“Morgan Sweeps the Board” by Dr. J. D. Alderson and D. M. Rushton. 255pp. 9¾” X 6¾” (Gentry Books Ltd., 16, Regency Street, London, SW1 . £9.95,
One of the last books of 1978 was this chronological study of the Morgan 3-wheeler in competition, from 1910, to 1951 when production of these cars ceased – although Morgan 3-Wheeler Club members still race them, of course. I rate this splendidly-illustrated work my personal choice of “the motoring book of 1978”. There will be those who will say that I am mad, because there are far more important subjects that deserve this accolade, such as accounts of F1 racing, today’s drivers, full one-make histories and the like. If we take ourselves that seriously, my choice is wrong. But Motor Sport also represents the ordinary enthusiast, surely, and in that context, who can fail to be intrigued, even delighted, as I am, by this history of Morgans in all manner of competitions?
I wrote a far less comprehensive study, ending at 1930, for Grenville some years ago. Now Alderson and Rushton, Morgan owners and fanatics, have covered the whole story. The publishers deserve congratulation, too, because all this book really consists of is a listing of what Morgans did in trials, races and sprints, the text scarcely tied together, so it is hardly literature. It is the magic of the Morgans themselves, together with the little flashes of new information the joint-authors have worked in, backed up by absolutely fascinating, mostly-large photographs, numbering 170, splendidly reproduced, often from faded old prints, many never before published, that combine to make this book so outstanding. Somehow the authors have contrived to tell us who used which Morgan, with what engine and other technical distinctions, at almost every competition appearance. Whether they have kept every known Press cutting, or have written to countless Morgan exponents to do this, I do not know. Both, I expect, and the result is intensely interesting. There is plenty of humour, too, in almost casually dropped-in sentences. We are reminded of how McMinnies, told it was too dangerous for him to have a passenger sitting on the tail of his monoposto Morgan in order for it to take part as a two-seater, complied with the regulations by having a 3-year-old boy sit on his knees during a Stile Kop hill-climb – and just imagine that happening in recent times; and the fuss if there were an accident! We learn of the passenger in a Morgan which had been inverted by its driver at Brooklands in practice being asked if he could get out, to which he replied: “No, and when I do, I am not getting in again”; which he meant, so that the car had to run with ballast, in its race. (This equals the GN story of Archie Nash telling mechanic Cushman he was contemplating prone seating for him, as the Regs. had nothing against this, to which Cushman replied: “And they don’t say the mechanic need stay alive, either”.) Then there is Lones, asked why he had painted his Morgan racer red, saying “so that the blood wouldn’t show”. And much more in this idiom.
In a way, this book is also a guide to the different JAP vee-twin engines, so serves in lieu of a full JAP engine history, which I should think would defeat any author. Another most fact is that Gwenda Stewart took the Class J f.s. 5-kilo. record in 1930 at Montlhery, in a 731 c.c. Morgan-JAP the year before MG had done this with a 750 c.c. car, if the table of Morgan records at the back of the book (1912-1930, with 115.66 the fastest, again by Mrs. Stewart) is correct. Just think of all the journalists who have told of the dramatic battle between Austin and MG to be the first 750 c.c. vehicle to reach the magic 100 m.p.h….!
There are a few errors, of course. What were surely International Class records are invariably termed World’s records, a picture captioned as taken in the Brooklands Paddock is of the old tuning-sheds by the entrance road, the Railway straight was ½-a-mile long, not one mile as implied on p.32, there was no bank by the Fork, implied about Ware’s crash, and there are also a few printing errors, such as De Deitrich for De Dietrich, etc. And the start picture of the 1924 Exeter Trial is captioned as at Isleworth, when it was at Staines. Also I see that the Rotherwas Shell-Factory at Hereford, where speed trials were held in the 1920s, has been turned into an oil refinery! But it is all there, all the short races, the JCC “200”s, the LCC Relay Races, the MCC and all the other trials, the public-road and later sprints, described from the Morgan angle. The rivalry between the JAP employees, Ware and Le Vack, leads on to all the famous Morgan “names”, far too numerous to list here, after the great early feats by H. F. S. Morgan himself. Just as H. F. S. often took his sister Dorothy or his wife Ruth in the “hot-seat”, so other girls rode in competition Morgans and always the authors seem to know when, who these keen females were, and how they got on. Fernihough’s fiancee, Miss Butler, actually broke records at Brooklands. If there is no picture of the later Morgans high up on the Brooklands banking, Morgans are seen on the Mountain and Campbell circuits, and Ware’s is shown a bit low on the Members banking in pursuit of the Eric Longden cyclecar “Chunky-Chunky”. Indeed, you can almost hear the crackle of vee-twin exhausts as you look at many of the pictures, especially that of Clive Lones getting away from the start of a Madrestield speed-trial in a tailslide. … Incidentally, this venue, now used by the VSCC for driving-tests, was a speed trial course until fairly recently, used by the Morgan 3-Wheeler Club up to 1951, in fact. Little touches, like reproduction of a bill showing how the Morgan Co. encouraged enthusiasts in 1930 by a spares-discount of 17½%, (but they once sent Clive Lones a bill for 2d., at a time when he was strongly publicising Morgans!) and of a letter from A. V. Ebblewhite to Lones in 1929, about his procedure for timing records, and a drawing of Robin Jackson’s special chassis sleeves, are typical of this very satisfying book, which I rate the most enjoyable one of 1978. – W. B.
