Book reviews, December 1985, December 1985

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Books For Christmas

“The Ford That Beat Ferrari – A Racing History Of The GT40” by Gordon Jones & John Allen. 464 pp. 12 in x 8 in. (Kimberley’s, 4, Church Close, London, N20 OJU £40.00-£49.95 in January).

This is by no means the first book dealing with the GT40, Ford’s great success-car in endurance racing. But it may well be the most complete, and it certainly has many very good pictures. The 1966 Le Mans winner is seen in colour, and the frontispiece picture, of John Wyer, Eric Broadley, and Roy Lunn, says it all, for they were the architects of the competition Ford GT40s. The text is divided into six parts, covering respectively development, the works teams, the big cars, both prototype and production, the Gulf era, the customer racers from the angle of both customer support and the private teams, and data relative to the GT40, from the chassis, driver and technical aspects. The Appendices add even more data, even to coverage of models and kits, shown in colour illustrations. LAT supplied many of the photographs and this is a book that will render enthusiasts for the GT40 pretty uncommunicative over the holiday period! – W.B.

* * *

“Aston Martin V-8” by Michael Bowler,

224 pp. 9½ in x 7 in (Cadogan Books Ltd, 16 Lower Marsh, London. £11.95)

This addition to Cadogan’s High Performance series could hardly have a more appropriate author: Michael Bowler has been closely associated with Newport Pagnell all his working life, and his appointment to the post of Engineering Director there in 1983 has made it possible for him to employ company records both written and remembered.

And the end result is thoroughly comprehensive. Although concerned essentially with the V8-engined models, the book devotes a number of chapters to previous history, especially the David Brown years, to illustrate the engineering progress that continued through the ups and downs of changing ownership in the ’70s. Illustrated with many black and white pictures, the book describes factory failures as well as successes, and explains what lay behind the major policy decisions. Experimental cars and engines are shown, and the chapter on Aston’s racing resurgence runs as far as the terrible events at Le Mans in 1984.

The writing is frank and concise, and only in the very short final chapter on the firm’s hopes for the future does Mr Bowler sound like a “company man” – but then, why shouldn’t he? – G.C.

* * *

“Lamborghini – Supreme Amongst Exotics” by Andrew Morland. 120 pp,

9 in x 8 in (Osprey, 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2. £6.95)

This addition to the Osprey Colour series is essentially pictorial, with explanatory captions being the only text. Arranged broadly in “chapters” according to model, there are some interesting shots of the assembly line and repair shop at Sant’ Agata, and certain models are favoured with crisp specially posed pictures, particularly the magnificent Miura SV. Others, however, must need make do with the rather scruffy background of the Goodwood car-park, which rather detracts from the glossy image. In addition, the quality of some of the larger pictures falls short of others in the book, which overall is probably of interest to the Lamborghini devotee or the car-mad schoolboy. Personally, I found it repetitive to read the names of the owner of each car in its caption. Nevertheless, the “captions only” principle is appealing, and the Miura picture alone will probably sell it. – G.C.

* * *

One of the annuals most eagerly awaited in the MOTOR SPORT office is “World Cars” (published by Herald Books, 109 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3ND, 439 pp, 9 in x 11 in, casebound, copiously illustrated, £26.95). World Cars 1985 features a well illustrated review of the 1984 F1 season, 22 colour pages of cars with special bodies, articles on the future of the motor industry in Europe, Japan and the USA, and nearly 400 pages of photographs and specifications of just about every model, and model variant, produced in the world.

The main section of the book is more than just pages of figures, it is a panorama of the world motor industry. How many people can name Rumania’s three manuacturers? Or India’s four producers? Of particular interest are the cars which are not on sale here. Although most of us think of North America in terms of the Big Three plus Jeep and AMC Canada and the USA both have thriving specialist car industries which are largely unknown here.

If I have a criticism it is that I’d like a brief introduction to each maker. The book provides all the specifications of Ecuador’s Aymesa Gala, for example, but it would be handy to know something of the background of the maker, what running gear it uses, and how many are produced annually.

One slightly depressing thing which emerges is how firms such as Fiat, VW and Renault are so well established in third world countries while the British industry missed the boat. – M.L.

* * *

Ian Bamsey’s “Porsche Carrera 6 -962” (publ Tenorhart Ltd, Watercombe Studios, Watercombe Park, Lynx Trading Estate, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 2HL, 192 pp, 8 in x 11 in, illustrated b&w and colour, £19.95) is a concise account of those Porsche cars which have contested outright wins in the World Endurance Championship and other important series such as Can-Am. It’s a handsomely illustrated volume and many of the photographs have not been previously published. When Bamsey has located an outstanding photograph he has not been afraid to give it full value.

