Book reviews, February 1983, February 1983

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“Porsche — Past and Present” by Denis Jenkinson. 208 pp. 9-1/2″ x 6-1/2″. (Gentry Books Ltd., 15 Pont Street, London, SW1X 9EN. £10.95.)

This book is rather a surprise, as it follows a series started by Rivers-Fletcher and the title of which was the idea of his secretary. We have already reviewed Rivers’ two delightful personal studies of MG and Bentley experiences past and present and look forward to his promised look-backs to his days with Continental makes and with BRM. Denis Jenkinson has meanwhile come in with a similar but longer think-back to his associations with Porsche cars and the people connected with them.

This is pure Jenkinson and exceednigly enjoyable, at all events to those who know the author and thus see him in many of the situations he describes and share his viewpoints and enthusiasms. The book is primarily Porsche, D.S.J. having used, as Motor Sport transport, cars of this make from the VW-inspired 356A and having driven all the subsequent types, something like 35 different models in all. Because he knew intimately most of the Porsche-people — engineers, racing drivers and enthusiastic owners — over the years, as he still does, the book has a more intimate ring, in this respect, than Rivers perhaps achieves in his somewhat less intense recollections.

Indeed, this book is typical “Jenks”, with nothing missed, small intimacies close to the subject included along with the more serious observations. It comes from D.S.J.’s personal log-book of his extensive motoring, mostly on the Continent, and one day we must hope that he will set all of this diary down for our delight, even though it would occupy several volumes. For the moment, here are his Porsche recollections, as only he could have presented them. It is about fast, enthusiastic driving in the company of keen extroverts, so is probably a book the Minister of Transport would not understand, and might not like if he did. But Motor Sport readers will love it, and for good measure, although obviously the book is 90% Porsche, with the author being honest about his views of the later, new-generation cars of this famous make, as he was in his Jaguar book for Osprey, there is the story of his trip in a gull-wing Mercedes-Benz 300SL to the Arctic Circle with a Porsche driver Wolfgang von Trips (and how D.S.J.’s 1500 Porsche was “mislaid” afterwards), driving a Ford GT40 in anger around Goodwood, asides about his motorcycle racing and memories of the Lancia Aprilia he used for those long Continental journeys he did for Motor Sport etc., for good measure. It is typical of “Jenks” that in the same book as he tells us of his assocations with Richard von Frankenberg, Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill and others of that calibre he includes unimportant but very enjoyable little anecdotes about things that happened to his Porsche friends, such as Peter Coltrin, Steve Wolder, Jesse Alexander and Michael Burn, etc. . . . 

Apart from being very entertaining, especially if you worship at the shrine of Porsche, this book helps to put into perspective the rather confusing multiplication of Porsche models, with D.S.J. not sparing us his personal opinions of them — for example, “While the Porsche Turbo was a riot of fun and a wonderful machine for ‘letting off steam’, even if it was a bit anti-social, the 928 had nearly the some performance with none of the inherent excitement. It was not dull, far from it, but it did not excite like the hot 911 cars did. There was none of the joy of pulling 7,500 r.p.m. in third, as on the 911S, and then snatching the gear lever into fourth with the engine singing away.” Which was why D.S.J. changed allegiance from Porsche to E-Type Jaguar when Motor Sport was supplying transport to far places.

Most of those who start to read “Porsche — Past & Present” will, I vow, be unable to put it down until they have read it all, which makes me glad that when I first met D.S.J. at the RAE in Farnborough during the war and heard him speak with such knowledge of racing cars I realised what we would all miss if he did not set it down and was able to persuade him that he should become a motoring writer instead of continuing with engineering. One day we must hope to get it all — meantime, here are his Porsche recollections.

You do not expect to find errors in books by D.S.J. There was one place in this one where he talks of crossing over double yellow lines in the centre of the road and I found myself wondering whether he meant white lines. But if I were to ask I feel that he would look at me over his glasses as only Denis can and say “In that country, Bod., they were yellow”. . . . W.B.

“Le Mans” by Anders Ditlev Clausager. 210 pp. 9″ x 10-1/4″. (Arthur Barker Ltd., 91 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7TA. £10.95.)

There has been a number of books, good, bad and indifferent, published previously and the author of the present work generously lists these. All these previous titles have naturally dated whereas the present book covers all the Le Mans sports-car races down to last year. It is an attractive look-back to these momentous races rather than an in-depth technical study of them. Each of the series, from 1923 to 1982, is covered year by year, the text supported by many fine pictures and some colour plates of good quality. Naturally, it is becoming difficult to find “new” photographs depicting the earlier races but the author has done his best and, by using full-page studies of some of the known pictures, achieves a pleasing effect. For instance, the double-page spread showing the streamlined Chenard-Walcker of Senechal/Loqueheux during the 1925 race, its hood scarcely clearing the driver and held on by very insecure-looking cables, splendidly portrays what Le Mans at that time was about.

There is a lead-in to the race reports, setting the scene and reminding us that the new permanent circuit de la Sarthe was marked out by the local motor club in 1919, and the town of Le Mans gets a chapter to itself. The pictures in this part of the book nicely convey more of the “atmosphere” of this unique race. The terrible accident of 1955 is dealt with sensibly and not over-played in a fashion too many authors have been unable to resist. There are simple maps of the various circuits raced over and 10-1/2 pages of tabulated results of the first three finishers, the class and category wins, and Biennial and Index wins, and there is an Index. This is a worthwhile book for those intending to visit Le Mans this year, perhaps for the first time. — W.B.

“Der Rallyesport 82-83” by Reinhard Klein and Helmut Deimel. 9-1/2″ x 12″. (Druckhaus Rudolf Müller, Cologne, Germany. 45.00 DM).