“W. O. Bentley Engineer” by Donald Bastow, BSc. 366 pp., 10″ x 7″ (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ. £19.95).
The Bentley story, both that of W.O. himself and his great motor cars, and the history of the subsequent Rolls-Royce-produced Bentleys, has been covered thoroughly, in a number of very enjoyable books. Now Donald Bastow, who was a post-graduate pupil at Daimler from 1929 to 1932, after which he went to Rolls-Royce, working with Sir Henry Royce in the West Wittering drawing-office before joining W.O. on Lagonda and Armstrong Siddeley projects, has made his contribution. He has written his book from definitely the engineering aspect. First he looks at Bentley rotary aero-engines, again exonerating W.O. from the accusations made by Alec Ulmann that these BR1 and BR2 rotaries were Clerget cribs, as we did in Motor Sport at the time. Indeed, W.O.’s classic reply to Ulmann, as published in our pages, is fully reprinted.
Bastow then analyses in great detail all aspects of the W. O. Bentley motor car designs, using mathematical calculations, blue-prints, and many drawings and photographs to embellish his findings. The extent of this study can be gauged from the relevant chapter headings – Conception and layout, Four-cylinder engines, Six-cylinder engines, Gearboxes and propeller shafts, Axles, springing, steering, frame brakes. In reading these obtuse chapters I had at times the feeling that I had heard some of it before, probably because, inevitably, many of the photographs and drawings have been used in other books and perhaps because the Bentley Drivers Club once put out a learned book listing all the materials used in W. O. Bentley cars, and the nature of these. This is not to say that those who can never I have enough of the Bentley magic will not hang on every word Donald Bastow has provided.
The next part of his book is of more interest to those who seek new material, as it is in the same learned style but covers the Pre-WW2 Lagondas, and W. O. Bentley-designed Lagonda and Armstrong Siddeley cars after that war. In these chapters, again with very complete coverage by way of engineering drawings, diagrams, graphs and pages of calculations, Bastow looks at the Lagonda V12 and LG6 cars from the viewpoint of their conception and layout, and he analyses the V12 engine, the V12 and LG6 gearbox, and the chassis arrangements of both these fine motorcars. Then, in the post-war chapters, he tells of that 3-litre Armstrong Siddeley project of W. O. Bentley’s that Motor Sport made much of some time before this informative book was published, and he takes apart W. O. Bentley’s 2.6-litre twin-cam Lagonda. It is not all drawing-board stuff, because Bastow discusses the handling properties of the 2.6-litre Lagonda and 3-litre Armstrong Siddeley cars, but again with pages of supporting figures and graphs. It is interesting that he says what a pity it was that the control of the Lagonda’s development passed out of W. O.’s hands before the rear-end breakaway problem of the car’s i.r.s. system and probable “oversteer in practice” could be cured.
Those who like Bentleys and Lagondas to a sufficient extent are going to read this book. But I warn them, they have some heavy going ahead of them! However, it is right that Bastow should get this off his chest and we may hope later for some perhaps more lighthearted reminiscences from his pen about his experiences at the Daimler, BSA, Metalastic, Jowett, Coventery-Climax, Birfield, Hardy-Spicer and Electric Vehicles factories, etc. His present book is dedicated to Margaret Bentley (I hope she understands it) and Walter Hassan, OBE has contributed the Introduction – W. B.
“Art and the Automobile” by D. B. Tubbs. 144pp. 11¼” x 83¾” (Lutterworth Press, Luke House, Farnham Road, Guildford, Surrey. £6.95).
