Books for Christmas

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Bugatti — An Illustrated History of the Cars from Molsheim by Hugh Conway and Jacques Greilsamer. 280 pp. 9-1/2″ x 12-1/2″.   Editions Modelisme, 94, Boulevard de Sebastopol, 75003, Paris, France.  260.00 French francs.

This is the Christmas browsing-book par excellence and perusal of its lavish and magnificently-illustrated pages makes one wonder why anyone who can afford to purchase, maintain and run a real motor car ever bothers with anything but a Bugatti. Assuming, that is, that you can still find one, out of only 8,000 made. Fortunately, more than 1,500 have survived, for our delectation and the great joy of their owners.

What this book does is to provide a vast pictorial panorama of the make, from Type 10 to Type 101 inclusive. This pictorial colour coverage is supported by reproductions of all the original Bugatti catalogues, other rare documents, price-lists, tables of technicalities, production figures, etc. all relevant to the history of the Molsheim make. Hugh Conway has kept a watching brief over technical statements and captions, which is sufficient assurance of the book’s technical authenticity. It is not, as might be expected, a sort of catalogue of Bugatti models photographically along the years. Cars photographed in modern times, and not therefore always 100% original, are included, along with those depicted more authentically, in contemporary pictures. This may represent a disappointment to some, but it has enabled a number of illustrations to be included; indeed, 200 colour prints and 150 others, supplemented by 400 diagrams. The pictures are frequently full-page size, the effect being very satisfactory. But for the foregoing reasons I regard this more as a happy “browsing” book than a serious history, the latter already very ably covered in Conway’s other Bugatti books.

The text, what there is of it, is in English and French and the picture captions are supposed to follow suit but this is not always adhered to. If criticism is justified, I would have preferred far more contemporary than modern pictures, and some of the caption translations are vague. There was no 200-km. race at Brooklands in 1922 for instance, and the team of Bugatti single-seaters ran at Indianapolis in 1923, not 1922. The caption under a fine picture of Kaye Don in the Brooklands Paddock in the Type 54 “Tiger Two” is very casual, and some stunt shots are included, in what might have been a more serious approach to an evocative subject. Against this, there are magnificent pictures of the great Bugatti models, notably of the Type 59 and the Type 45 16-cylinder GP cars; but surely the former is Neil Corner’s not the National Motor Museum’s car? Rarities enliven the already fascinating pages, such as pictures of a Type 38 coupe-de-ville and of a road-equipped Type 59 Bugatti with twin rear wheels. A Bugatti petrol can is shown, and the technical details of the Type 52 exposed.

The Foreword, in French, is by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who is seen in an odd-looking Type 44 raced at Le Mans in 1929 apparently; but not of 44.3-litres as the caption suggests! The book is bound in blue (what else?) and comes in a cardboard slip-in box. Good browsing.  —  WB

*** 

French Cars from 1920 to 1925 by Pierre Dumont. Translated by John Bolster. 197 pp. 8-3/4″ x 9-1/4″, Frederick Warne (Publishers) Ltd., 40, Bedford Square, London, WC1 3HE. £6.25.

French cars are coming in for plenty of attention! Again, this book is more an illustrated browsing work than a serious history. It contains a good selection of black-and-sepia pictures of rare French cars, many seen previously, but rather oddly it includes but two pictures of the same boat-tailed 32 c.v. Hispano Suiza, a make which should surely have better coverage in a book about French cars than that. However, the fascination is increased by good coverage of unusual makes such as Farman, Voisin, Bigran, Aries and Chenard-Walcker, etc., which get a good showing — what a pity the 4-litre straight-eight Le Mans Chenard-Walckers failed at Le Mans in 1925 through losing their cooling water, for this car surely sets the enthusiast’s blood tingling? Lots of pictures seem to have come from The Autocar archives but the inclusion of diagrams, engine-and-chassis shots, reproductions from contemporary catalogues and advertisements, etc. ensures that this book, if superficial, will not be likely to be quickly put aside. There are interesting interior views of the Citroën and Renault factory production-lines, both rather primitive, with vast chassis-dynamometers in operation at the latter factory in 1924 and rough planks sufficing for getting the chassis to ground-level at the 1919 Citroën factory. The sports Citroën “Caddy” and the cheerful little Citroën 5 c.v. are well depicted, as are the French GN, which can be compared directly with the first four-cylinder Salmson. But the airscrew-driven Leyat is given a separate chapter and described as a “Very Special Car”, which underlines the book’s stuntish intentions, while once again contemporary and modern photographs are too frequently mixed, especially in the racing-car section. The most interesting picture is that of a 1923 “tank” GP Bugatti on a plinth, being looked-at by straw-hatted and trilby-hatted passers-by. It is labelled “La Voiture Bugatti  3eme du Grand Prix L’Automobile Club, que va être vendure an Benefice des Laboratoires“. It seems to have been on show in Paris after the race in which Friderich finished third, and no doubt Hugh Conway knows all about it? — WB

