Car Facts & Feats”, which is a mine of information on racing, rallying and ordinary motoring and motor cars. It is a book which writers can use as source-material and enthusiasts, even the experts, can very enjoyably browse through — a splendid reference work. Such works should, however, be accurate, so I am sorry to find the 1927 Sunbeam LSR car still wrongly captioned as the 1936. Silver Bullet, with the wrong date and speed attached, which makes a nonsense of the text immediately above, and the implication that racing returned to D.onington Park this year. Careless editing! Otherwise, this book ranks as a grand present. It now costs £4.95. The original edition of 1971, with the same number of Pages, sold for £2.00.—W.B.

Cars in books

One wonders what the old black car, blunt-bonneted and powerful, and halfrestored to its original late-1940s condition was, which is mentioned by David Agamon in “A Slice of Britain” (United Writers Publications, 1976) as being at Llyn Geirionydd. An Austin Princess, perhaps, possibly still there.

I have been reading the rest of those. “Diaries of Evelyn Waugh” (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 814 pages, £7.95) for your possible edification, but I have found very few further references to motoring, although there is a reference to his friend Richard PlunketGreene trying to sell cars to “thirty awful men from Oxford”, which, as this was in 1927, probably meant Frazer Nashes. That year Waugh sold his motorcycle, presumably the Francis-Barnett bought new in 1926, for £10. The 1930 Meopham aeroplane accident is mentioned, in which Col. G. L. P. Henderson, late of the Brooklands School of Flying, was the pilot who was killed with his passengers, as Waugh was with Lady Dufferin when the news came through; the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava was one of those passengers.—W.B.

Miniatures news

It has been a very long time since Lesney Products of London have issued new additions to their extremely popular “Models of Yesteryear” series. The last one, a Riley Imp if we remember correctly, was still-born. Now these nicely made, finished, and detailed car miniatures have reappeared. The first two are numbered Y-4 and Y-5. The first is an impressive replica of a 1930 Model-J Duesenberg coupe-de-ville, measuring 4 1/2 in. in length. The scale is 1/43 and in spite of the relatively small size of the model the Wire wheels, which include two side-mounted spares, are beautifully spoked and plated, and such accessories as twin front-mounted horns, the specially styled front bumper, the headlamps mounted from the Sides of the radiator, and the strapped-on rear trunk, rear lamps and bumper, etc. are realistically provided, while such things as the instruments, bonnet louvres, dummy hood-irons, etc. are simulated. The Duesenberg radiator is especially well reproduced and beneath the car the springs are there, and the engine, transmission and exhaust system are simulated. This is a beautifully-made and painted model. The only criticism relates to the rather-too-horizontal 1.h. steering column.

The other new “Model of Yesteryear” is a 1907 Peugeot but as no sample was received, I cannot comment on it. The price of these excellent Lesney miniatures is £1.15 each, which is very modest compared to many other often smaller, inferior-finish die-cast miniatures. If you want them for Christmas, I suggest you go to the toy shops now . . .

I have already commented on the excellence’ of Grand Prix Models’ splendid 1/43-scale 30/98 Vauxhall Wensum model. Another new one from this source is a miniature of the streamlined 1954 Mercedes-Benz GP car,modelled with the assistance of MercedesBenz themselves. GP Models also have kits for making up six different versions of Porsche 911, the 1973 Daytona-winning 911R (Kit No. 45), the Nurburgring RSR (Kit No. 43), the 1975 Daytona-winning 911 (Kit No. 40), last year’s GT Championship-winning RSR (Kit No. 38), the “Tebernum” that won. at Imola in 1975 (Kit No. 37), and last’s “Fotoquelle” modelled with the help of Max Moritz (Kit No. 22). I find myself wondering if all these cars are on the desk of Mike Cotton, Porsche’s new British PRO. Details of these model kits are available from Grand Prix Models, 173-175 Watling Street, Radlett.


