Book Reviews, December 1986, December 1986

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Theme Lotus — 1956-1986 From Chapman to Ducarouge by Doug Nye, 288 pp. 10” x 7″.  Motor Racing Publications Ltd., Unit 6, The Pilton Estate, 46 Pitlake, Croydon, CR0 3RY. £16.95.

In 1978, the year in which Mario Andretti won the World Drivers’ Championship when driving for Team Lotus, Doug Nye’s first “Theme Lotus” book was published.  He has now reconstructed this to bring the Lotus racing story up to date, in the field of not only F1 but of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the contests in the Tasman series. Doug has arranged his comprehensive Lotus coverage in chapters on the many different types of Lotus racing cars which have brought the career of this British John Player sponsored team up to the present day. So the book opens with the Lotus 12 of 1957 and runs through all the types, up to the prevailing 96T. To put these many different types of Lotuses in perspective, chapter headings are embellished with quotes of what those who drove them or were responsible for them in other ways, remember of them. Colin Chapman’s Foreword to the original “Theme Lotus” is included, as the lead-in to this important new book.

Apart from this, there are separate chapters on Colin Chapman, Gerard Ducarouge, Peter Warr, and other Lotus leading personalities, and as the book is packed with pictures and has tabulated race-results, as they apply to Lotus, with car numbers and the specifications of all the racing variants from 1956 to this year, the book is essential reading and reference material for all Lotus followers who can afford it.  If just occasionally you read a bit you have seen elsewhere, this is a tribute to Doug’s industriousness as a writer: it has been quite a feat to cover in this one book the design, development, successes and failures of every Lotus that has taken part in the F1 World Championship Grands Prix. — WB

***

The Land Speed Record — To the Sound Barrier and Beyond by Peter J R Holthusen,  233pp 10-3/4″ x 8″.  G.T. Foulis & Co Ltd., Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ.  £14.95.

I would not have thought another book about the Land Speed Record was justified, as I have always regarded the excellent work by Cyril Posthumus and David Tremayne as the ultimate on this subject; it was first published in 1971 and republished with David’s additions in 1985.  Indeed, I prefer that book to the latest title and as both take the story from the Jeantaud’s record of 39.24 mph in 1898 to Richard Noble’s 633.468 mph in Thrust 2 in 1983 one hopes there is not to be a publishers’ war, with the aim of one having the same titles in their lists as the other.

The table of all the LSRs in the Haynes/Foulis book is difficult to read compared to that in the Osprey book and is confusing because it makes no difference between records recognised in Europe and those unofficial records established in the USA, so that the figures jump, for instance, from 180 mph in 1922 to 129 mph in the same year, without explanation. The Bibliography is equally odd, including only the first edition of  “Posthumus”, my first of the three small volume Brooklands books but not the combined revised edition, no mention of G. E. T. Eyston’s pre-war record book, and no credit is given to me for having written the first of the books on the LSR for MRP just after the war, while “Zborowsky” in the Index raises the eyebrows.

So, if you have £15.0 spare, buy this one mainly for its fine pictures, although the early ones have inevitably been seen previously;  the later colour shots of American contenders may please you more.  I would question the author’s authority for saying Parry Thomas was decapitated by a broken chain on “Babs”, or that after the tragic accident the engine was “ablaze”, and the wording implies that this car had but one driving-chain!  Nor was Thomas found sitting “upright”, but dead, in the cockpit, and this is the first time I have heard that the “timing wire” was found tangled in the car’s wreckage.

The book is badly out-of-date, showing colour pictures of the 4-litre V12 Sunbeam that Segrave used to take the LSR in 1926 in the form in which it now exists and saying that it is owned by Neil Corner and the other of these Sunbeam chassis now races with a Napier “Lion” aero-engine installed, whereas Peter Morley rebuilt this car with a Bentley chassis some considerable time ago, and the Sunbeam “Tiger” is owned by Bob Roberts, of the Midland Motor Museum. Incidentally, it is good to note that in the list of where LSR cars can be seen, most of the significant ones are in the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. — WB

***

Rallying — The 4 Wheel Drive Revolution by Graham Robson. 192pp. 11-1/4″ x 8″.  G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd. Sparkford, Near Yeovil, Somerset 8622 7JJ. £19.95.

