Book reviews, February 1973, February 1973

“Safari Fever” by Nick Brittan. 160 pp., 81 in. x 5 1/2 in. (Motor Racing Publications) Ltd., 56, Fitzjames Avenue, Croydon, Surrey, SDD. £2.80.)

This is an enthralling account of the 1972 East African Safari Rally, which was won for the first time by an overseas crew, Mikkola and Palm, driving a Ford Escort RS1600. The author went out to the rally with Ford especially to write this book, so it is action-packed and admirably portrays just what has to be done to finish in a Safari, let alone win one in the modern idiom of this always tough and testing event.

At first, as Brittan described the drama at home in Essex as plans for last year’s Rally were formulated by Ford (Stuart Turner had to persuade Walter Hayes to sign away £50,000 of Ford money before they would contemplate it) I thought his puerile writing might be due to a desire to emulate the style of Arthur Hailey. But as the story emerged from descriptions of Turner’s king-size bed in his carefully restored period house in Danbury, not to mention his being-restored Jaguar XK 120, and got going on the Rally the book became impossible to put down until Hannu and Gunnar had been safely flagged in at the last Control. Whether all the reported conversations took place as the author records them is open to justifiable doubt but this matters very little, because this book can never be bettered as both an introduction to the rigours of the unique Safari and as very acceptable Sunday afternoon reading. From all points of view, therefore, Brittan has performed admirably and how he had the energy is a point any professional writer must ask himself. No holds are barred about the troubles, the mistakes, the Ford works cars were involved in and if anything the book makes Bill Barnett appear a more important contributor to Ford’s great victory than Stuart Turner. The adventures of the Annabel Ford entry are woven into the story and no rally-type can read this book and not feel the tension, or his own desire to go out and take part.

The book’s end-papers are maps of the punishing route and “Safari Fever” is much enhanced because John Davenport has done a Safari history, with tabulated results, as the second part of the story. From this one remembers that the Safari has been won by VW (three times), Ford (four times, DKW (once) Mercedes-Benz (three times), Peugeot (four times), Volvo (once) and Datsun (twice), in the years when overall winners were declared. Nick Brittan has made one avid to know who will win it this Easter . . .

Nevertheless, I must confess that, happening to re-read Humfrey Symons’ “Two Roads to Africa”, in which he describes his Cape Record with a 18/80 Wolseley pre-war, at about the same time as I read the more vivid text of “Safari Fever”, I wondered who had more fun, Symons on his own, or the Ford crews controlled by two-way radio between cars and service teams and cars and Turner in an aeroplane? I suppose it depends on whether you like your motoring adventure to come to you as a driver or an automaton; and which you enjoy more, individual effort or computer preparation. We can never return to the old days but somehow I think Symons may have derived greater satisfaction than today’s service-supported rally boys, as he battled on, with just a co-driver and his own wits to ensure ultimate victory.—W.B.

“Jo Siffert”, by Jacques Deschenaux. 208 pp., 8 3/4 in. 5 1/2 in. (William Kimber & Co. Ltd., Godolphin House, 22a, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1. £2.75).

A sad book, this, but one which should have been written, the posthumous biography of the great, much-missed Jo Siffert. The moving but unsigned Foreword, which the dust-jacket calls the Introduction, is by Rob Walker. The appendix lists all Siffert’s very considerable race participations, with results, since his initial appearance with a Jaguar in an ice race in 1960.—W.B.

A very complete and big book about all kinds of All-Terrain vehicles has been published by Collier-Macmillan, 35, Red Lion Square, London, WCIR 45G, although this soft-cover work is from their New York offices. Author Mato provides a copiously illustrated introduction to two, three-four-and more-wheeled and tracked cross-country and amphibian vehicles, for a sum of £1.25.

One of the first of the invaluable annuals which give the results of the 1972 motor races to be received was the well-known “Motor Racing Year”, the 1973 edition of which follows the well-tried and accepted format. MOTOR SPORT photographers have contributed to its many excellent pictures and this 128-page reference work is published by Motor Racing Publications Ltd., at £1.50.

A new book for those concerned with commercial vehicles is “Commercial Vehicles of the World” by J. F. J. Kuipers. It comes from the Oakwood Press, Tandridge Lane, Lingfield, Surrey, RH7 6LW, and provides fresh material and pictures for the rather excessive price of £3.00.

There is no dearth of MG history at present, led by Wilson McComb’s excellent book, and a kind of pictorial supportwork, very nicely produced, is “The Magic of MG” by Mike Allison. Mainly a picture-book, with many old-chestnuts among those used, this is nevertheless a fine addition to the bookcase, along with the same publishers’ Rolls-Royce and Bentley books. For it is a high-class production by Dalton Watson Ltd., 76, Wardour Street, London, W1V 4AN. It sells for £4.50 and runs to 208 10 in. x 7 in. pages of fine art paper.

