Books for the New Year

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“Spitfire—The Story of a Famous Fighter,” by Bruce Robertson. 211 pp. 11½in. x 8½in.(Harleyford Publications Ltd., Letchworth, Herts. 45s.)

Fabulous is the only word I know that describes this latest ” Harborough ” publication. It is, of course, a history of the famous Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft, compiled by Bruce Robertson and a strong team of staff writers. But what a history! It is inconceivable that so much absorbing information about one make and type of aeroplane has ever before appeared between two covers, or is likely to again until the next stupendous ” Harborough ” comes along.

It is all there, the origins, development, history in all theatres of war, and subsequent fate of each and every Spitfire, backed-up by loads of splendid pictures and supplemented by the most all-embracing tables of statistics—squadron allocations of every Spitfire and Seafire, of presentation Spitfires, production orders, and serial allocations for the 20,351 Spitfires and 2,408 Seafires built, then lists of variants with technical data, etc., etc.—all I can say is—stupendous !

Racing enthusiasts will find a fascinating account of the Schneider Trophy races and of the racing seaplanes which led to the fighter that—thank God !—won for us the Battle of Britain. There are three-dimensional drawings of all these seaplanes from the 226 m.p.h. S4 of 1925, to the 1931 S6B which flew at 407½ m.p.h., and similar plans of the prototype fighters and all the subsequent Spitfires. I am not at all surprised that the print order for this terrific book is 10,000, ordered before publication.—W. B.

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“Brush Your Teeth with Wire,” by Dennis Henshaw and Mette Fryland. 284 pp. 8 in. 5 in.(Hammond, Hammond & Co., 87, Gower Street, London, W. 1. 15s.)

A lot of you will like this one. It’s the story of how a by-no-means prudish Danish girl of 21 acted as chaperon to four American high-school girls on a cultural(?) tour of Europe in a Volkswagen microbus—I wish they wouldn’t call it a minibus. The adventures they have must sometimes be taken with a pinch of salt (and always involve men) but the book, besides being exceedingly funny, does tell the reader quite a lot about European travel. As a warning to innocent girls of what may confront them in France, Rome, Bavaria or Monte Carlo this book is again of considerable value and, quite apart from what the text implies— some of which will give joy to those who prefer to own a female tailor’s dummy rather than a book of art studies—Hargreaves has caught admirably in his line illustrations the startling adventures of these five attractive young women in a Volkswagen.—W. B.

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“Motor Racing Memories,” by W. F. Bradley. 192 pp. 8¾ in. x 5⅗, in. (Motor Racing Publications, Ltd., 62, Doughty Street, London, W.C.1. 25s.)

Disappointing, this one, because, at all events to serious students, Bradley’s reminiscences of the early days of the great motor races tells very little that is new. He does, it is true, provide from personal experience pen-pictures of the ” giants ” of pre1914 racing and tells the inside story of how Hispano Suiza built a very hush-hush supercharged engine in 1912 which Bradley discovered, and there are some other ” inside ” stories of the old days. The chapter about Abbé Gavois’ 1891 Panhard-Levassor will please old-car enthusiasts—but it was all told in the weekly motor journals of the ‘twenties.

There are some good pictures, but in hoping that Bradley, one of the true pioneer motoring journalists, would give the inside story of the cars he tested for The Autocar in the nineteen-twenties, one is disappointed. However, perhaps there is another volume to come ?

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” Le Mans,” by Louis Klemantaski and Michael Frostick. 63 pp. 10 in. 7⅗ in. (-Hamish Hamilton, Ltd., 90, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1.. 21s.)

This is a picture history of Le Mans. It is difficult to see the reason for it, unless it is to enable Klemantaski to find a ready use for old negatives. The pictures are seldom outstanding, although it is fun having the majority grouped under makes. On page 45 a Stutz seems to have turned into a Duesenberg.

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” A Story of Formula 1,” by Denis Jenkinson. 159 pp., 8¾ in. 5¾ in. (Grenville Publishing Co. Ltd., 15, City Road., London, E.C.1. .25s.)?

Aptly named—A Story—this book is an interesting review, by the Continental Correspondent, of the 2½-litre Formula 1 which ran from 1954-1960, including a few of his experiences during that time while he was reporting most of the Formula 1 events for MOTOR SPORT. One of the most conscientious of race reporters, he is probably the only 1British journalist who spends the entire season on the Continent, thus having a better opportunity to study Grand Prix racing at close quarters than those of us who pay flying visits to race meetings. Whilst displaying an outward facade of boredom he seldom misses any major development during practice or the race, much to the embarrassment of some competitors. This reviewer remembers talking to the manager of one of the factory teams who had had a rather embarrassing failure on one of his cars during a practice day and was happy to note that all the Press men were busily engaged at the other end of the pits as he got his mechanics to work on the fault. However, the next time he looked up there was Jenkinson quietly taking in every detail! With this sort of background he is probably the only journalist in the World who could write an authentic story of Formula 1. In these days when everyone with the slightest acquaintance with motoring sees fit to rush into print on every pessible aspect of the motoring scene to such an extent that book after book duplicates its predecessors, a review of the now extinct Formula is a natural subject, and no doubt we shall be subjected to dreary blow-by-blow superficial accounts from half a dozen authors, which in these days when the motoring magazines give a very large coverage to Grand Prix racing are likely to yield little that is new.