In miniature

When I remarked in a book review last month that my miniature Hispano-Suiza tourer was probably by a different toy-maker from the one who made the 50 cm.-long 1930 clockwork Rolls-Royce, this was because the maker of the latter is rendered in that splendid book “The Art of the Tin Toy” (New Cavendish Books, 1976) As “Jep”, whereas I have thought of the firm as J de P or JEP (Le Jouet en Paris). I now accept that both cars were made by the same Parisian Toy Company; I note that in .another book devoted to model ears the Rolls-Royce is quoted as a 61-cm.-long JEP production. Whether this firm was the same, or associated with, Les Jouets d’Andre Citroen who made those never-to-be-forgotten tin-plate miniature Citroens of the vintage period, I do not know.

In the former book David Pressland reminds us that J de P (or Jep as he has it), cleverly used the same basic structure for both their R-R and H-S toys and in the same way got open and saloon Renault, Delage and Panhard-Levassor 34 cm.-long models from one basic design. It was one of these Delage saloons that I cut down into a stripped racer in my youth. As delivered, these models had a big spotlight on the n/s driver’s door pillar (they were 1.h.d.) which could be illuminated from a torch-battery concealed beneath the frame of the car. I think that the steering functioned, too. It certainly does on my Hispano-Suiza, which also has a Klaxon horn, smartly-lined disc wheels shod with tyres inscribed “Dunlop Cord” (these have the old herring-bone tread and are just over 3 in. in dia., and must have been made specially, as they are not Meccano tyres), an openable (celluloid) single-pane windscreen, a sprung front-bumper, headlamps that lit from a hidden battery and a rear-mounted spare wheel. The radiator is correctly scripted and has the H-S badge but neither my Hispano-Suiza nor the RollsRoyce illustrated in “The Art of the TinToy” has a mascot. There is the printed dashboard with six simulated instruments and central switch-hoard (the latter more appropriate to the H-S, I would have thought) common to both cars, as is the body-shell. The Hispano has sporting lined-in doors and bonnet louvres, the wheels have integral ribbed brake-drums, and from the cockpit rise two long central levers, the left one operating the forward/reverse gears, the shorter righthand one a transmission brake. Curiously, this Hispano is r.h.d., with a four-spoke steering wheel. It has a rear trunk and carries number plates inscribed 7395-J de P, which rather makes my point about how the Maker liked his name transcribed. The clockwork is wound, via gearing, from the front of the car, by means of a simple enormous key. The finish is mustard-yellow, with black mudguards, and I make the wheelbase 13.5 in., the track 5.6 in., and the overall length 18.5 in., with front bumper but without the spare wheel, which has a quick-release mounting. Even now we have not finished, as it is worth adding that the hack-axle has a proper casing and is (centrally) sprung, although I am not convinced that the differential is anything more than a one-side-only drive. This is clearly a model of the 37.2 h.p. HispanoSuiza and perhaps came out before the RollsRoyce. I find it interesting that from the aforementioned picture, the Rolls seems to have had cantilever back springs, which, correctly, the H-S doesn’t have.

I cannot recall what this H-S toy cost originally, when bought at Gamages. I know the 5 c.v. clockwork Citroen toy sold in London for 10/6 (520) and the four-seater 11 c.v. Citroen for 15/(75p) and that the covetable P2 Alfa Romeo racing cars were 35/(175p) each. So maybe you had to find 45/(225p) or more for the 11-S or R-R models—which I couldn’t. As a comparison of sizes, I have just measured my 132 Citroen coupe, which has working steering hut nonelectric headlamps, and the wheelbase is 11.4 in., the track 5 in., and the overall length is just less than 14 in., with rear-mounted spare wheel in place. Incidentally, its Reg. No. is 723-Z5. And its doors will open—oh wonderful boyhood!

While on the subject, I sometimes wonder if the P2 Alfa Romeo model was originally intended to he the 1922 OP Fiat, that got delayed in going into production? The frontend looks a bit slender for a P2, somehow. They (CIL according to that aforesaid book) would have been all right in 1923, when the OP Sunbeams were cribs of the Fiat. But by 1924 Alfa Romeo was the top GP car, so perhaps colour, badges and things were hastily altered? Or is there a sound reason why this theory is so much nOnsense? Oh, do excuse me for so much childishness. It must he the proximity of Christmas . . .—W.B.

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James Hunt has been awarded the BARC Gold Medal awarded to “British subjects for outstanding contribution to the sport”. Previous recipients in the medal’s 27-year history include Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and, last year, Hunt’s then patron Lord Hesketh.