Good old Robson is still churning ’em out, but he is a knowledgeable writer, and has good tales to tell. Four-wheel-drive is the “in thing”, as Motor Sport readers cannot fail to be aware. It is nice to know that rallying played a great part in the development of all-wheel-drive and in this large format, art paper, book Robson, who began his rallying experience at the age of 17 and who ran the Standard-Triumph Competition Department in the 1960s, covers this well, in a book packed with fine action and technical pictures, some in full colour as is usual nowadays.

Here you can savour the 4WD competition cars of Audi, Citroën, Ford, Lancia, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche and others and read of what brought this revolution about, the theory of 4WD traction, how Audi Quattros dominated the rally world from 1981 to 1983, and how things have worked out since. This is a very important book, because 4WD is going to make a great contribution to road safety and I hope you are not tiring of reading about it! Personally, I feel sorry for manufacturers who have brought out brave new cars that are propelled only through one pair of wheels and say congratulations to Ford for coming up so early in the game with permanently-engaged four-wheel-drive and inexpensive anti-lock braking on production models.  If you do not believe that motor racing and rallying improve the breed, read this book. — WB

***

Ferrari 312 & 512 Sports Racing Cars by Ian Bamsey. 160pp,  G.T. Fouis & Co Ltd., Sparkford, Near Yeovil, Somerset. £19.95.

For many people, the late sixties were the great years of international sportscar racing, and Ian Bamsey has chosen to concentrate here on the only real challenge to Porsche supremacy, the vee and flat twelve Ferraris. There is much more interesting variation here than in many one-type books, thanks to the enormous differences both technically and outwardly amongst the red cars between the 3-litre V12 of 1969 and the flat-12 (or 180° V as the author insists on calling them) cars which narrowly lost out to Matra in 1973, and a wealth of photographs and line drawings is included, many in colour.

The text is split year by year with short mini-chapters devoted to each new project, its racing exploits, and a “Maranello Briefing”, which makes it possible to find one’s way around the complex history while still being easy to read as a complete work.  Bamsey has gone back to Ferrari, and in particular Mauro Forghieri, for many of the technical and race facts, these include an appendix listing every chassis number in every race, for those who get excited over minutiae, and although the book comes to the same abrupt stop as Ferrari’s sports-racing programme, it offers a good summary of the story. However, it seems rather expensive at £20 — GC

***

There have been so many books published about Porsche cars, that one might have been forgiven for thinking that the only one remaining for someone to do would be a book of recipes from the works canteen.  One would be wrong, for one fascinating area which has not previously been covered is Porsche-based specials. Porsche Specials by Lothar Boschen and Jurgen Barth, translated by Peter Wareham, edited by Paul Frère and Michael Cotton, published by Patrick Stephens Lid., Denington Estate, Wellingborough, Northants, 224pp, illustrated, 9-1/2″ x 7″,  £14.95, actually has a much wider brief than just Porsche-based specials, for it covers Dr Ferdinand Porsche’s tank designs, his aero engines and the Auto Union and Cisitalia GP cars and some of the special projects undertaken by Porsche Research. The result is a book of astonishing diversity, with something to delight on every page, especially since there are around 300 photographs to back up the text. There is Pete Lovely’s F2 “Pooper”, the twin-engined Indycar, the ‘Long-life’ design exercise, special bodied cars — it’s impossible to convey the breadth of contents without actually listing the 100+ entries.  My personal favourite is the road-going 917 which was prepared for Count Rossi, such stuff as dreams are made on…

Unlike many Porsche books which appeal primarily to enthusiasts of the marque,  Porsche Specials is for everyone and my copy is already showing signs of becoming very well thumbed indeed. — ML

***

The newest book in Octopus Books “Great Marques” series is Cadillac by Andrew Whyte, these one-make books which have already dealt with Alfa Romeo, BMW, Bugatti, Ferrari, Jaguar (oddly enough, not by Andrew), Mercedes-Benz, MG, Porsche and Rolls-Royce, being edited by John Blunsden, it is fitting that America’s top car should follow the compilation on Rolls-Royce and as these are large-format books (12-1/2″ x 9″) justice is done to the pictures, a lot them in colour, as the story unfolds in the 79 Pages.

The last Cadillac covered is the Seville, the book not being quite up-to-date enough to include the new Allante, but Andrew Whyte has certainly not overlooked the sporting connotations of Cadillac. The price of the book is a modest £5.95, and it is published from 59 Grosvenor Street, London, W1, the print-run being of benefit to Hong Kong — WB

***

Anthony Pritchard’s Directory Formula One Cars published by Aston Publications Ltd., Bourne End House, Harvest Hill, Bourne End, Bucks, 224pp,  8-1/2″ x 6″, illustrated, paperback, £9.95, lists all the cars which have appeared in F1 since 1966.  This amounts to a total of 52 marques, some of which like Con-new, Bellasi, Kausen and Maki had very short careers while the Pearce-Martins had no career at all since the cars were destroyed in a fire before participating in a race.