Each car is given an astute technical description, there follows a highly readable account of Porsche’s fortunes in major events, including the European Hill Climb Championship, and each section ends with tables showing the main results which Porsche has achieved, year by year.

Thus the work is a valuable account of Porsche’s sports racing activities over the past 20 years. What it lacks, though, is historical perspective, in particular, some idea of the strength of Porsche’s opponents. The results tables do not help for they record only Porsche finishes and retirements and make no mention of the opposition. Bamsey clearly knows his subject but the format of the book, with its emphasis on photography rather than text, does not allow him the depth of analysis of which he is capable. This book remains, however, a beautifully produced tribute to the marque’s racing achievements. – M.L.

* * *

Another book for Ferrari fans has just been published: Ferrari F1 Volume l – 1948-’63 (distributed by Motor Racing Publications Ltd, 28 & 32 Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London W4 2HD, 8 in x 11 in, casebound, 80 pp, £8.95). Written by Piero Casucci, and printed with parallel English and Italian texts, it covers Ferrari’s first eight single-seaters and although the text is fairly sketchy, there are numerous high quality illustrations, including cut-away drawings and brief interviews with two of Ferrari’s most important designers of the period covered, Aurelio Lampredi and Carlo Chiti. The second volume in the series (1964-1976) will appear in January while next April sees the publication of the third volume (1977-1985). – M.L.

* * *

Two more of those compact but very informative Haynes’ “Super Profiles” on well-known motorcycles have been published, from Yeovil. They cover the BSA Gold Star and the BSA M20 and M21, the former taking in some racing, the latter the use of these versatile machines by the AA and the Army, with a fine drawing of a typical sidecar-outfit as the front-cover end­paper. The first book was written by John Gardner, the second by Owen Wright, and it is interesting that both were introduced to motorcycling while apprentices. Each book has its quota of good colour pictures and each costs £5.95 – W.B.

* * *

“Exchange & Mart Guide to buying a Secondhand Car” by Joss Joselyn (Javelin Books, Link House, West Street, Poole, Dorset. £1.50)

This guide arrived just on cue, as the writer was in the throes of the secondhand choice at the time. Mr Joselyn succinctly summarises the avenues to investigate and the alternatives open to the buyer, starting with selecting the right model and carrying on with the economics, before pointing out the advantages and hazards of buying privately, from dealers, and at auction.

The book covers mechanical points to look at, your rights in law, and raising the finance, though some of the pictures are not very clear. However, for a concise look at the items to take into account, it is a useful and handy book. – P.G.

* * *

MRP has now published volume 2 of its “Collector’s Guide”-series about “The Mercedes-Benz since 1945”. It is by James Taylor, about the 1960s cars, including the 600s and the New Generation models, and is full of information and statistics for lapping up by avid Mercedes enthusiasts, and others who require data on the subject. As you read Taylor’s sage estimate of the quality and impeccable detail in these cars you find endorsement of one’s long-held opinion that Daimler-Benz make the best-engineered cars in the world. This book, in which new pictures abound, is priced at £9.95, which is indeed good value. That books about even quite recent cars are in demand is shown by Ray Hutton’s “The Z-Series Datsuns, including the Nissan 300ZX” (another in MRP’s “Collector’s Guide” series) having made a second edition in three years. You need this one to really learn about these best-selling Nissan sports-cars. It sells for £9.95 and includes racing and rallying in its compact but inclusive facting. – W.B.

* * *

The new titles from Brooklands Books cover that most exciting of makes, Ferrari, being road-test report reprints from various journals, including three from Motor Sport, one book about the 308 & Mondial models of 1980-84, the other the Dino 308 of 1974-79. They cost £5.95 each or £6.50 post free. – W.B.

* * *

Reece Winstone, FRPS, has come up with another of his picture books about cities long ago, this one about Bristol’s suburbs. It contains a number of shots of early cars, most of the makes of which are quoted, such as a group of an Austin 20 tourer, two Daimlers and an early disc-wheeled Minerva at the Julian Road Garage in Sneyd Park in 1922. This is but one of 518 photographs, one of which shows the author in his famly’s 1925 Armstrong Siddeley 14 tourer. Just the job for Christmas or New Year browsing, you can get this one for £9.20 post free from 23, Hyland Grove, Henbury Hill, Bristol 9. W.B.

* * *

When the first of Andrew Neilson’s thrillers, “Braking Point”, appeared his publishers trumpeted him as the “Dick Francis Of Motor Racing”. It was a claim which didn’t stand up for though it was a good read, it lacked the ease of Dick Francis’ novels, one felt that Neilson was straining to capture the milieu of motor racing whereas Dick Francis’ knowledge of horse racing is so extensive and ingrained that his use of it is effortless.

