Book Reviews, February 1959, February 1959

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Pastmasters of Speed by Dennis May. 104 pp. 8-3/4 in. by 5-9/16  in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1.  10s. 6d.)

This book reprints from Motor Cycling  eleven of the 36 articles which Dennis May wrote for his “Pastmasters of Speed” series, which were featured in that weekly magazine from December, 1953, to September, 1955. The result is an entertaining and useful collection of biographies, written in May’s somewhat lurid style, covering such famous and successful riders as Alec Bennett, Jimmie Simpson, Howard Davies, “Tim” Hunt, Stanley Woods, Freddie Dixon, Charlie Dodson, Graham Walker, Freddie Frith, Harold Daniell and Bob Foster.

The publishers have certainly chosen some world-famous riders but so welcome is this slim volume that disappointment is felt that the complete series has not been included. For instance, any book about pastmasters of motor cycle speed which omits E. C. E. Baragwanath seems incomplete. Moreover, a page action picture of each rider, sometimes with a head and shoulders insert, contents the publisher but not this reviewer, who remembers the many interesting pictures which Motor Cycling published with each article. Had all these pictures been reproduced again some interesting mounts, including those nostalgic stripped Brooklands racers, would grace the otherwise barren pages of this none the less very worthwhile history book.  —  W. B.

***

 Omnibus of Speed  Compiled and edited by Charles Beaumont and William F. Nolan. 480 pp. 8-5/8 in. by 5-5/8 in. (C. P. Putnam’s Sons, 210, Madison Avenue, New York City, U.S.A.   5.95 dollars.)

It is inevitable that sooner or later motor sport should have its own omnibus of history and stories, and this is it.  This bulky book contains the writings of S. C.H.  Davis, Ken Purdy, W. F. Bradley, Stirling Moss, John Bolster and many overseas motoring writers. It is a mixture of fact and fiction and there is a slightly unfortunate bias towards the sensational  —  thus Kent Karslake’s account of the 1903 Paris-Madrid race, reprinted from The Motor, has been retitled “The Race of Death.”

It is pleasing to find that D. S. Jenkinson’s account of his ride with Moss in the winning 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz in the 1955 Mille Miglia race is reprinted verbatim from Motor Sport.  The publishers admit that this was the first piece they chose for their anthology and even if most of those who buy this omnibus will have read the account previously, it is nice to have “D.S.J.’s” famous report between permanent covers and in decent size type.

There is much history packed into these 480 pages but some of the material will be more acceptable in the land of the book’s origin, than here, while small drawings, stuck in at random and bearing no relation to the text, are all the reader gets in the way of illustration.  —  W.B.

***

British Sports Cars by Gregor Grant. 240 pp. 8-3/16 in. by 5-5/8 in. (G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 7, Milford Lane, Strand, London, W.C.2.   21s.)

This quick-reference work to British sports cars of all ages appeared originally in 1947.  That edition, although fascinating, contained some pretty shocking mistakes, which Motor Sport  devoted two pages to eradicating. Also, for some quite unaccountable reason, the Scottish author forgot to include such well-known Scottish sports cars as the Beardmore and the Arrol-Aster.

These mistakes and omissions have been made good and several new illustrations included in this fifth edition, which also contains a completely new section devoted to post-war sports cars such as Cooper, Lotus, Dellow, Berkeley, Kieft, Turner, Jowett Jupiter, and others. Data on these additional British sports cars which have been produced and run within reasonable memory is contained in a new section of the book but as some of the post-war makes, such as Frazer Nash, Triumph, Riley, Singer, Lea-Francis, Lagonda, A.C., Bentley, etc., also appear in the pre-war section, Grant could profitably have been more painstaking and re-written these chapters. Moreover, although the Swallow Doretti is placed correctly in the post-war section, we are told that it went into production in 1934 and lasted only to 1935! 