This is an attractive theme, of interest to collectors of motoring objects d’art, picture-loving browsers, and I suppose some historians. It has been done before, but mainly from the aspect of motor advertising. In this book the knowledgeable Douglas Tubbs looks at all forms of motoring art, from that of motoring prehistory in the nineteenth-century, commencing with steam coaches on their presumably lawful occasions, through paintings and drawings of the racing monsters of 1895 to 1905, to motoring sport in the modern times and car styling in the jazz age, etc. Tubbs also deals with the art of Ernest Montaut and has other chapters about the work of Gordon Crosby (see also review of Peter Garnier’s book about Gordon Crosby in last month’s Motor Sport), Bryan de Grineau, Geo Ham, Roy Nockolds, Peter Helck and others. Motoring sculpture, mascots, and the like get a chapter to themselves.
The author has been able to include some reproductions of original Montaut drawings not previously seen. A point I would raise is that Tubbs says the car in which artist Pierre Bonnard travelled with Octave Mirbeau whose book was published in 1907 was an 11 c.v. Renault, whereas reviews of the recently revamped illustrations to this book and a TV documentary about them, called the car a Charron, even to the TV people, having the nearest they could get to the correct type of Charron filmed running at Beaulieu. A Charron’s frontal treatment is subtly different from that of a Renault’s, and I would back Tubbs as correct. I would, however, take him to task for referring to “the bad poster advertising Brooklands by Louis Vallet, b. 1856” because have the framed original of this picture, almost certainly commissioned by H. F. Locke King himself, and while admitting that it is a rather odd representation of motor racing, it does cover the makes which competed at the very first Brooklands Meeting, in no more flamboyant a fashion, surely, than that adopted by many other artists not accustomed to the racing car? This painting was not originally a poster but an illustration used for a great many years on the covers of the BARC race-cards, although it was later used as an advertising poster then in black and white I think. (It would be nice to know why Locke King used Vallet, a horse-race artist I believe, although this fits in well with the Brooklands of 1907.) Finally, was not Count Zborowski’s Christian name Eliot, not Elliot? Incidentally, we have been well-served with motoring art-books lately, with the Helck and Crosby volumes and that great Terence Cuneo book that includes his motoring works.
“Bunny” Tubbs is to be congratulated on collecting together so much very interesting information on this specialist subject and for finding so many fine illustrations even to photographs of motoring artists at work and engineering drawings, as well as the pure art-form, if that is a permissible expression for automotive art. Obviously it is largey the illustrations that make this book so attractive to look through, 225 of them, of which 50 are in colour. It is a pity that some of the best are diminished by being on the folds of double-pages.
There is a comprehensive index, the paper is good, and the dust-jacket and the end-papers are part of the whole, as it were. The text is informative, for those who like art but not the motor car, as well as for us. I rate this a great achievement. It is exhaustingly complete.
I have said that there have been other books on automobile art and the author endorses this by acknowledging L’Art et L’Automobile by Maitre Herve Poulain (1973) which he regards as the standard work on the subject – another book for collectors? – and to which he was introduced by Peter Blair Richley, who also took Tubbs to the paintings of Comte Geoffroi de Beaufort.
Incidentally, have you noticed how publishers have started to drop 5p from their book-prices, for the same reason, presumably, as milliners once docked a farthing from the prices of their goods. – W. B.
“The Power Behind Aston Martin” by Geoff Courtney. 164 pp. 8¾” x 5½” (Oxford Illustrated Press Ltd., Shelly Close, Headington, Oxford, OX3 8HB. £5.95).
Rather odd, this one. It is written by a person who didn’t discover Aston Martin until ten years ago, when as an evening provincial newspaper reporter he found himself near the Newport Pagnell Factory, and tested a DB6 for his paper. Courtney admits that he is not an Aston Martin enthusiast. His little book is illustrated with photographs taken by Roger Stowers and its short chapters are simply interviews with those who have built Aston Martin cars – Augustus Bertelli, Claude Hill, Sir David Brown, Harold Beach, Alan Curtis, Rex Woodgate and Sid Norman, Well, anything, within reason, which adds to one-make history is welcome, I suppose, but I would have preferred reprints of the very interesting articles on the late Lionel Martin and on A. C. Bertelli that the AMOC has published in its excellent magazine, and which were so informative. In this book the Lionel Martin days are caught only in a few pictures of his cars and in a list of AM production figures. The photographs of the celebrities the book is about are satisfying, Bertelli in a leather armchair with an antique chest-upon-chest in the background, Hill in a very modern arm-chair by a picture-window, Sir Davis Brown on a settee with good furniture behind it, Beach in his office, Curtis standing by what looks like an aeroplane in his front garden, Woodgate in the factory, and Norman outside his home-garage with Aston Martin TYE 758S – W. B.
