Books for Christmas

My Thirty Years Motoring for MOTOR SPORT” by Bill Boddy. 160pp. 11″ x 8 1/2″ (Grenville Publishing Co. Ltd., Standard house. Bonhill Street, London EC2A 4DA. £14.90).

This book, which has had a long gestation, is now ready from Grenville, for Christmas perusal. It reproduces the summing-up articles which W.B. has done for 30 years at the end of each year of his road-testing of cars of all kinds, for MOTOR SPORT. Vintage and veteran cars and historic racing cars he has driven are also mentioned, and there are photographs of cars of all kinds, going back to 1951. The idea behind the book is that it gives an indication of how cars which are now old and perhaps valuable as historic heirlooms were regarded by us, as a critical journal, when they were brand new, it shows how MOTOR SPORT and W.B.’s writing developed along the years, and it describes how the cars we tested were used and what MOTOR SPORT has got up to over the past three decades.

Whether your interests lie in A30s or Jaguars, Rolls-Royces of many kinds or obscure Continental cars, several with two-stroke engines, here is a very full account of them as Bill Boddy found them when they were submitted to him for appraisal, at first over long week-ends, later for a week or ten days, with some tests of much longer duration, and with one BMW taken all round Europe in a matter of four days’ fast motoring, visiting ten Capital cities in the process. It is all them and more — W.B. even admits to crashes and his personal prejudices come out clearly. It is very much the life of a motoring enthusiast looking back over the hundreds of cars, from a single cylinder Bond to a V16 American monster, over 30 full and exciting years. (Not that W.B. has changed his life style — he is still doing this road-testing).

This book will not only enable those owning and perhaps restoring given makes and models of older cars to see what we thought about them when they were showroom models but also consists of a sort of index to the cars MOTOR SPORT has road-tested over this period, full reports of most of which can be ordered from our back numbers or photocopying department.

“Bentley — Past & Present” by Rivers Fletcher. 224 pp, 9 1/4″ x 6 1/4″

Here is the second in the series of books about his personal experiences with, and memories of, different makes with which A. F. Rivers Fletcher has been associated, in a lifelong love affair with cars. I like it more than I did his MG book. It follows the same theme but describes how Rivers was apprenticed to Bentley Motors Ltd. in the days of W.O. and Le Mans. In consequence, all manner of great and fascinating racing drivers and Bentley personalities are encountered. Rivers covers about every Bentley he sat in, leaned on, or drove a half-mile or so “round-the-block” from the Bentley showrooms, in those early days. It would be unkind to try to compute his total Bentley mileage at that time. . . But when he was appointed a junior Bentley salesman he got in more miles in the cars beloved so dearly, and tells about this very personal account; although it is disappointing, but very honest of the author, to admit that when Barnato and Sammy Davis let him do some laps of Brooklands in the “Old No. One” racing Speed-Six, he discovered that he had no aptitude for racing on the outer-circuit.

So what personal Bentley-racing the book covers is that done in sprints, in Rivers’ Derby Special. It is the anecdotes, the memories of little things that happened at Cricklewood and Cork Street, that are the best part of the story — how did Glen Kidston crash his Bentley within a few miles of taking it over, why wouldn’t Frank Clement dice with an Hispano Suiza on the public road, etc? I think even the BDC, with its extremely well-documented archives and all that comes up in its fine Review, will find fresh items to enjoy and perhaps ponder over, in Rivers’ book. Another thing is that it is packed with very evocative photographs, over 200 of them, which absolutely breathe the flavour and magic of the old Bentley days, yet they come right up to date, even unto the Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, which Rivers has driven. One cannot have everything, and although the publishers claim, no doubt quite rightly, that almost all the illustrations are “new”. I have certainly seen some very similar ones in Johnnie Green’s book and elsewhere, and I regret that more (as indeed quite a lot are) are not personal snapshots of the author’s, as was the case throughout Rivers’ MG book.

This is a very sincere book, however by one whose bubbling enthusiasm is unbounded, not a very long book maybe, rather like several magazine articles strung together, but quite fascinating, making one cry for more. Rivers-Fletcher is very honest, over his mistakes with cars (as on the Brooklands’ bankings), girls, and in other Bentley-orientated situations. He may not have driven as many Bentleys as far and as fast as the book’s title implies, but he imparts the spirit behind the make to perfection and the intimate insights he gives of Bentley factory and sales methods make irresistible reading. I am sure many BDC members will be quite inarticulate this Christmas, until they have finished “Bentley-Past & Present”. —W.B..

Metro — The Book Of The Car” by Graham Robson. 192 pp. 9 1/2″ x 6 3/4″. (Patrick Stephens Ltd., Barr Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8EL. 95p.)

The BL Metro is rather new to have a history but the origins and developments to date of this popular small-car so vital to BL are here in a book with 105 black and white and 22 colour illustrations, by the indefatigable Graham Robson. The publishers draw one’s attention to some questions this book answers, such as what did the tarpaulins at Longbridge conceal from Sir Michael Edwardes, who dispatched his Jaguar to collect bacon sandwiches at midnight, how did Ant and Dragonfly become AD088 and then LC8, and who had to be introduced to his own golf-course. This is the full story of the Metro’s gestation, to rank with the books by Pomeroy and others about the birth and success of the Mini-Minor. For any follower of the present-day car scene, any user of a Metro, this is what is in the review world “a must”. — W.B.

I have praised warmly on previous occasions the very modestly-priced, copiously-illustrated ‘bus histories, with plenty of “street” scenes, by Alan Townsin. So welcome to another, his study of the AEC Regals, No. 6 in this valuable series. Masses of nicely-reproduced illustrations on good glossy art paper on 96 11 1/2″ x 8 1/4″ pages make this a rare treat for ‘bus buffs or for those who like transport scenes. The price is £7.00 in card covers, £8.50 in case covers (colour cover picture of Oxford’s 9.6-litre Regal Mk. III), postage £1.00 extra, from The Transport Publishing Co., 128, Pikes Lane, Glossop, Derbyshire. — W.B.

To a very complete coverage of the Land Rover now comes expert Tony Hutchings’ “Land Rover — The Early Years”, about the first four years of this universal vehicle, with 100 early Series-One photographs (93 of plate-size), numerous line-drawings and four double fold-out general arrangement drawings. This soft-back 152 page 12 1/2″ x 8″ publication costs £14.95 (£16.00 if posted) from the author, at Bridge Cottage, 11 Tilmore Road, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU32 2HJ. — W.B.

Osprey have weighed-in with a big book for Christmas, “Fire Engines of the World” by J. Mallet, a 224 page 12″ x 9″ study containing 300 illustrations, 110 of them in colour, for £12.95. — W.B.

We remarked a short time ago on the pleasure books about aeronautical happenings in individual counties of Britain can give to aviation followers. A second book of this kind, very attractively presented, has arrived for review, too late to cover fully, but describing the happenings in Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway Region, from 1825 to 1914. The writer is Peter Connon and this large and comprehensive coverage is published by St. Patrick’s Press, 52 King Street, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 7AY, at £8.95. — W.B.

Finally, the coffee-table present of the Christmas season comes from Albion Scott Ltd. in the form of the full pictorial story of the Bugatti by Hugh Conway and Jacques Greilsamer, although what the wrong-colour bowler hat is doing on the bonnet of a Type 57 on the cover is not clear — W.B.