Book reviews, February 1986, February 1986

“Land Speed Record — From 39.24 to 600+ mph” by Cyril Posthumus and David Tremayne. 303 pp, 10 in x 8 1/4 in (Osprey Publishing Ltd, 12-14 Long Acre. London WC2E 9LP. £17.95).

We have always admired the very complete coverage that this book about the World’s Land Speed Record gave to this fascinating subject since it was written by Cyril Posthumus and published by Osprey 15 years ago. Not only did Cyril give very full descriptions of all the successful attacks on the fastest-ever record rum the earliest times, but he included fine photographs, drawings, plans and colourplates of the more important cars, and also a complete tabular breakdown of the LSR, details of the un-recognised and unlucky contenders, and the untried and “paper” projects, again with photographs and plan-views of these cars a section covering what became of the cars and where some of them might be seen, and even a comparison in the specifications and building cost of such LSR vehicles, from the 1899 electric-powered La Jamais Contente to the 1970 Blue Flame.

All this made Posthurnus’s book the finest possible on its specialised subject, the definitive work on the LSR; and one of the best motor. racing books to boot. The snag was that it had become out-of-date. So what an excellent thing that it has now been brought right up to the minute, with the account of how Richard Noble won the record back from America “for Britain and for the hell of it”, in 1983, contributed by David Tremayne, Editor of our sister weekly publication Motoring News. Because, if Cyril was just the Person to dig into the archives about past LSR achievements and failures. David was the very chap to write about Noble, because he met him in 1977, was present at each of the Project Thrust attempts, and on the final run up to success acted as the team’s Press and PR Manager. We are also reminded that he has driven a rocket-dragster at Santa Pod from 0-200 mph in two seconds, which passeth understanding…

The book continues to provide the fullest coverage of the LSR saga, because all sections have been updated and descriptions included of those new cars intended to rob Noble of his record, which are even now being developed. I can only conclude by saying of this very excellent book, as I say very seldom: “Highly recommended!” W.B

“The Maserati 250F” by Anthony Pritchard. 71 pp. 8 1/4 in x 5 in (Aston Publications. Bourne End House, Harvest Hill. Bourne End. Bucks. £4.50)

This little soft-cover book appears to be the first in a “Classic Competition Cars” series and all though the Maserati 250F has been thoroughly documented by now, the many pictures, of which seven were supplied by our associated company, LAT, are nice to look at, and Roy Salvadori has written the Foreword. The book concludes with a table of Maserati 250F chassis numbers, and racing successes. We note that in the former list the histories are not carried far enough to try to sort out the vexed problem of fakes and replicas but that in these numbers, running from 2501 to 2525, four of the chassis numbers are quoted as not allocated to 250Fs; there is a good up-dating of the rest. — W.B.

“Vintage Motor Cars”. Shire Album No 146. 32 pp. 8 1/4 in 5 3/4 in (Shire Publications Ltd. Cromwell House. Church Street, Princes Risborough, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP17 9AJ. £1.25.)

This small soft-cover book provides an excellent introduction to vintage cars and the vintage movement in general, with details of museums to visit and about the objects of the VSCC. More than that, it looks back at the 1920s motoring scene, and contains 43 pictures of vintage cars of all kinds, the racing scene not being neglected, and there is a 30/98 Vauxhall chassis drawing, a bibliography, and the colour front cover depicts a 1923 A7 and a 1928 Bean tourer at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. Altogether, very good value and this would make a good present for those on the brink of ownership or interest in the older motor cars. — W.B.

“Ghia — Ford’s Carrozzeria” by David Burgess-Wise. (Osprey, 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP. £12.95)

Ghia must be considered as one of the more erratic of the great carrozzeria — some exceptionally pretty cars are interspersed with long series of overweight, even clumsy-looking bodies as various ideas were hammered out to the bitter end. Burgess-Wise ‘s text illustrates in detail the internal shifts of power and loyalty which led to the link-up with Chrysler from 1952 onward, and later the De Tomas/Ford connection implied in the book’s subtitle, and he has used his own position within Ford to explore Ghia’s archives. Thus all the important projects are charted both in text and in pictures, and the company’s convoluted history carried right up to its current place as Ford’s “styling think-tank”, responsible for the RS200 profile as well as recent showcars like the Barchetta, the lovely Brezza, and a breathtakingly beautiful body for the AC 3000 ME which must surely be one of the lost “greats” of automotive design. A refreshing education for anyone with an aesthetic interest in cars, this is £13 well spent. — GC

“Architect Of Wings — A Biography of Roy Chadwick, Designer of the Lancaster Bomber”, by Harald Penrose. 246 pp. 9 3/4 In x 7 in (Airlile Publishing Ltd, 7 St John’s Hill, Shrewsbury, Salop, SY1 1JE. £14.95)

I found this a most absorbing book, for who better to write a biography of the great aeroplane designer than the talented Harald Penrose, who has seen it all himself from the inside and who knew personally many of the personalities the book includes? There is, of course, the problem with biography that quoted speech has often to be assumed, but Penrose copes with this in his “Author’s Alibi” and although he seems to have had very little correspondence to work from, he writes a vivid, interesting biography, which rings true and is also a pretty full history of the Avro Company, from the very early days to the sad loss of Roy Chadwick in the accident to the Tudor II on a test flight, caused by the aileron controls having been changed over during some work on the aeroplane that was not, apparently, entered on its history sheet. So Roy Chadwick was killed, so unnecessarily, on that crash at Shirfold Farm, Woodford, as the more the pilot, Bill Thorn, tried to control the cross-wind yaw the less he was able to pick up a wing-tip, which touched the runway and resulted in the horrific crash.

This biography runs from the pioneering days up to that unhappy end, with Chadwick well into the design of the Avro Vulcan bomber; but it is for the Lancaster that he will be forever remembered. It is superbly illustrated, with pictures not only of Avros of so many kinds but of rival machines of other makes. It is almost printers error-free, although they were not sure how to spell Grey, the famous C.G.G., Editor of The Aeroplane. . . There is a touch of motoring interest provided by a picture of the Swift cyclecar that Roy Chadwick bought in celebration of his election as an Associate Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, in 1917. and a few references to Model-T Ford vans used by Avro and others in those days, and to the Armstrong Siddeley cars in which Chadwick drove about, in more lucrative times.

Recommended)— W.B.

Just to rub salt in winter wounds. the early-ripeners amongst travel guides are here. Egon Roney’s Guide to 500 Good Restaurants In the Major Cities of Europe is the weighty title of a thick paperback from the AA (Fanum House. Basingstoke, Hants) which strikes a fair balance between economy and luxury in its choice. Good clear maps of each city — £7.95. Now in its third manifestation, the BMW Guide to French Hotels has spread its net of establishments near autoroutes, simplifying advance planning for overnight stops. Descriptions are brief, but there is a colour photograph of every hotel and detailed directions. The price is £3.95. Consultant Editor on the BMW Guide Is Richard Skins, who has made a cult success out of his privately-published culinary Koran, French Leave. His unashamedly personal and forthright opinions on his own selection of 600 restaurants make FL3 lively reading, and personal experience confirms his sound ludgement. Where due. praise is spiced with blame, but when Binns (who visits every establishment he mentions) praises highly, the gourmet will not be disappointed

There is a persuasive honesty about this guide which makes it a Best Buy at £5.95, and it is available from his small family publishing concern, Chiltern House Publishers Ltd.. Chiltern House, Amersham Road. Amersham, Bucks. — G.C.