Book Reviews, February 1975, February 1975

“The Rolls-Royce of Motor CyclesBrough Superior” by Ronald H. Clark, AMIME. 176 pp., 8¾ in. x 5½ in. (Goose & Sons Ltd., Salisbury House, Station Road, Cambridge. £4.75.)

The Brough Superior represents to many people the epitome of the big-twin top-quality motorcycle and this one-make history by Ronald Clark is thus particularly welcome to those like myself who while conversant with the general outline of Brough history and aware that there was such a thing as a flat twin Brough, for instance (I saw one in the North of England during the last war), require to have the details filled in. This the author does extremely well, using many excellent illustrations, catalogue quotations, diagrams, etc., to tell the story. He deals with the origins of the Company, the early models, the introduction of the famous SS80 and SS100 Brough Superiors and their redesign, and with the unusual transverse vee-twin and four cylinder Brough Superior variants. The exciting competition exploits of the make are likewise well covered.

If the book is not entirely comprehensive it is entirely adequate for most seekers after Brough information and a particularly valuable part of it is the detailed list of JAP engines used in these motorcycles, Brough patents, JAP power curves, etc. The Brough Superior cars (with one of which I had adventures during a winter pre-war road-test for MOTOR SPORT) are included and there is a reproduction of a late Brough Instruction Book.

I know there will be those who will want even more detail and others who will say the book, which is a reprint following a warehouse fire which limited the number available of the first edition, is all right as far as it goes, but that it does not go far enough. I am aware that Motorcycle Sport bravely published an article some time ago that reduced George Brough and his products to the almost mediocre. All told, however, I think it fitting that a Past-President of the Newcomen Society should have chronicled the story of this great motorcycle.—W.B.

“The Le Mans 24-Hour Race-1949-1973”

by Christian Moity and the Editorial Board of Automobile Year. 211 pp., 12¾ in. x 9½ in. (PSL, Bar Hill, Cambridge. £11.95.) Although this magnificently presented book is a history of the later years of the Le Mans 24-hour race, the earlier history having been the subject of a previous Edita Lausanne Volume, the main attraction is the splendid Pictorial coverage of these races, consisting of over 300 black and white and full colour plates. The history is there too, in the form of tables giving the hour-by-hour progress of each race, results, and many other statistics. Reasons for retirement are included and there Is an index of 96 makes which have run at Le Mans over the 25 years the book covers, SO that not only are past battles between Ferrari, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Porsche, DB, etc., vividly recalled but the lost-causes of Le Mansdom are also remembered.

This is a pleasing if very expensive commemoration of Le Mans 50th Anniversary, and while I would turn to David Hodges’ little book for quick reference to all the 24hour contests at this famous circuit, it is nice to browse over the sensations, drama and tragedy of the later races with this great tome on one’s knees. The captions avoid entirely the over-dramatisation beloved of those who wrote them for most of the popular motoring annuals.—W.B.

“Rolls-Royce. The History of the Car”

by Martin Bennett. 179 pp., 11 in. x 8½ in, (The Oxford Illustrated Press, Shelley Close, Kiln Lane, Risinglzurst, Oxford, 0X3 8118 £4.50.)

If you want lots of pictures, most of them from Rolls-Royce publicity sources, packed into one volume, right up to the Corniche, with Press hand-outs, factory illustrations, some data on early R-R history, the famous radiator mascot, some chassis and other drawings, etc., you may think this a worthy book. But it contains less than is at first apparent, for there are many wide white margins, and in the opinion of experts the book adds nothing fresh to R-R knowledge, has vague and even inaccurate captions, and except that it sets out to include every R-R model, as it includes the Corniche (even this claim is now out of date, with the advent of another new car from Crewe), there is not much to be said for it. Better by far to use your money on Bird and Hallows or save it for Oldham!—W.B.

“The Rolls-Royce 40/50 h.p.” by W. J. Oldham. 268 pp. 9½ in. x. 8¼ in. (G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., Sparhjard, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7,7J. £7.95.)

Here at last is the long-awaited history by John Oldham, the knowledgeable Rolls-Royce enthusiast and historian, about the great 40/50-h.p. cars of that make. The author has two P.II Rolls-Royce cars of his own and also a P.III, so practical experience of the cars he is describing is allied to his great expertise on the subject. The result is a book which no R-R fanatic will ever let out of his sight, and one which will be read from cover to cover, or chapter by occasional chapter, by other motoring enthusiasts, depending on the depth of their allegiance to Rolls-Royce.

Yet this is a difficult work to review. Foulis started the R-R historical ball rolling all those years ago with Harold Nockolds’ “Magic of a Name”. Since then there has been a whole cavalcade of R-R history books, good, mediocre and quite indifferent. Botsford scored top-prize with their fine Bird & Hallows complete coverage, which has just been again brought up to date. Foulis attempted something even greater, a multivolume survey of the illustrious make, in great detail, by C. W. Morton. Alas, it faded ten years ago, after one volume, and we never did get the hoped-for intimate story of the first 40/50, known to everyone as the Silver Ghost, although, as Oldham points out, the makers did not use this term until 1925, except for the original silver-finished demonstration tourer of that name.