There was a very comprehensive Norton motorcycle history last year serialised in Motorcycle Sport but those who believe that you cannot, have too much of a good thing should note that “Norton Story” by Bob Holiday has been published by PSL, 9, Ely Place, London, EC1N 6SQ. It runs to 128 9 3/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. pages and contains 78 photographs and a dozen drawings, the price being £2.80. It is concise, easily read, and well illustrated, putting Norton into clear perspective.

Profile No. 3 is by Doug Nye and is about the F1 Repco Brabhams, with colour pictures by Gordon Davies and very complete tabulated data covering the specifications, individual histories and race performances of these Tauranac-designed cars which used their own Repco engines.

“Harry Ferguson—Inventor and Pioneer” by Colin Fraser. 294 pp. 8 1/2 in. 5 1/4 in. (John Murray Ltd., 50, Albemarle Street, London, W1X 4BD).

Although this is an industrial history woven about the remarkable Harry Ferguson and his revolutionary tractors I found it compulsive reading, which occupied much of the Christmas holiday. The book has a current ring about it, for the late Harry Ferguson foresaw the evils of inflation which Mr. Heath is now trying to combat and, as he was Irish, the text contains a foretaste of the troubles now prevalent in that sad country.

The importance of this biography, well written and researched by its too modest author, is that it covers another facet of Ford history. Henry Ford I was more concerned with mechanised farming than with road transport and when he saw that the original Fordson tractor was capable of improvement he was eager to go in with the Ferguson System, clinched with that astonishing “handshake-deal” by Ferguson. The subsequent break-up and remarkable legal battle which consolidated Ferguson’s wealth was hardly Henry Ford’s doing. All this enthralling industrial strife is well portrayed in this important book, which also makes the basics of tractor design understandable, with some glimpses of early tractor history. The part played by Ferguson as an Irish aviation pioneer, driver of a 1912 Coupé de l’Auto Vauxhall in Irish competition events, and his helps in making the Ulster TT car races possible, is included and illustrated. Ferguson’s famous demonstrations are well documented. I found this interesting because I attended his four-wheel-drive party at Abbotswood and well recall the rather childish lecture Ferguson gave the Press in his library, which caused Maurice Smith of The Autocar to doze off. Ferguson awakening him with a slap on the knee (no support from that area now, I thought!). The after-lunch demonstration in the grounds was badly staged, inasmuch as a VW was seen to have nearly the tractive power of the 4WD Ferguson. But the book’s author is not quite right when he says Ferguson demonstrated only the Ferguson’s tractive advantages. A dummy was flung, in fact, in front of it on this occasion, to show how effective was its braking. How worked up Tony Rob was on these occasions! My present run to the office, incidentally, takes me past Abbotswood, after diverting from the miserable A40 at Burford to lift over the Cotswolds at Stow-on-the-Wold, so I am regularly reminded of the Ferguson saga. As originally conceived, the Ferguson tractor, field-serviced and with training schools for users, was in the Rolls-Royce idiom.

Colin Fraser has recorded it splendidly! He does call the engine in Roll’s ERA “Remus” a Riley, but that is broadly true. The book goes as far as the P.99 4WD racing car but omits reference to the Jensen FF on the Ferguson Formula, since discontinued, and the use of it on twenty Ford Capris for the Police, etc. There is, indeed, not much about cars in the book, except that it tells us Ferguson used a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, Stirling Moss’ success with the P.99 is mentioned but not Westbury’s hill-climb exploits with it, nor are we told whether Chambers whose Riley crashed and caused the end of the Ulster TT is the Chambers who became a prominent Ferguson engineer. But it is interesting to he reminded that Ferguson was offered the running of the BRM project, but insufficient control for him to accept, and I can endorse the thoroughness and excellent tooling-up which went into the building of the P.99, which indicates that Ferguson could have been another Vandervell on the motorracing scene.

This book is not only an absorbing account of a highly important industrial era but it is another aspect of Ford history, which motoring historians will find valuable. It also pinpoints the development and manufacturing of Ferguson, Ford-Ferguson and Massey-Harris-Ferguson farm tractors.—W.B.

Several readers have pointed out that when I reviewed “Morgan—The First and Last of the Real Sports Cars” by Gregory Houston Rowden, I remarked that the dust-jacket carried a picture of his Morgan Plus-Four when, in fact, it depicts his later Morgan Plus-Eight, thus showing that he has remained staunch to the make. This I regret; but it does show that people actually read MOTOR SPORT’S Book Reviews!