He continues to include makes such as Carrow, Clyno, G.W.K., Napier, Stanhope, Standard and others which were sports-bodied rather than sports cars, while omitting this treatment of cars such as the Bayliss-Thomas,  Citroën and others. And if obscure sports cars like the Bond and Comet are included, why omit Reynard, Moveo, etc.?  And his survey of three-wheelers is far short of being complete. Indeed, because each page of “British Sports Cars” carries descriptions and brief histories of more than two makes, on average, the contents cannot be other than superficial (the 30/98 Vauxhall receives very scant and not entirely accurate treatment) but, as ever, this book represents an excellent introduction to the subject for those new to the game and also a satisfactory quick reference work. The illustrations’ captions are in places rather suspect  —  I still think the car labelled a 2-litre Lagonda is a 16/80, one 3-litre Sunbeam shown is a “one-off” special not at all representative of the production version of these beautiful cars as a later illustration emphasises, while the car described as a Leyland-Thomas is virtually a Leyland Eight, built after Parry Thomas had been killed. These errors are relatively unimportant and only too easily made but it is something of a shock to discover that the author, who is the Editor of Autosport, quotes incorrectly the winner of last year’s Autosport  Championship.

However, what a large number of almost overlooked sports cars this book recalls!

***

Cardboard Engineering  by G. H. Deason. 120 pp. 10 in. by 7-3/8 in. (Model Aeronautical Press, Ltd., 38, Clarendon Road, Watford, Herts.   12s. 6d.)

What a versatile and brilliant model-maker Geoffrey Deason is!  The writer had the pleasure of meeting him during the war years and Motor Sport  has carried some of his amusing reminiscences of motoring on the proverbial shoestring.

Deason played a prominent part in model car construction and journalism at one time but his latest book is about modelling with card and glue-pot and very comprehensive and painstaking it is.

Apart from going into commendable detail about how to model in this inexpensive medium, the materials, tools and techniques to use, Deason provides clear plans and descriptions of all manner of fascinating, and in many cases working, cardboard models. These include boats, tractors, trains, racing cars, track-laying vehicles, etc.  Motor Sport  readers will naturally be particularly interested in the section of micromodels and bigger car models, including G.P. Bugatti, Gordon Bennett Mercedes, 1908 G.P. Mercedes, veteran Benz dogcart and 1902 two-cylinder Benz, B.R.M., and M.G. These models contain an incredible amount of detail and some of them are powered by small electric motors driving through authentic transmission systems.

The plans and diagrams give ample detail for novice constructors to work from Deason’s concluding chapter gives plans for a working model G.N. chassis, its 4-speed chain-and-dog transmission represented by shirring and card sprockets actuated by wire dogs, and for a Bedelia belt-drive cyclecar, the prototype model of which he made for the Editor of Motor Sport many years ago and which is still a cherished inmate of  “W.B.’s” study. Denson outlines the fascination of modelling all the varied little oddities of the cyclecar age, correctly positioning the engines and faithfully reproducing their transmission arrangements, the bigger versions being driven by an electrotor concealed in the dummy crankcase of a V-twin engine. Perhaps, however, his most effective card-and-paste model is of a 1913 Burrell Showman’s road locomotive—seven inches long, this model contains a Mighty Midget motor and a No. 8 battery and draws a scale load with ease.

This book is highly recommended.

***

We are asked frequently for a good guide to the mechanical aspects of the modern car. An excellent series is “The Modern Car Easy Guide Series” published by Temple Press Ltd. at 2s. 6d. a volume. There are six of these little books in all, covering “How a Car Works,”  “Taking Care of a Car,”  “Simple Repairs,”  “Electrical Parts of a Car,”  “Carburetters and Fuel System” and “Automatic Transmissions,” all are fully illustrated.

***

The Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd.,  have issued a very nicely-produced and illustrated book called  “Safety Plus,” all about Dunlop disc brakes for motor vehicles and aircraft. Copies are obtainable free, on referring to Motor Sport,  from  the P.R.O., The Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd.. 10-12. King Street, London, S.W.1.

***

Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 62. Doughty Street,  London, W.C.1., issue a useful motor-racing diary, containing much reference data, for 6s. 6d., post free.