Books for the New Year



“Best Wheel Forward,” by J. A. Gregoire, translated by C. Meisl. 194 pp., 5 ½ in. by 8 in. (Thames and Hudson, 244, High Holborn, W.C. 1. 15s.)

This is another book which, like”Beyond Expectation” (reviewed last month), is refreshing because it presents many facts new to English readers, expertly translated by Charles Meisl.

The body of the book is an account of how Gregoire introduced his homokinetic universal joint for front-wheel-driven cars and built the f.w.d. Tracta. Some exceedingly interesting material is included on the political aspects of developing an invention of this kind, and also of the different technical approach to the problem by various manufacturers, including Citroën, the world’s best-known exponent of traction avant.

Gregoire also describes his competition exploits, starting with the 1925 Monte Carlo Rally in his Amilcar Grand Sport, which had replaced his earlier Citroën 5 c.v., Scap Super Sports and Amilcar Sport. Accounts of the 1926 Monte Carlo Rally in a Majola and the 1927 event in a 10 c.v. Mathis follow, from which it is easy to appreciate the tremendous task which faced the rally competitor of those days, making the forthcoming Monte Carlo Rally in closed, heated cars seem in comparison a piece of rather delectable cake. After all, competitors in 1955 do not expect to drive single-handed and practically continuously for two days and nights, sans food, soaked to the skin from fording rivers, with the electrical equipment out of action and the car falling to pieces, as M. Gregoire did in finishing eighth in 1927, after starting from Gibraltar

After driving a Brescia Bugatti in French sprint events, the author tells of how he built the first competition Tracta, using a Cozette-blown Scap engine in an experimental chassis, the inevitable consequences being the same the world over, and delightfully described. Later exploits at Le Mans are included and the book contains some excellent “period” photographs which will delight vintage-car enthusiasts. Details to please motor-racing historians include the weights and engine outputs for these early Le Mans Tractas.

Intimate pen-pictures of such celebrities as M. Citroën and M. Renault are a notable feature of “Best Wheel Forward,” and there are subsidiary but pleasing chapters on inventors, French garages and early motor races, the latter somewhat controversial. Meisl, as translator, isn’t afraid to add corrective footnotes when he feels such to be desirable. Thus, when M. Gregoire states that the Tractas, of which a few hundred were built between 1927 and 1932, were the first front-wheel-drive cars offered to the public, Meisl reminds him that Alvis raced a f.w.d. car in 1925, catalogued a racing type in 1926 and marketed a sports version in 1928. [I believe that a straight-eight f.w.d. sports Alvis, never marketed, was at the Scottish Show of 1927. — Ed.]

Parts of this book smack of “padding” but most of it is very excellent indeed, putting “Best Wheel Forward” in the category of one of those motoring books you cannot afford to forgo. — W. B.

“Racing Round the World,” by Count Giovanni Lurani, translated by J. Eason-Gibson. 220 pp., 5 ½ in. by 8 ¾ in. (G. T. Foulis and Co., Ltd., 7, Milford Lane, W.C. 2. 21s.)

This long-promised book of Count Lurani’s, translated by Eason-Gibson, covers the years 1920 to 1935 and will presumably be followed by a second volume.

Lurani has a fascinating story to unfold, for no country fosters greater natural enthusiasm for motor-racing than Italy, and here we have the account of an Italian amateur who devoted his time to competition motoring.

Although the dust-jacket gives the period covered as 1920-1935. Lurani commences his autobiography with the year 1921, when as a schoolboy he attended the Coppa delle Alpi and from then on was another “victim” dedicated to motor-racing.

Learning to drive on an old C.M.N. in 1923, Lurani was given a yellow Citroën 2 c.v., later exchanged for a 1,100-c.c. Salmson with, one suspects, the “push-pull” engine. He entered competition motoring with a 125-c.c. two-stroke Vaga motorcycle and the Salmson, the latter disqualified at Monza for exceeding its handicap speed, covering 100 km. at about 94 k.p.h.!

In 1925 Lurani acquired a twin-cam Salmson capable of 120 k.p.h., and he returned to racing with a Ruby-engined Derby, a Chapuis-Dornier-engined Derby, a blown Scap-engined Derby and a 6C 1 ½-litre short-chassis sports Alfa-Romeo, which he crashed.

