Reviews, February 1995
1994 Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship, by BHP. Duke Marketing, £12.99.
Once again, the annual touring car review is a three-hour epic, but such is the videogenic nature of the series that you don’t really notice. BHP never misses a trick, and such was the intensity of the 1994 BTCC that one almost marvels that they managed to condense the available action into 180 minutes.
Seldom has Murray Walker’s voice reached quite such altitude…
You may have seen much of this before via the medium of TV, but the fact remains that is an expertly packaged review of Britain’s most crowd-pleasing racing series.
It matches the standard set in previous years; that should be recommendation enough.
The BRM Collection, volume four 1962-1965. Terrific Stuff Videos, £17.99.
Another splendid juxtaposition of splendid, rose-tinted footage and grating, overly biased commentary. You expect an Owen Organisation film to have a pro-BRM flavour, but to hear the commentator pronounce that Graham Hill’s victory at Goodwood on Easter Monday was almost overshadowed by Stirling Moss’s accident is going a little too far…
For all that, and other occasional factual errors (over which Terrific Stuff has no control, given that its task is simply to convert interesting archive films into VHS format), this is another fascinating historical document.
If you want a taste of some of the things lost to our sport forever, check out the Brussels road circuit. Even allowing for the cavalier racing spirit of the early 1960s, its astonishing that racing cars were ever set free there…
Collins Road Atlas Britain. Harper Collins, £8.99.
An atlas is an atlas is an atlas, but large pages, 48 town plans, 12 pages of urban area detail and a four-page close-up of London make this one which I find especially handy. It’s updated every year so you shouldn’t miss out on those dotted “proposed” by-passes which have actually been open for ages. At 3.2in to the mile you can make ‘white road’ detours, and a spiral binding and marker flap help keep your place.
The Cosworth Fords, by Jeremy Walton. Haynes/PSL, £19.99
If you want a guarantee that the Ford book you are reading is accurate, look no further than the author’s name. I have great faith in Jeremy Walton in this respect, so am glad to see that he has followed his many previous books about fast Fords with a production and competition history of the Cosworths. It runs from the original 1986 Sierra RS Cosworth to the competition Mondeos, including the Escort victory in the 1994 Monte Carlo Rally. You get 200 glossy pages, and 250 pictures, plus an eight-page colour section. Race accounts of the cars and their drivers, up to the 7-speed works cars, are discussed by this acknowledged expert. Another title not to be missed.
Rover, by Malcolm Babbitt. Veloce, £32.50.
I suppose it depends on whether you have other books about Rovers, but if not and you want the comprehensive story of the P4 “aunties” here you will be quite well catered for, with some nice pictures. As a bonus, the book contains gas-turbine and jet-car data, the Rover-BRM and Marauder set-up, a colour gallery and advice on how to live today with a P4, plus all you need to know in the tables.
The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, by John Fasal & Bryan Goodman. Thames View, £195.00 (two volumes).
This is a monumental work, long awaited and well worth the wait. It represents an incredible feat of research and tenacity on the part of its instigator, John Fasal, and Bryan Goodman, using the archives of the R-R Heritage Trust and many other sources. The idea was to cover the history of all the pre-1918 40/50 hp, and earlier Rolls-Royces, the history by Tom Clarke, publishing as many available photographs as possible, 1094 in all, with a list of every car, the so-called Ghosts, from 1907 to 1917, giving chassis and engine numbers, coachbuilder, body number where known, test date and body finish, registration number and first owner, followed by as comprehensive a list of the following owners as possible.
What can I say? The result is magnificent. Were it not so specialised it must surely rank as the motoring book of the year. To Rolls-Royce advocates it must be just that. With supplementary information the work runs to two large volumes, totalling 904 pages. The production, on heavy art paper with silk-tied period markers, is fully in keeping with the dignity and importance of this great undertaking. Do not assume that all the cars are illustrated with the sort of plates we have seen in other excellent R-R books. These have variety, to maintain the interest of we non-Royce-owning laymen. All manner of body styles, views of cars in interesting locations, the stately home backdrops making one want to investigate how many of these fine Edwardian houses remain, groups of cars with other makes named, military occasions and so on.
So this is no dull catalogue. You can go straight to the data you are seeking, or you can browse happily in the wealth and nostalgia of the period when the “Silver Ghosts” were among the top motor-cars encountered.