It is not very often that something in the broad category of picture books moves us to superlatives, but when we saw the latest collection of photographs by Reinhard Klein we could describe it as nothing short of magnificent. His previous works have been only in German, but this one has an English edition, the text being largely the work of Austrians Helmut Deimel and Herbert Völker, cameraman and writer respectively. However, it is the photographic work of Klein, a German from Cologne, which marks this book as outstanding.

All too often, rally photographers concentrate far too much on competing cars, to the near exclusion of where they have been and where they are going. Klein does not do that, and his work depicts mechanics, local people and fascinating countryside as much as cars. The result is sheer artistry. Kenyan pictures show not only cars in mud and dust, but people, plains, sunsets and even a close-up of axle welding. The grandeur of Inca country is unbelieveable, and we’re sure that no-one has ever photographed a simple sand-dune just as Klein has.

Frenzied activity at service stops jumps at you from one page, the bleak waste of a Swedish winter from another, the sparks of a welding torch from another and sacks of Greek charcoal from another.

We don’t altogether agree (how could we?) with the authors’ claim that only German journalists can get a close view of the problems of the Audi and Opel teams, and we must point out that knock-on wheels are by no means new to rallying, but these are small points; Klein’s superb work is well worth having for its photographs alone, although the statistical analysis of each World Championship rally might be useful. — G.P.

“Motor Makes in Ireland” by John Moore. 165 pp. 9-1/2″ x 7″ (Blackstaff Press Ltd., 3 Galway Park, Dundonald, Belfast, BT16 0AN. £14.95).

Here is an unexpected book which should be of much interest to historians, which breaks new ground. It describes and illustrates with photographs, drawings and reproductions of old documents, more Irish makes of cars than most people would remember. In fact, those dealt with are: Chambers, Fergus, OD, Crossle, Nobel, De Lorean, with additional information about lesser Irish productions, from the John Rowan steamcoach of 1836 to the Dennison trucks, and not overlooking more sporting makes like the Sullivan Specials and the McCandless, while cars such as Silver Stream and the BR, etc., are all there.

When I say that the pictures include those of Chambers cars that had been converted into commercial vehicles because they had outlasted their owners’ requirements and one of a chassis of this make suffering a ballooning inner-tube during the 1912 Craigantlet hill-climb, in which it was driven by Charlie Chambers, with Jimmy Shaw, the Chambers’ draughtsman, as the passenger, the book’s scope can be appreciated.

W.B.

* * *

That de luxe coverage of the preceding motor-racing season, “Autocourse 1982-83″, is now available from Hazleton Publishing, 3 Richmond Hill, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 6RE, for £14.95, most of the magnificent photographs being by Nigel Snowden, spread throughout the book’s 256 9-1/2″ x 12-1/2” pages. These are in addition to the fine colour plates, and along with the “Autocourse” race reports and tabulated results are erudite articles on topical racing subjects, the contributors including Denis Jenkinson and Alan Henry of Motor Sport. Editor Maurice Hamilton includes his critical list of the Top Ten GP drivers of 1982 but this time awards no No. 1, his top nine being in the order: Rosberg, Prost, Piquet, Lauda, Watson, Arnoux, Albereto, Patrese and de Angelis. They are given “mug-shots”, and potted biographies, in this best of all the annual motor-racing reviews. — W.B.

* * *

Another big tome of almost the same size as the above, and likewise packed with black-and-white and colour pictures, is the Edita of Lausanne “Automobile Year book of Models, No. 2 — 1983”, which runs to 210 pages of 315 x 238 mm., with 250 illustrations, half of them in fine colour. It is distributed by PSL of Cambridge and although there have been many comprehensive books about car models before this one, the coverage, being up to date, is very welcome. The contents embrace motorcycle models, the workbench, the history of plastic kits, new models and a World-list of model cars, a feature on those fabulous models in the Fiat Centro Storico collection in Turin, and much more as well. The book sells for £17.95 — W.B.

* * *

Latest in the MRP series “A Collector’s Guide” is Eric Dymock’s guide to “The Sprites And Midgets”, which occupies 112 information-packed pages and costs £7.95. “Bob Dondurant On High-Performance Driving” is available for £6.95 from Osprey Publishing, for those who wish to take driving instruction from the proprietor of the leading race-driving school in the USA, and an Osprey AutoHistory on the “MGB” by Wilson McComb will be especially acceptable to MG buffs, because Wilson knows his subject through and through and this not-too-in depth book comes up to the sad demise of the Abingdon-on-Thames MG factory and what Wilson felt about this — the price is £6.95, the book’s full title being “MGB-MGB Roadster & GT; MGC, MGB V8”. This was the 21st in the series, published last summer and the theme continues, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL gull-wing coupe and Roadster and its derivitives being among the next batch of Osprey AutoHistories scheduled for early this year. Also on the MG theme, Haynes Publishing Group have Lindsay Porter’s “Guide to Purchase & DIY Restoration of the MGB”, which includes supplementary information on MGC and MGB V8 cars, the price being £8.95.

Finally, for this month, HP Books has come up with a large paper-back book about how to turn VW-based cars into “Baja Bugs & Buggies” for off-road fun and racing. It is by Jeff Hibbard and costs $9.95 from HP Books, PO Box 5367, Tucson, AZ 85703, and Le Fanatique de L’Automobile, 15-17, Quai De L’Oise, 75019 Paris, have their 340-page catalogue of automobiles of 1900-1963, at 320 francs, in which many of the entries seem to concern only the vintage and later years, a kind of French “Fletcher’s” or “Stone & Cox”. — W.B.