This brings us to the third chapter of “Racing Round the World,” and thereafter the book fully lives up to its title, taking us as competitor or spectator to great contests all over Europe and in England. The names of the great drivers — Varzi, who wrote the book’s foreword, Brilli-Peri, Nuvolari, Stuck, Campari, Eyston, Caracciola, Chiron (in fact, “the lot”) — appear with stimulating frequency as we read of races such as the Mile Miglia, Monza G.P., Geneva G.P., Double Twelve, B.R.D.C. “500,” Eib ice-races, Monaco G.P., German G.P., the M.G. onslaught on the Mille Miglia, French G.P., Swiss G.P., Tripoli G.P., and of the Monte Carlo Rally, Stelvio Hillclimb, Coupe des Alpes, La Turbie Hill-climb, Barcelona Rally, German 2,000-km. Trial and many more.

Considering how much has had to be packed into the book, Lurani captures the atmosphere of personal participation particularly well, although, naturally, the full depth of “inside story” so much appreciated by the enthusiast is often impossible to include.

“Racing Round the World” is illustrated with some good photographs of the leading racing cars and events of the period it covers, supplemented by Bryan de Grineau’s somewhat lurid drawings.

The book concludes with some worthwhile details of Lurani’s record-breaking cyclecar Nibbio, but members of the newly-formed 250 M.C. need not get too excited when they read of a 300-c.c. Alfa-Romeo, this being a misprint for 3,000 c.c.!

After one reading of Count Lurani’s work we intend to study it more intimately during Christmas — it is that sort of book. — W. B.

“Wheels to Fortune—The Life and Times of Lord Nuffield,” by James Leasor. 160 pp., 5 ½ in. by 8 in. (The Bodley Head, 28, Little Russell Street, W.C. 1. 9s. 6d.)

This is another book in the Bodley Head series “Men of the Modern Age” intended, so the publishers inform us, “principally for the child of twelve years and over.” In this case, we have returned to our second childhood, because we found James Leasor’s biography of Lord Nuffield so absorbing that we did not lay it down until well past a child’s bedtime.

Naturally he includes a great deal of material which has appeared before, for this is not the first time Lord Nuffield’s colourful life has been committed to print — and in some instances it is only too apparent from where such references have been gleaned.

Yet so skilfully does Leasor blend such matter with that of his own making that this is a truly readable account of the great Nuffield success-story.

More than this, if the author isn’t a motoring enthusiast he is certainly a capable journalist, for other contemporary light cars are compared to the Morris-Cowley which made Lord Nuffield’s fortune and some very intriguing items of vintage interest are included, such as reference to William Morris’ own sports-model Morris which he drove about Oxford in teddy-bear coat and trilby-hat, and the rare sports Morris-Cowley of 1921. The Barker system of dipping headlamps in the nineteen-twenties is compared to that used so cleverly on the Citroën 2 c.v. of today, and brief but accurate descriptions are given of the products of the Wolseley and Riley companies before Nuffield absorbed these concerns.

New facts emerge about Morris’ adoption of Hotchkiss engines and the failure of their French Leon-Bollee factory. Ample reference is made to M.G. racing activities and record-breaking successes. Throughout, the character of the man whose brief biography” Wheels to Fortune” unfolds is carefully portrayed, together with interesting details of how Morris’ competitors, such as Ford, Citroën, Hillman and others, adopted in the ruthless battle for the market of millions. Curiously, however, Morris’ biggest competitor, Clyno, is mentioned only in respect of the later Nine.

The photographic illustrations are mostly “hand-outs” which we have seen before, but at its modest price this is no criticism of the book.

We congratulate the Bodley Head on offering to children such a sound biography and Leasor on not committing the unforgivable sin of writing-down to the rising generation. — W. B.

“The Sports Car,” by Colin Campbell, M.Sc., A.M.I.Mech.E. 262 pp., 5 ½ in. by 8 ½ in. (Chapman and Hall, 37, Essex Street, W.C. 2. 30s.)

This is a valuable work of technical reference which has been sought, by the type of person who reads Motor Sport, for many years, but which has been left for Colin Campbell to write.

It consists in the main of descriptions of the better sports-car engines and chassis coupled to explanation of the designs adopted, and laced with formulae.

Each component is examined and analysed under such headings as Cylinder Head Design, Induction and Exhaust, Miscellaneous Engine Components, the Trend of Engine Design, Road-Holding, Suspension, Chassis Frame and Body, Transmission, Brakes, Tuning, Performance and Future Development.