The author has circumvented this difficulty by laying out his book in a rather different manner, presenting the cars, drivers, circuits and so on in separate chapters. This has led to some duplication but has undoubtedly made a much more enjoyable book. A few minor printing errors intrude. The book opens with a survey of the historical facts leading up to the introduction of the 2½-litre Formula and traces, briefly, the various changes in the Formula and how they affected cars and drivers. The author comes down heavily in favour of the new 1½-litre Formula, although those who know him may feel that this is partly because practically everyone else is against it. This is followed by a section on the circuits used in Grand Prix racing in which he expresses his regret at the loss of several interesting road circuits after the 1955 Le Mans disaster. He places much of the blame on the National Press with its opinion-moulding headlines. The chapter finishes with a few words on Press facilities on the Continent, which appear to be decidedly better than those provided in this country, which in most cases are non-existent. [But Brands Hatch has a good Press box and Aintree feeds us.—ED.]

The Championship-winning cars are dealt with in detail, the Mercedes-Benz especially so since he was able to watch and assist in the development of these cars during the 1954 and 1955 seasons. The Vanwall comes in for its share of praise, as does Enzo Ferrari, who, as the author points out, was the only constructor to support the 2½-litre Formula throughout its entire duration.

Although ” D. S. J.” virtually ignores the various Championships during the season, he writes an interesting chapter on the Champion drivers, Fangio, Hawthorn and Brabham, giving absorbing insights into their characters and an account of how Fangio covered the full Mille Miglia distance during practice in a single day amongst all the normal road traffic. He feels that Brabharn was a lucky winner in 1959 owing to the points system but gives full credit for his 1960 win.

What might have been, forms the basis of the chapter on ” The Valiant Ones,” about those cars which fell by the wayside during the Formula, and the author writes nostalgically of H.W.M., Connaught, and especially the V12 Maserati, a car which recurs in several other places in the book.

Streamlining is dealt with in a separate chapter, as is technical development, the author opining that the de Dion rear axle layout is finished in G.P. racing and the drum brake almost certainly so, which makes it all the more surprising that a Maserati drum brake is pictured on the dust jacket! Presumably it was more aesthetically pleasing to the dust-jacket designer than the functional looking disc brake, which is the greatest single technical advance to come from the 2½ -litre Formula.

The transporters and the men who drive them receive. some long overdue praise, and the story of Tony Robinson’s devotion to duty with Bruce Halford’s Maserati is a shining example in these days when the maximum amount of money for the minimuni amount of work is the general rule. In a chapter entitled ” Supremacy of Britain ” the author traces Britain’s gradual entry into the limelight, reprinting in entirety many of his articles from MOTOR SPORTwhich were, in the main, harangues against our puny efforts in motor racing.

Jenkinson obviously loves to hear a Grand Prix engine at full song and if a Grand Prix car is driven down the High Street in and out of the shopping traffic then he is practically overjoyed, and he has made an amusing chapter out of some of these incidents. The concluding chapter is about some of those drivers who have given their lives in the service of motor racing, and the author shows that he has had a very real affection for most of the drivers, which he seldom allows to show through his race reports.

A comprehensive table of race results together with an incredibly long list of drivers who have competed in Formula races between 1954 and 1960, which shows that Maurice Trintignant has driven no less than nine different makes, Moss seven, and Fangio only three, which might prove something and on the final page appears a list of 26 drivers who have died during the 2½-litre Formula, although only 11 actually met their deaths at the wheel of a single-seater.

” A Story of Formula 1 ” will make pleasant reading for everyone interested in motoring as it is not too technical for the layman nor too superficial for the serious-minded. It is obviously not the full story of the 2½-litre Formula but perhaps ” D. S. J.” can be persuaded to write this before too long.—M. L. T.

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“The Cooper Golden Years 1959-60.” (Distributed by Thorsons, Ltd,, 91, St. Martin’s Lane, London, W.C.2. 3s. 6d.)

Produced by Frank Woods (Pictorial Publicity) Of Surbiton, this soft-covered booklet priced at 3s. 6d. records the successes, and failures, of the works Cooper Grand Prix team for the years 1959 and 1960. Unfortunately it finishes at the Portuguese Grand Prix, giving mention of the fact that Coopers boycotted the Italian Grand Prix, but being printed before the final race of 1960; at Riverside last November, so it is not complete. However, the inside stories contained between its Golden Covers tell many things about the workings of the Cooper Team not previously revealed, while Esso Golden petrol gets its fair share of publicity. There are some nice personal photographs taken from within the team.

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Following rally navigator ace Stuart Turner’s book on how to rally comes ” Rally Manual,” by Richard Bensted-Smith (Motor Racing Publications, 21s.), which answers all the questions about this branch of the sport. Dick has picked some good pictures; gives details of typical rally tests and tabulated histories of the great International events.

