Book Reviews, February 1962, February 1962

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“United States Army and Air Force Fighters, 1916-1961.”

Edited by Bruce Robertson. 256 pp. 11 1/4 in. x 8 1/2 in

(Harleyford Publications Ltd., Letchworth, Hertfordshire. 50s.)

Although masses of motoring history books continue to reach the bookstalls, all too many of them are written hurriedly or fill rather restricted niches which other books have covered previously. Not very many motoring historians take the painstaking care that has gone into the text and illustrations of this reference work and history about American fighter aeroplanes. Messrs. K. S. Brown (Lt.-Col., U.S.A.F.), E. F. Heyn (Capt., U.S.A.F.), R. A. Freeman, M. J. F. Bowyer and P. Berry cannot have hurried over their immense task. They have written long and in detail to get a complete history into this book, which is fantastic even by the high Harleyford standards. In comparison many mere automobile historians appear incompetent, lazy, or both. The illustrations, comprising tone paintings, over 300 splendid photographs, reproductions of 333 squadron badges and 70 1/12-scale 3-view tone paintings, play a vital part in tracing the history of these aeroplanes from Curtiss S-3 to Convair F-106A, the fighters of three wars, 1914/18, 1939/45 and the Korean War.

Edited by Bruce Robertson and directed by D. A. Russell, M.I.Mech.E., this is a history of histories, a prince of books, a reference work that all aviation historians and American enthusiasts will treasure for the rest of their lives.—W. B.

“World Sports Car Championship,” by Cyril Posthumus. 195 pp. 8 7/10in. x 5 3/4 in.
(Macgibbon & Kee, 29, Great Portland Street, London, W.1. 21s.)

History is safe in the hands of Cyril Posthumus, and it is nice to have between two covers an account of this exciting age of very fast, very powerful sports cars and to be able to refresh one’s memory of how the rival makes fared in the Championship races of 1953 to 1961.

This was the era of cars such as the Cunningham, D-type Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, Testa Rossa Ferrari, Type 61 Maserati, Aston Martin DBR1-300 and so on, cars of a kind which the 1962 G.T. Formula is threatening to exterminate.

Posthumus brings alive the races in which these extremely fast, difficult to handle, hairy sports/racing cars battled for the World’s Sports Car Championship, which Ferrari won in 1953, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1961, and just lost to Mercedes-Benz in 1955, Aston Martin taking the title in 1959.

The book is a pleasing memory-refresher, essential to studious historians, although likely to appear sparse and expensive to general readers. It is happily free from serious errors, although we all make them, and Posthumus isn’t immune, mistaking the scrutineering area for the starting point of the Mille Miglia, for example, while I must disagree with a statement that comes in the first three lines, namely, that ” the first motor racing championship is the World Drivers’ Championship and that no contest of similar type was mooted until October 1952.” Cyril has forgotten the Manufacturers’ Championship of many years earlier, held by such makes as Alfa Romeo P2, Bugatti and Delage.

The only other grumble is that a reference work needs an index, which this book lacks. Obviously the author has had access to contemporary Press reports of the races with which he deals and his choice of reading matter is reflected in some rather charming quotes which precede each race account. Of these, ten come from The Autocar, six from The Motor, three each from Road & Track, Motorsport (U.S.A.), and Sports Cars Illustrated, two each from Motor Racing, Autosport, Auto Italiana, and MOTOR SPORT, and single quotes from L’Annuaire Automobile, Motor Trend, Motor Mondial, Automobile Year, Cars Illustrated, Auto Course, Car & Driver, The Sunday Times, Tuttosport, Motoring News and miscellaneous sources—which proves Posthumus to be extremely well read! Incidentally, one quote reminds us that after Jaguar had won at Le Mans in 1953 they sent a telegram informing Her Majesty the Queen of their success—one wonders whether Mr. David Brown did likewise after Aston Martin had won the Championship . . . . This is a useful reference work but I do wish the Mercedes-Benz cars were not called ” Silver Arrows “—an arrow is quite small and an old-fashioned weapon, which is hardly true of a 300SLR and if these cars were silver they had no right to be—Germany’s racing colour is white! The book also seems to tail-off towards the end, 23 pages sufficing to cover the 1959 season, eleven the year 1961.—W. B.