Fifteen colour plates enhance these impressions, as do the interesting photographic captions with names of owners, passengers, locations, even of chauffeurs, meticulously recorded. I was honoured to have contributed just a few pictures to the enormous total number included in John Fasal’s privately published book, to back up those incredibly informative tables. Chassis numbers in the captions give quick access to this invaluable data; the technical alterations along the years, chassis weights, etc fill nine pages. The two volumes come properly cased.
Words fail me, in adding well-deserved accolades to this remarkable work, but R-R people will already be after it. When you have recovered. John and Bryan, we want a similar book on the post Armistice Ghosts.
A Guide To Motorsport Circuits of the World, by Tony Sakkis. Airlife, £12.45.
An unexpected but very welcome title from Airlife, this guide contains circuit maps, locations, routes thereto, addresses, even ‘phone numbers and suggestions about accommodation. It should be in great demand as a new racing season approaches.
Two for the motorcyclists: The Velocette Saga, by C E “Titch” Allen, BEM, edited by Cyril Ayrton (Amulree Publications), and a jolly picture book The Golden Years edited by Rupert Prior (CLB Publishing, £16.95).
The Marshall Story, by Sir Arthur Marshall. PSL, £19.99.
Although this book appears to have been produced as a record of the Marshall family over a century of its associations with wheels and wings, the story is so closely linked with the early days of motoring and flying, and the later very noteworthy and technical aviation achievements of Marshalls of Cambridge, that it is a book I greatly enjoyed. Most of us interested in aeroplanes knew of Marshall’s before the War, but this account of its birth, development by Sir Arthur, and subsequent vital work for the aircraft industry is described here in great detail, a remarkable feat of well-planned endeavour by this self-financed company.
From a private aerodrome in a field, Marshall’s went on to train 20,000 aircrew for the RAF and build the only runway in England that would take the largest of aeroplanes. If at times the text sounds a little boastful, this is excusable when you have read how efficiently Sir Arthur always operated.
The early chapters have much about the DH Moths and other light aeroplanes he flew, a reckless-pilot as he admits, and the cars bought by his garage business Metallurgique and Cottin-Desgouttes before WWI (illustrated), prior to the garage obtaining an Austin agency. Sir Arthur was an Hon Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and was able to persuade College dignitaries to learn to fly at his Flying School; a Reverend Canon, a fellow of Trinity, even bought a Gipsy Moth after being taught to fly! This is a book full of interest; Marshall’s first vehicle was a Carden cyclecar, played with by himself and his brothers, and in 1919 an ex-war Crossley twin-rearwheeled landaulette, an old Renault converted into a ‘bus, and a DelaunayBelleville likewise converted to take college teams to away matches are recorded; also an ex-WD 20-seater Daimler ‘bus and, in 1925, Lancia and Laffly coaches. Plenty of forced landings in the 1920s are described.
Sir Peter Masefield contributes the Foreword, and also includes the description of how he flew to Brooklands in Whitney Straight’s Gipsy III Moth so that Straight could drive his Maserati in two races, winning the second; the pair then flew back to Cambridge, put the Moth away (at Marshall’s in Fen Ditton, of course) and then bicycled to their colleges, as cars were forbidden to undergraduates.
The book is written as meticulously as Sir Arthur ran his businesses, and indeed his life; my only criticisms are that the Model-T Ford did not have automatically variable gears, and the A7 was introduced in 1922, not 1921. But what a very interesting and outstanding book!
British Piston Aero-Engines And Their Aircraft, by Alec Lumsden. Airlife of Shrewsbury, £39.95.
Aeroplane books are prolific but aero-engines have been badly neglected. Apart from Griffin Books’ Birl’s All The Worlds Aero-Engines (1917), the subject was neglected until 1971, when L J K Setright gave us his rather disjointed The Power To Fly. This was followed in 1986 by Bill Gunston’s useful but not 100% comprehensive World Encyclopaedia of Aero Engines, preceded in America in 1981 by Herschel Smith’s Aircraft Piston Engines, with the benefit of “Pros and cons”. More recently there have been two small books on the defunct rotaries and a specialist book about Green and ENV aero-engines. Much more comprehensive is Airlife’s recent volume, covering 968 piston engines and the 3116 aeroplanes in which they were installed, together with explanations on design, fuel and valve-timing, with copious illustrations, in 346 informative pages.