“More Healey-Frog-eyes, Sprites and Midgets,” by Geoffrey Healey. 224pp. 9¾” x 6¾”. (Gentry Books Ltd., 16, Regency Street, London, SW1. £8.95).
Geoffrey Healey’s book about the Big Healeys was so informative, being written very much from the “inside”, that one welcomes this additional book, covering in very great intimacy the small Austin-Healeys and associated models, which are now, I am told, “collector’s pieces”. It is a very interesting account of the introduction and development of these well-liked small sportscars, not overlooking the manner in which, during their long innings, they were raced, rallied, and used for record-breaking. The book chapters, (following an interesting Introduction to Donald Healey, father of the author, who was responsible for these and other notable sportscars, in which good pictures of his Invictas, Triumphs and Healeys as used for competition motoring appear) cover the small Healeys in respect of how the idea was conceived, the advent of the Frog-eye, the arrival of the Sprites and Midgets, and how these cars were developed, raced at Sebring, in the Targa Florio and at Le Mans, etc. used also in competition motoring by privateers, etc. The book has the expected appendices, lists of clubs, etc. and altogether is the “bible” for owners and enthusiasts for these cars. The illustrations are first-rate. I am sure the car which Geoffrey says in the book’s Introduction that he liked best, the special Sprite built for the 1965 Targa Florio race, which would do 125 m.p.h., gave 35 m.p.g. on the road, was comfortable, its handling precise, and its only drawback was that it leaked water, is just the kind of small sports-car for present-day conditions. Geoffrey says he still has the drawings, in the hope of one day making another of these Targa Florio Sprites … – W. B.
“Theme Lotus” by Doug Nye. 200 pp. 10″ x 7½”. (Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 28, Devonshire Road, London W4 2HD. £7.95).
As if Doug Nye’s name wasn’t enough to guarantee accuracy and in-depth research, Colin Chapman’s Foreword gives the absolute stamp of authenticity to this definitive treatise on Lotus involvement in Formula One. To elicit the full background to Lotus, the fastidious reader would do well to complement his reading of this meticulously researched work with perusal of MRP’s other Lotus titles, The Story of Lotus. 1947-1960: Birth of a Legend by Ian H. Smith, and Nye’s own The Story of Lotus 1961-1971: Growth of a Legend.
Nye’s effort is a brilliant combination of conciseness and technical detail, for which the author has an uncannily perspicacious eye. Nevertheless it is not a particularly easy read, but the true enthusiast will find the story of the genius Chapman’s 21 years of Formula One achievement both fascinating and compelling. For those with lighter reading in mind, the thoroughness of the captioning to the 200 or so excellent photographs will ensure him of a pretty thorough history on its own!
Nye relates that according to Chapman, Lotus drifted into Formula One against his wishes: “I was only interested in Formula Two and sports cars, and the Elite. I didn’t want to get involved in Formula One, we weren’t ready for it, but the drivers were all fired up and Climax were doing bigger engines, so away we went”. The Lotus Formula One debut came in the BRDC International Trophy Race at Silverstone, on May 3rd, 1958, when Graham Hill drove a Team Lotus 12 fitted with a 1,960 c.c. FPF Coventry Climax engine to eighth place. Nye guides us through the quite remarkable number of 26 Formula One types (including the Indianapolis and Tasman cars, so inseparably intertwined) from the 12 to the all-conquering 79. Along this overwhelming route Nye uncovers disasters (“when the brakes weren’t failing the chassis was breaking, and when the chassis wasn’t breaking then wheels were falling off – no wonder Graham got peed-off with it …” said Innes Ireland of the 16) and triumphs (“The 78? Well I’ll tell ya it’s just beautiful. It feels it’s painted to the road …” expressed Andretti about the 78).
This is a rivet and weld, alloy and steel book, not a race-by-race account of Lotus victories, failures and tragedies; the earlier books cover that side adequately. But the appendices at the back of the book contrive to give what must be the most comprehensive record yet published of Lotus Formula One race-by-race and chassis-by-chassis results and history.
Yet there is humour and a human side to the story. The sheer genius of Chapman is forever dominant and astonishing, but here was, and is, a genius surrounded by other legendary geniuses: Rudd, the Costins, Duckworth et al; and by the best drivers in the World.
Publication dates prevented Nye from taking his important, historical tale beyond July 1978, so we do not read of the terrible tragedy of Monza or season-concluding double World Championships. But perforce this is a story without a foreseeable end and even as I write this the Lotus 80 is taking shape at Ketteringham Hall. – C. R.