There is no need to enlarge on the comprehensive nature of this excellent work, for the chapter titles give a clue to its interest and usefulness.

The book refers to historical development of the sports car and its engine and contains a glossary of technical terms.

Besides diagrams and tables, the illustrations include full-page photographic plates, ranging from the experimental 30/98 Vauxhall of 1913 with cantilever back-springing and a 1924 four-cylinder Frazer-Nash to the 1900 Alfa-Romeo with Bertone B.A.T. VII body. A clever aspect of these illustrations is the employment of action pictures to convey technical meaning, such as tyre stresses on a 1932 4 ½-litre low-chassis Invicta when cornering and the loading on rear-wheel bearings imposed on his Formula II H.W.M. (admittedly, not a sports car) by Duncan Hamilton during a race at Dundrod in 1953.

Mr. Campbell appears to have done an excellent job and to have filled a former unfortunate gap in motoring publishing. — W. B.

“Motor Sport Racing Car Review, 1955,” by Denis Jenkinson, 154 pp., 7 ½ in. by 5 in. (Grenville Publishing Co., Ltd., 15-17, City Road, E.C. 1. 8s. 6d.)

This welcome annual is as comprehensive and informative as in previous years. It is a record of the leading road-racing cars of the 1954 season compiled by Motor Sport’s Continental Correspondent, who was present at every Continental grande epreuve.

He sets out to describe the technical specification of the leading racing cars, to outline the modifications required during the season and to tell of how each marque fared in a year of intense Grand Prix racing. The cars covered are Mark II, B.R.M., F1 Connaught, Type 625 Ferrari, Type 553 Ferrari, Ferrari Thinwall Special, 1954 Gordini, 1955-type Gordini, F1 H.W.M., F1 Lancia, Type W196 Mercédès-Benz, 1953-4 Maserati, Type 250/F1 Maserati and the Vanwall Special — a comprehensive survey of a most absorbing Grand Prix season.

The book is set out landscape-fashion, which some may consider old-fashioned, but which suits this type of reference work particularly well, a full-page Motor Sport photograph of each car being provided. In addition, some very excellent technical photographs are included, these showing, for instance, the earlier Ferrari and Type 625 Ferrari G.P. engines, the rear-suspension and step-up gears of the Type 553 Ferrari, the front suspension of this car, front and rear suspension of both types of Gordini, the S.U. fuel-injection of the H.W.M., engine, cockpit and front suspension of the much-discussed new G.P. Lancia, engine suspension and cockpit views of Maserati. Mercédès-Benz and Vanwall cars. Each description concludes with a brief tabular specification. The Foreword is by the Editor of Motor Sport, who compares the outlook for 1955 with the nostalgic 1923 Grand Prix in which a wide variety of cars and technical approach were in evidence. He suggests that this year we may see some of the most intense Grand Prix racing ever, with two British drivers on the front rank of the starting grid and as an introduction to the cars we shall see in action the “Motor Sport Racing Car Review” is without equal.


Floyd Clymer has again issued his comprehensive and lavishly-illustrated “Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Year Book,” full of facts, figures, anecdotes and celebrities of the 1954 race. The book runs to 112 large pages and the technical information is particularly interesting. Priced at 1.50 dollars, this comprehensive reference work on the only remaining long-distance track race is published from 1268, South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles 6, California.

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The British Road Federation’s latest book campaigning for better roads for Britain is titled “Paralysis or Progress?” Reproduced from the National Provincial Bank Review of November, 1954, copies are obtainable free from the B.R.F., 4a, Bloomsbury Square, W.C.1. They also issue “Modern Roads For Britain — How To Obtain Them,” illustrated in their usual good style.

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A handbook on “Motor Race Marshaling,” written by D. J. Scannell, Secretary of the B.R.D.C., and humorously illustrated by Crawford, has been published by Shell-Max and B.P., Ltd., with the approval of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. The book contains a chart of race-officials’ duties and the International signal flags in colour. This little book should be in the hands of every club secretary whose club organises races. It is obtainable free from P.R.D. Department, Shell-Mex and B.P., Ltd., Shell-Max House, Strand, London, W.C.2, on mentioning Motor Sport. Shell Mex also issue a film in sound and colour on the same important subject, in 16 mm. and 35 mm., which they will loan to clubs.