***

Pininfarina – Architect of Cars by Michael Frostick. 214 pp. 9-3/4″ x 7″. Dalton Watson Ltd., 76, Wardour Street, London, W1V 4AN. £8.50.

This Dalton Watson picture-history on fine art paper is in succession to Frostick’s earlier survey of fine coachwork by the great Italian stylist Pininfarina (they like the name to commence with a lower-case “p”), “Pinin Farina: Master Coachbuilder”. It brings the coverage up to date, from the 1950 period, and contains good pictures, with brief explanations, of many Farina bodies on popular as well as exotic cars. Some of these are likely to be of interest to those seeking unusual cars to buy at the present time.

If the book does not contain quite such exotic motor cars as the previous one, for Pininfarina bodywork on the more mundane models, even to Austin A40 and Morris 1100, is justifiably included, the appeal is there, in the form of special bodywork for Ferrari, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Rolls-Royce Camargue, Bentley, etc., etc. In fact, the book is divided into chapters about the end of personalised bodies for individual customers, to the beginning of Farina’s work for the Motor Industry, his special projects, including experimental styling exercises, cars inspired by Farina as dresses are influenced by Dior, and finally, about the factory where Pininfarina looks to the future. The whole book is fully up to Dalton Watson’s very high production standards (a Farina of the publishing world?), the colour frontispiece is of Sergio Pininfarina and his brother-in-law Renzo Carli, the driving-force behind Carrozzeria Pininfarina today, and an interesting Appendix lists some of their special bodywork on different Ferrari models, with details of the individual car’s owner or its destination. — WB

***

MG  by Wilson McComb. 300 pp. 9-3/4″ x 7-1/2″ Osprey Publishing Ltd., 12-14, Long Acre, London, WC2E 9LP. £8.95.

This book’s worst enemy are the previous editions, which have appeared all too recently. By this I mean that much of the excellent material about all the MG sports models, by this accurate and painstaking author, appeared in the J. M. Dent editions, the first of which was published in 1972, with a re-print in 1973. However, to be fair, these earlier books were called “The Story of the MG Sports Car” and now McComb has enlarged on the story, calling it simply “MG”, and the new publishers have used a larger format, so that the great number of new pictures have benefited by the new page-size. Those who have not read the previous versions of Wilson McComb’s history of this famous and well-deserved British sports-car are in for a pleasant experience, but the rest may think a second dose of some of the same medicine rather too expensive …

The new MG book is very nicely produced and has plenty of good illustrations. There is a most interesting Foreword by Jean Cook (née Kimber), about what it was like to be a young daughter of Cecil Kimber’s, the creator of the MG, a girl growing up in the years of Brooklands and the full magic of the Abingdon MG factory. While McComb concentrates mainly on the sports MGs and their racing and record-breaking exploits which marked them out as British competition cars on a par with successful Continental makes, the book breathes MG as a whole. Much care is devoted to the origins of the make, discounting FC 7900 as the first of this illustrious breed.

The book thus runs from the MG bull-nose days of 1922 to 1926, right up to the present, even to a look to the future. Cecil Kimber gets a separate chapter and Appendices cover the specifications of all the MG models, the make’s competition successes of 1925 to 1968, the International Class records MG captured, and production and export figures for 1923-1939 and 1945-1977. What more can the interested MG reader look for?