BOOKS IN 1960

Last year saw an absolute avalanche of motoring books sliding from the presses, for it is fashionable for motoring journalists to become authors and for racing drivers to be shadowed by ghosts compiling their career-stories. Amongst this spate of reading matter—luckily for publishers and authors the human reads rapidly, so that a constant source of brain replenishment is required —some were exceedingly good entertainment, others will live as valuable works of reference but many are of but passing interest, or none at all, and in this case I’d rather spend the money on the car.

Foulis were first in the field as specialist Motor book publishers but in recent times have concentrated on text books aimed at being instructive and of use to those building or tuning specialised types of car. I still think ” Under My Bonnet ” by G. R. N. Minchin one of their best and am surprised more books in this reminiscent style are not published.

Batsford have in the past few years established themselves as motor book specialists, tending towards histories about particular facets of motoring and motor cars in uniform style which reach a very high standard of .presentation and illustration. Their recent ” Weekend Book, ” is something different; enormously welcome and must be a great success, while their ” Vintage: Car Pocketbook ” sold in unprecedented numbers—I have heard 35,000 copies mentioned, surely a record in this specialist field ?—so that these little pocket reference volumes; gaining greatly from illustrating every> make the author refers to, no matter how rare, must surely continue; and go on to even greater successes, in sports-car and racing car editions. Botsford have occasionally had a cautious go at entering the Foulis field (remember Restoration of Vintage and Thoroughbred cars ” ?), but when it comes to their ” Construction of Ford Specials,’ Haynes did it as well, if not rather better, at half the price, with the ” Ford Special Builders’ Manual.” With Jenkinson’s ” Racing Driver ” they scored a resounding success, this motoring best-seller climbing, I believe, to some 20,000 copies. sold.

Cassell is a famous publishing house (they did the Churchill memoirs) who are not adverse to dabbling in motoring books, but they keep to serious, informative works like the history of Mercedes-Benz and Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq, packed with data, those scholarly accounts of trails-blazing in motor cars by Nicholson and that very erudite book on forgotten vintage cars ” Lost Causes ” by Lord Montagu. Nothing superficial comes from Cassell. They are about to do for Montlhery Track what Grenville did for Brooklands three years ago, with their next book in the new Montagu Motor Book series, which will be a history of the famous, still very active Paris Autodrome from 1924 to 1960.

Hutchinson and their associated companies also have a hold on the sporting motoring market but it must be galling for everyone other than the chosen few to find splendid books published ever so inexpensively because the oil barons have blessed them.

Just a look, then, at some of the titles of 1960.

I found Neubauer’s long-awaited book disappointing, a bit superficial, yet intriguing in places. Taruffi’s explanation of how you go motor racing is, I consider, second rate compared to ” The Racing Driver.” As reference works for those with aviation interests I cannot recommend too highly the fine volumes (” British Civil Aircraft ” was reviewed during last year) of Putnam, while the somewhat less expensive ” Harborough ” historical aeroplane books run them very close.

Ken Gregory’s ” Behind the Scenes ” was well worth reading, but less enthralling than All Francis’ earlier account of, in effect, life close to Moss, or Hawthorn’s splendid stories of a racing driver’s life. I rate Bird’s ” The Motor Car-1765-1914 ” as indispensable as a reference work in the automobile field as Tom Rolt’s triology dealing with Brunel, the Stevensons and Telford is amongst engineering literature. The American-published ” Bugatti Story ” is useful because it lists in full all Ettore Bugatti’s many patents, motoring and otherwise.

At the end of 1960 came a number of outstanding titles. ” Lost Causes ” makes me, as a rather unbalanced vintage enthusiast, yearn for more. I cannot take Duncan Hamilton’s ” Touch Wood ” by Lionel Scott seriously—it contains lots of errors, such as thinking Granville Grenfell (they make a fine nonsense of his name) used Mercedes, Minerva and E.R.A. parts in his ” special,” which was, in fact, nearly all Straker Squire Six, and I cannot forgive people who write, presumably as they speak, i.e. ” Webber ” carburetters—but it’s a jolly racy story. There was far more in ” The M.G. Companion ” than I expected, Peter Hull’s account of racing with R9B and R11B and E.R.A.s in general is grand stuff, and Louis Stanley, although writing loosely in places and committing errors (possibly attributable to dictating his story and not reading what his typist made of it) puts some lush pictures and very biting thumb-nail word sketches of G.P. drivers and personalities into ” Grand Prix World Championship.” Finally, if I were a stowaway on a desert island I’d be very happy to have The Autocar and The Motor Road-Test annuals on hand, because I could thereby keep in touch with modern cars in a car-less situation and have the time necessary to absorb the vast amount of information available. I am enjoying reading ” Formula One ” although, being a friend of the author, some of it is a bit familiar, but very moving for all that. After all, dedicated people, in whatever walk of life, usually do the best work …-W.B.