Neilson’s third novel, “The Monza Protest” (published by W. H. Allen, 44 Hill Street, London; 236 pp; hardback; £9.95) does not carry the comparison with Francis but, paradoxically, Neilson has matured so much as a writer that he can now stand comparison. He is at ease with his subject and the book is well-plotted. It was clearly” inspired by the kidnapping of Fangio by Castro’s supporters just before the 1958 Cuban GP though, in this case, the World Championship will be decided at Monza and the two leading drivers are the subject of a politically-inspired kidnapping. One drives for the “Farina” team (car number 27, Signor Farina wears dark glasses and is addressed as “Commendatore”) while the other drives for Len McKray (non-drinker, Japanese engine designer built like a rugger player) and these two personalities (who can they possibly be?) are skilfully woven into one of the many sub-plots.

The result is a rattling good yarn which I read at a single sitting. You don’t have to be a racing fan to enjoy it but the motor racing element passes the most critical scrutiny. When a writer chooses a sporting contest between two people, he has the problem of maintaining interest and credibility at the end of the race, or match, or game for only two results are possible: one of the protagonists wins or else it’s a draw. I like the way Neilson tackles this problem head on, yet also manages to keep the reader guessing while still reaching a credible conclusion.

“The Monza Protest” should solve a few Christmas present problems and be a welcome diversion on Boxing Day. – M.L.

* * *

It is not surprising that Harry V. Sucher’s book “Harley-Davidson – The Milwaukee Marvel” has already gone into a third edition since Haynes produced this G. T. Foulis-imprint in 1981, in view of the interest and impact of this famous make of motorcycle. The latest volume, of 328 pages, costs £14.95. The· book has much of. British interest in it, -and covers, with pictures, the Harleys that ran so effectively at Brooklands. The third edition has been updated and deals with the reasons why the Harley-Davidson concern has again passed into the hands of private stockholders and how profitability for the American Machine & Foundry Company which had acquired a controlling interest in the H-D concern in 1969 did not reach acceptable levels, and how quality-control problems intruded, as well as competition from Japanese motorcycle imports. An extra chapter has been added, covering the way in which the Company. has been run under private ownership, how ·pressure was brought to bear on the US Government to restrict imports of large-engined motorcycles made outside America; and what the future prospects look like in the light of undiminished foreign competition. Economists might well read this book in conjunction with “What Is Wrong With The British Motorcycle Industry”! – W .B.

* * *

As a gift co please commercial-vehicle- minded readers, what about the Blandford Press’s very comprehensive survey in text and pictures of “Ford & Fordson Tractors”, (by Michael Williams), going from the, origins of such farmer’s machines and how Henry Ford looked at the frameless Farkas design in 1915, to the 1957 Fordsons, in 128 10 in x. 7½ in pages, at a price of £9.95. Ford Model-T fans may get hysterical when they see the conversions once used to turn this admirable car into a tractor! – W.B.

* * *

Those who follow aviation as well as motoring history should note that Airlife Publishing Ltd of Shrewsbury have brought out Capt Eric Brown’s second volume of “Wings of the Weird & Wonderful”, about the odder sorts of aeroplanes, ranging from the Bell Airacomet to the Winter Zaunkonig, covering in fact 35 machine types in all, in this latest volume, which costs £11.95.

* * *

Only one aeroplane is described in “Forty Years On – A Spitfire Flies Again” by Lettice Curtis (Foreword by Jeffrey Quill, OBE, AFC, FRAeS) but it is of great appeal – Roland Fraissinet’s PR XI that failed to reach its reserve of £320,000(!) at a 1984 Christie’s sale, and which he will fly in many 1986 displays. This landscape size high-grade book tells in picture and text this aeroplane’s life-story, including how Lettice Curtis used to fly it for a former owner and how she won two air-races with it reminding me again that pilots (and top racing drivers) are people apart from the “you and me” of this World. You can enjoy her story for £8.95; publishers: Nelson & Saunders, 2, Dartmouth Road, Olney, Bucks, MK46 4BH. – W.B.

* * *

A rather unusual subject for an aviation book is “Into The Assault” (by Peter C. Smith: John Murray, £12.50), covering famous dive bomber aces of WW2. – W.B.

* * *

Back to motoring, No 8 of the SCC of SA’s picture book of 1902-1916 cars, edited by G. H. Brooks, would make a welcome present to vintage-car folk. It is available for five Australian dollars plus £1.50 for postage, from the Club, at 260, Portrush Road, Beulah Park, S. Australia, 5067. W.B