Each car is described in Pritchard’s readable style with its major successes included in the text. With well over 200 types to deal with the descriptions are not exhaustive but are detailed enough to satisfy most people. The text is backed by black and white photographs.

One trouble with all such books is that they are quickly out of date, but Aston Publications has managed to include 1986 results up to this year’s Canadian GP.

This is a handy quick-reference work without being definitive, for we now have Doug Nye’s recent “Autocourse History of the Grand Prix Car 1966-85”, but Pritchard’s book is half the size and half the price. You pay your money and you take your choice. — M L.

***

Nobody is better qualified to write about Ford’s series of ”RS” models than Jeremy Walton, for JW has driven them all, competed in most, worked for Ford, and is anyway a leading motoring writer.  Consequently his latest offering, The RS Fords, published by AGB Specialist Publications Ltd, Audit House, Field End Road, Eastcote, Ruislip, Middx, 68 pp, A4 magazine-format, perfect-bound, colour and b&w illustrations, £2.25, is not only very readable, but is also has a rare authority.

The magazine format of this publication suits the subject admirably for it allows us to enjoy the story of some interesting cars at a reasonable price. Of the 68 pages, 22 are advertisements but since the majority directly relate to RS Fords, their overall effect is to enhance the text.

This volume is well illustrated, with 11 pages in colour, and is rounded off with full specifications of all the models.

***

G.T. Foulis & Co have reissued a 187 page book previously entitled ‘American Follies’ but now called Amazing American Automobiles,  the authors being Alberto Martinez and Jean-Loup Nory, which for those who like what the hand-out describes as “ostentatious beasts” and who love coffee table tomes will set them back the sum of £17 95, to read and look at a selected two dozen of these American automobiles of the nineteen-forties to the early nineteen-sixttes periods. –WB

***

The history of Croydon Airport, now defunct, has been well looked after by the London Borough of Sutton Libraries 8, Arts Services, and one wishes that other such organisations would do the same for the transport history of their areas. To date the Sutton Library Service has published six excellent and enjoyable books about flying activities at Croydon, taking the story from 1915 to 1940 and another is pending, about war-time and post-war years.  In the meantime, apart from the three already published pictorial booklets and three books on the subject, Sutton’s Central Library has just come up with Croissants at Croydon — The Memoirs of Jack Bamford, the late Jack Bamford having been in the aerial transport business since the age of 20, with Handley Page at Cricklewood in 1920, to his work at Croydon (where he became General Manager of Air Union, part of which became Air France), being awarded the Legion d’Honneur before he retired in 1965.

I have seldom enjoyed an aviation book more, especially the opening chapters about the pioneer days, with Breguet 145 and Farman Goliath, on the new London-Paris service, although the author had experience of all the many aeroplanes right up to the Caravelles.

Anyone who used to go as a schoolboy onlooker to Croydon in the 1920s, as I did, in the days when the expected arrivals were displayed on a blackboard and you hung about hoping to see at least one aeroplane land or take-off notably the big Farmans with their square wing-tips and distinctive (fixed) undercarriages will enjoy these memoirs. They are detailed and include memories of flying in the open cockpits of Breguets and of a forced landing in France in a Farman, just for starters. Of cars, there is the chartered Rolls-Royce, thought to have been the ex-Lloyd George car, and the small coach, that brought passengers from Haymarket to the aerodrome (the route and time taken is quoted), there are the Ford vans, obviously Model T’s, used by an outside operator to bring freight to and from the Air Union offices, and the big FN cabriolet of the Belgian Paul Grosfils, the London Manager, which he used for his frequent visits to Croydon and to rush off to the scene of any accidents or incidents involving his aeroplanes, although I doubt if this was a six cylinder, unless a pre-war FN.

Among the pictures is one of the aeroplane level-crossing at Plough Lane, Waddon, which I remember, and anyone who finds those days nostalgic or is interested in pre-war aircraft freight carrying, etc must get this soft-cover 195-page book.  It costs £5.95, from Central Library, St Nicholas Way. Sutton, Surrey SM1 1EA  — WB