Now Oldham has come to Foulis’ aid. You might have thought they would be enormously appreciative. Yet what have they done ? Muddled the pictures, let errors creep in, failed to punctuate correctly, split over the pages the coach builders’ drawings at the end of the book, employed an unfortunate page size, and put on the dust cover a horrid P.II which thrusts a non-original front bumper at the reader. This must have caused the painstaking researcher much distress. How many sales it will lose him is open to conjecture.

The book, though, is terrific stuff, although it needs a R-R expert to properly assess it. However, there is no doubt about the fresh and fascinating material it contains. To give but two examples, there is a very full account of Humfrey Symons’ trans-Saharan journey in a which reveals a very great deal not disclosed in Symons’ hook about his African journeys(!), and there is an absorbing account of how Mrs. Bower Ismay left her stately home in Northampton and travelled nearly to Timbuktu in her P.III (which Oldham now owns) accompanied by her .chauffeur, a friend and her maid. She experienced far less trouble on this 7,297-mile journey than Symons did on his 13,000-mile run, perhaps however at a higher average speed (32 m.p.h.). There is a full report by R-R on the Symons car after its ordeal and the truth is now told of why he had trouble with the Dunlop tyres and how annoyed this made Sidgreaves.

Throughout the book there are similar hitherto undisclosed pieces of R-R lore, and R-R items, true this time, and the Company’s record-cards relating to famous 40/50s are freely quoted in full—one can see the Motor Trade speculators rushing madly about calling at all the many addresses thus disclosed, in the faint hope that there might still be a 40/50 tucked away somewhere!

Less orderly than the Batsford work, this book goes deeper. I was disappointed not to have a blow-by-blow account of the full development of the 1907-1924 40/50s, and would have liked more discussion on the controversial London-Edinburgh cars, Neve’s in particular. Otherwise, full marks for more R-R material emerging, when the orange seemed dry. I know I shall read this book again and enjoy the detailed and intimate information it imparts.

It is, of course, packed with excellent pictures, although the publishers seem to have omitted some that Oldham had for them. There are colour plates in moderation, little drawings of some of the Brewster bodies on P.I chassis, and Appendices listing chassis numbers, customers to whom they were sold, and body-details for many 40/50s, notably the Show cars, though why we couldn’t have the full list from 1906 to 1939 escapes me. But to want this is perhaps greedy of me. For the book contains so much about the Ghosts, Phantoms and Spectres, including the experimental models, and it goes into their technical development, particularly of the Phantoms, in so much detail, that I suppose I, a non-R-R fanatic, should be content. But Oldham’s honest enthusiasm whets the appetite for even more.

A pity some of the pages of the review copy of this important and unique book were torn during production. As I have implied, “R” would have flinched at Foulis’ low standard.—W.B.

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Frederick Warne have added “American Trucks of the Early Thirties” to their Olyslager Organisation series; it costs £2.60 and has 140 illustrations and Captions.

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The AA, which seems to be a quite prolific publisher these days, has a bulky book that points out pitfalls for those who eat at British restaurants, such as the imitation herb and spice cookery that is said to he sweeping the country, but the value to be had in the Coffee shops of luxury and semi-luxury hotels. This “AA Guide to Hotels & Restaurants in Great Britain & Ireland” covers nearly 5,000 AA approved hotels, has 200 maps and runs to 577 pages not counting maps and supplements. AA members can get it for £2.15 post-free, others_ for £2.25. Presumably a lot of people have been very busy looking, drinking and digesting, to award 30 red stars (for best of their kind) to British hotels and 13 to Irish ones, ranging from the Savoy, Claridges, Berkeley, Connaught and Dorchester in London to the Winter’s Tale at Burford and the Pine Trees in Sway, Hampshire. Three rosettes for outstanding cuisine and service go to the Connaught, Le Coq d’Or, Le Gavroche, the Mirabelle, Thornbury Castle and the Box Tree at Ilkley, while the Mayfair and Hilton in London rise from four to five-star rating, making them among the top 19 hotels in the land. It is rather curious, surely, that the “Cotswold Gateway” in Burford, an AA hotel according to its sign, is not mentioned, whereas a smaller hotel is, and that at Llandrindod Wells the book will not refer to the “Metropole”, well-known to decades of rally and competition drivers, only to the 2-star “Commodore” and “Glen Usk”.

This book may well make unique reading in Communist countries and could, perish the thought, become a collectors’ oddity in years to come! Meanwhile the AA observes that 3-star hotel main meals have risen since last year to an average of £2.25 per head and b. & b. to L6.60.—W.B.

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Books to which we can look forward this year should include Walter Hassan’s autobiography, a Lancia history by a Dutch writer, and a pictorial approach to Ford products in Europe. There is also a book about four-wheel-drive by a staff writer and the possibility of BMW and Austin histories, while the Aston Martin one-make book is to be revised and a pictorial Austin 7 book is in the pipe-line.