The illustrations consist of those from the earlier books, with added new ones, some 200 in all. The author even has 16 pages of “Notes”, explaining in great detail how he researched his mss. and why he has come to the conclusions set down, Typically Wilson McC, they are almost more interesting than the text that goes before. McComb was with the MG Company from 1959, working on their now-defunct publication Safety Fast, so he knows MG and its history from the inside; he also writes pure English. MG enthusiasts, even the fanatics, can safely trust themselves to John Thornley and Wilson McComb where the origins, achievements, and development of the Abingdon make is concerned. McComb is, though, strictly honest in writing of MG’s mistakes and failures and bad moments along with all the success of good times. He refers to the dirty trick MG played on Sammy Davis (I thought it was on H. S. Linfield) to make the production J2 Midget do 82 m.p.h. at Brooklands when it should not have done much over 65 m.p.h. I met a similar piece of MG publicity dishonesty after the war when in 1947, a TC Midget was found to have a tachometer geared up to read in sympathy with its flattering speedometer, very misleading to journalists who had to check performance in those days by instrument readings instead of stop-watch, in the absence of Brooklands Track … Mistakes in the earlier editions of the book have been corrected, including a minor one of mis-dating a Horton lap-record at Brooklands, and altogether this is history as it should be presented, balanced, absorbing, and with the right amount of detailed information and comment. Motor Sport  supplied the colour jacket picture of an MG-B in the 1966 Nürburg 1,000-km race.

“MG” is Osprey’s first motoring title. They have done a good job and I hope we shall hear more of them. — WB

***

Old Cornwall in Camera Road Vehicles by Fisher Barham. £3.30. Hard cover edition £4.50. 112 pp. so” x 8″ G/asney Press, 28a, High Street, Falmouth„ Cornwall.

This is one of those photographic records of the early days of motoring which I always find extremely hard to put down. If you are seeking a book to study and enjoy over Christmas and especially if some of the other titles reviewed seem too expensive, this less-costly one is strongly recommended. The author has collected a series of very clear photographs, mostly made from ancient glass negatives I expect, and assembled them in a sort of chronological order to illustrate motoring development in Cornwall from the registering of AF1, Dr. Dowding’s Benz, seen outside Newlyn East Church with his chauffeur Richard Oxman, onwards. Such books exude nostalgia, for those who like the older vehicles, especially when these are seen in contemporary, natural settings, but often one comes to the last page all too soon.

In this book, one of a series, Fisher Barham provides a very generous number of splendid photographs from the distant past. In identifying the vehicles depicted he has obviously worked with the licensing authorities, checking records which are now likely to be destroyed. The AF letters ran for the County of Cornwall until December 1924, when the 9,999 numbers had been allotted and RL came into use. This lasted only until 1929. Mr. Barham has used pictures mostly of AF-registered vehicles, mostly in numerical order. The fascination of the book can be imagined. It even has a picture of a stripped 10.8 Calthorpe tourer at a 1920s Goonhaven speed-trial.

The author gives details such as make, colour and first owner, and offers to help one-make clubs with details of later owners revealed by his researches — but first they must buy his book to see what makes are included. Although numbers were changed from one vehicle to another pretty freely in those times, only one possible mistake has been spotted, where what is probably an Enfield (?) milk-van is captioned as a Siddeley-Deasy. This was a private-car conversion, in use long after 1913. And what of the Benz engine used for years to drive farm machinery and the ‘bus body turned into a pavilion? Rare makes that came early to Cornwall, such as Belle, Hallamshire and Newton-Bennett, etc., are depicted and well-known early garages are shown, including Donald Healey’s premises with his Garford ‘bus outside. The other vehicles are not identified but one is a £100 Carden cyclecar. There is plenty for the steam and commercial vehicle and ‘bus followers, even a tram in the middle of the road at Rounding Wall, Illogan, its single-track and another picture, of a Thornycroft steam-waggon passing a tram as Pool Hill exactly captures the atmosphere of the pioneer days — there is a sister book about Cornwall’s trams.