” Brooklands to Goodwood,” by Rodney Walkerley. 280 pp. 8 7/10 in. x 5 3/4 in.

(G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Port pool Lane, London, E.C.1. 25s.)

Goodness, gracious, the motor books go on pouring from the presses—this one deals with 50 years of the British Automobile Racing Club, from its inception in 1912 as the Cyclecar Club, through its very active Junior Car Club days, to its current B.A.R.C. activities. This is a great span of history and it is therefore rather odd that the author, who used to road-test motorcycles for MOTOR SPORT years ago, should resort to padding. Yet we get a detailed specification of the 1912 G.N. (was it really sprung on “long, laminated springs” ?) and Bedelia, a page listing (but no more) the production cyclecars of 1912-13, and a complete list of entries for a J.C.C. Night Trial of 1928, for instance, whereas the fascinating General Efficiency Trials get scarcely as much space, Walkerley being content to list the results of the 1919 event, while he disposes of the 1922 Trial in 15 lines—thatafter using more than 1 1/2 pages to list the production light cars and cyclecars of 1922.

In other words, this is an unbalanced book, which would have been far better had the author left out events which, although J.C.C. members may have competed in them, were not, in fact, C.C. or J.C.C. promotions—the A.C. de France Cyclecar G.P. races of 1913 and 1921 for instance—while the complete listing of various Committees of the J.C.C. as part of the text instead of as appendices stamps this as a book for the more nostalgic B.A.R.C. members rather than as motoring history for general reading.

Again, why notes on full-scale G.P. races and on Land Speed Record attempts figure in a work called “From Brooklands to Goodwood,” whereas the Alms Hill contests and the MOTOR SPORT Brooklands Memorial Trophy contest receive but superficial mention, is beyond understanding. There isn’t so much as a list of the winners of the latter Trophy, although Mike Hawthorn and Innes Ireland were amongst them. Yet every official at the 1961 Aintree Grand Prix is listed in large type (this fills 2 1/2 pages!) and the state of the scoreboard every 10 laps is quoted for the 1936 J.C.C. International Trophy Race, but not for other races in this series. Why, Walkerley ?

Much of the book deals with racing at Brooldands, especially the J.C.C. 200 Mile Races, but these are described in far greater detail in “The History of Brooklands Motor Course.” There is not much of interest to those outside intimate J.C.C./B.A.R.C. circles in “From Brooklands to Goodwood.”

Perhaps the Club picked the wrong author, for it has been said that Rodney Walkerley is a good journalist but no historian. Certainly chaps like Macbeth and Boddy had to vet the text with their fine-tooth combs to rid it of many errors and we believe the publication date was a little delayed in consequence. In the opinion of this reviewer it would not have mattered very much had it been postponed indefinitely.—B. J.

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In 1929 Fletcher and Son Ltd. published a directory of cars that were in production between 1918 and 1929, with specifications and prices, the total coverage approaching 6,000 models. This work, long out of print, is now available in soft-cover, photostat form for 30s., from Autobooks, 104, Islingword Road, Brighton.

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Playcraft Toys Ltd. have introduced an attractive service for collectors of their Vapour Trial aircraft models, which at present number Supermarine Scimitar, Gloster Javelin, English Electric Lightning and Hawker Hunter. The service consists of a wallet to contain various leaflets that give a great deal of data on the aircraft, including recognition diagrams, colouring, etc., badges of R.A.F. rank, and a log for recording when and where aircraft were spotted. This should prove irresistible to children but is also of value to grown-ups who like to be able to identify modern jet areoplanes. The wallet, of cheque-book size, with leaflets, is available to U.K. readers for 1s. by writing to Playcraft Toys Ltd. (Dept. V.T.), Finsbury Pavement House, 120, Moorgate, London, E.C.2, mentioning MOTOR SPORT.

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VW enthusiasts are now well catered for. The VW Owners’ Club of Great Britain has discarded its monthly duplicated journal for a pocket-size printed magazine, free to members, and a new monthly, Safer Motoring, is in fact devoted almost entirely to Volkswagen matters.