Only four pictures are devoted to disasters (two cars burned-out) and contemporary illustrations are set to the end of the book, being of Cornish cars and other vehicles that have been restored and are still in use, but there are no Blight Talbots…. Mostly the others are of pre 1914 days but the post-war period has its Rover 8, GN, and Ariel Ten, etc., and an Austin 20 landaulette among a fleet of cars at Wimborne reminds me of the chauffeur-driven Twenty I used to ride in as a schoolboy. Morgan fans will like the well-laden 1913 three-wheeler and the post-Armistice period is nicely caught, too, by a shot of a 1922 Buick tourer in Jew Street, Penzance; but can anyone identify the light-car parked behind it? Cars used by celebrities, including a 1909 40/50 Rolls-Royce, add interest and it is notable how many early cars in Cornwall were owned by doctors or the clergy. The Model-T Ford naturally intrudes quite often. This really is a worthwhile picture-book just the thing to enliven the Christmas holidays.– WB

***

Two books which should delight commercial vehicle enthusiasts and historians this Christmas are Garrett 200 — A Bicentenary History of Garrett’s of Leiston, 1778-1978  by R. A. Whitehead, a notably comprehensive and enthrallingly-illustrated story of a famous company that made traction engines, steam rollers, steam waggons, lorries and electric vehicles etc., and whose story has been told before in other publications, and Daimler Buses in Camera by Stewart J. Brown. The former 248-page book costs £10 and is published by Chaser & Scott and is available from the Transport Bookman, Syon Park, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 8JF, while the Daimler ‘bus picture-book, very nicely produced, comes from Ian Allen Ltd., Terminal House, Shepperton, Middlesex, TW17 8AS, at a cost of £4.95.

***

Colin Campbell’s book The Sports Car — Its Design and Performance, first published in 1954 and reprinted six times in three editions, which speaks for itself, has now gone into a fourth revised edition. It has been up-dated to include, for instance, the Triumph Dolomite Sprint’s four-valve-per-cylinder valve-gear, Porsche Turbo bodywork, the Lotus Eclat and Esprit as design studies, etc. in the appropriate chapters. The publishers are Chapman & Hall, North Way, Andover, Hampshire, SP10 5BE and the book sells for £6.50.

***

Patrick Stephens Ltd., of Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8EL, have two Christmas offerings of interest to Ferrari and Porsche fans. Both are soft-cover publications, the former dealing with a 250GT Ferrari of unusual elegance in a book titled The Berlinetta Lusso by Kurt H. Miska, with a Foreword by David Clarke (96pp., 9″ x 12″, 100 photographs), priced at £7.50. The Porsche book — what, yet another! — is called  Porsche Brochures and Sales Literature, A Source Book, 1948-1965  by Richard F. Merritt and Susann C. Miller. Although this one runs to 312 pages, measuring 8-1/2″ x 11″, and reprints all the early Porsche brochures covering the Type 365 to 911 Series, there is a good deal of unused space on some pages, so it comes expensive, at £14.95. And this is only the first volume! But then, Porsche owners are wealthy people. The Ferrari book is available with hard-cover bindings, when the price rises to £12.75.

***

One which is rather large for a Christmas stocking — but they probably hang up pillowcases, as we used to do — is Doug Nye’s Motor Racing in Colour (Blandford Press, Link House, West Street, Poole, Dorset, BH15 ILL, £4.50), a somewhat superficial introduction to all aspects of the sport — but I will never forgive the author for describing Brooklands as a “speedway” of less importance than the flying field it eventually encircled, or as an “oddball venue”! You might put the Motor Show Book of Humour by Honeysett in with this one, for those who like that kind of cartoon thing (Gresham Books, Old Woking, £0.95). Nye’s book has some useful tables of race-winners of the big-time, along the years.

***

Lagonda — A history of the marque by Arnold Davey and Anthony May.  497pp.,  9-3/4″ x 6-1/2″,  David and Charles Ltd., Brunel House, Newton Abbot, Devon. £15.

This long-awaited complete history of the Lagonda car and the various companies involved from 1900 to the present day is now available.  Written by two prominent members of the Lagonda Club this is no journalistic “pot-boiler” but a serious treatise on the Lagonda car and all its aspects.  Not to be flicked through or read overnight, this serious book will take quite a time to read and absorb, so a full review will appear next month. — DSJ  

 

 

 

 

 

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