Books for the New Year

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“The Evolution of the Racing Car” by Laurence Pomeroy. 240 pp. 9-1/4 in. x 6-1/4 in. (William Kimber & Co. Ltd., 40, Wilton Place, London, SW1. 50s.)

This was the last book written by the late Laurence Pomeroy; he succumbed to heart trouble before it was finished. It is dedicated to his daughter Amanda. The theme is one which Pomeroy probably better than anyone else was fitted to handle, for his well-known researches into the evolution of the Grand Prix car had already resulted in the classic volumes for which he is famous.

What the author has seen fit to do in this latest work is to pick out certain classic races and describe in enthralling detail the cars that were prepared for them and how it worked out on the day, tracing from this treatment racing car evolution as it was between 1903 and 1937. The races which Pomeroy selected were the Paris-Madrid of 1903, because it was racing in extremis, together with the 1903 Gordon Bennett Trophy contest as representing the beginnings of closed circuit racing and the rise of Nationalism, the French G.P. of 1912 which was a triumph for the high-speed engine, the dramatic 1914 French G.P. wherein twin o.h.c. and four-wheel-brakes were defeated by “method,” the same rate in 1921, when the U.S.A. triumphed and one saw a new epoch in engine morphology, the 1923 edition of the classic French race with the entry of science in the shape of streamlining and supercharging, the British Grand Prix held at Brooklands in 1927, which Pomeroy saw as the end of manufacturers’ participation for profit, the 1931 Monza G.P. as representing the heyday of the private performer, the French G.P. again, in 1934, as the end of thirty years of line-breeding, and finally the memorable British G.P. at Donington in 1937 where the racing car was seen as an instrument of political propaganda, reaching heights of power and speed never again ascended and not equalled for nearly thirty years.

This adds up to nine chapters, each of which I found absolutely fascinating. The treatment of the subject as a contrast between one race and another, one period weighed against an earlier one, in the Pomeroy style (which, alas, we shall now cease to enjoy), is technically and historically interesting and, in addition, the races “live” as they could not, were not intended to do, in “The Grand Prix Car”.

Pomeroy discloses the reasons why as well as how of the competing cars in this 34-year span, many new points arising, the whole thing well illustrated with adequate if not exciting photographs and line-drawings from the contemporary motor magazines. What was important is sifted from the unimportant in this unique book, yet the author is not against dramatisation, as, for instance, in describing the closing stages of the Mercedes-dominated 1914 French Grand Prix: ” The Mercedes came over the line, in one of the greatest races of history, cheered only by a handful of Germans and Englishmen who had made the journey to Lyon. The French crowd watched in glum silence: even the band could not bring itself to reinforce with a German anthem the patent fact of Deutschland uber Alles.”

It is interesting that Pomeroy states that, contrary to popular opinion, there was no driving plan by Mercedes. He gives Boillot’s retirement on the Peugeot as a broken valve through over-revving, to add one more aspect to this controversial issue. He goes on to examine the influence of the Mercedes cylinder construction on the Rolls-Royce aero engines then in preparation at Derby, and concludes by remarking that The Autocar devoted 38 pages six days after this 1914 G.P. to reporting the race, Pomeroy saying ” This was a race well worth winning, and all the world agreed that Mercedes had won it well.”

The other races are dealt with in the same refreshing, revealing and analytical manner. This is indeed a readable book.—W. B.

***

“Power and Glory—A History Of Grand Prix Motor Racing, 1906-1951” by William Court. 356 pp. 11-2/3 in. x 8-3/4 in. (Macdonald & Co. Ltd., Gull House, 2, Portman Street, London, W1. 126s.)

What a breath-taking tome this is. Court has set out to describe all the vital road races that took place in America and Europe from 1906, when the first French Grand Prix was held at Dieppe and won by Renault, to 1951. Indeed, he opens rather earlier than that, the first chapter of this veritable illustrated bible explaining the influence of the races of 1894 onwards on the subsequent scene.

At first sight it might he thought that the book goes over well-chronicled ground, because Rose, Pomeroy and Karslake between them have written authoritative works on this class of racing for the years in question. But Pomeroy’s ” Grand Prix Car” was more a technical than an historic treatise and the other authors concentrated on Europe, and Karslake on the voiturette races. So, accepting that there is some reason for this new book, to get all the important road races in consecutive order between one pair of covers, Court’s great volume stands or falls by his treatment of the enormous task on which he embarked, with no more introduction to the reading public than some scholarly articles in the V.S.C.C. Bulletin .

Let it be said that I found the style quite pleasing but rather overpowering and prosey in places and the tale enthralling. In contrast to the rather flamboyant quotations and treatment of illustration-captions, Court is happily impartial in the text, refusing to be carried away by over-written contemporary descriptions, or to believe unlikely over-dramatised accounts. Indeed, one of the best aspects of this work is the analysis of the prowess of different drivers of a like era and the author’s attempts to fit them into some order of merit in the scenes of long ago. This helps the account along and the bearing of one race upon another, the rise and fall in fortune of men and machines, is an important theme running through the book. Sometimes the text tends to confuse chronologically; there are many quotes, but also careful analysis of these.

There are five main parts to this enormous book, covering, respectively, 1894-1911 (Setting the Stage), 1912-1921 (From Veteran to Vintage), 1922-1933 (The Vintage Years), 1934-1951 (The Early Moderns), and Epilogues 1/11, and Appendices. The illustrations are so copious as to constitute a record in themselves; the publishers explain that the quality of some of these may be inferior but that to include relevant pictures seemed preferable to omitting them. One gathers that The Autocar was the source of many of these historic photographs, which has made it difficult since for other historians to lean on the Iliffe archives as so many of us have for years past, the generous attitude of the photographic department having at last, quite understandably, to be restrained. There are 28 rather simple circuit maps and some full-page Helck drawings which, in this instance, clash in my opinion with the format. Thirty-three chapters are needed to tell the whole story, their titles ranging from ” The Earliest Days ” to ” The Titans Walk Again ” and this book is essential reading for all students of motor racing history. A criticism that can be levelled at it concerns the fact that motor racing is by no means dead, so that this history must of necessity remain incomplete, unlike the ” History of Brooklands Motor Course,” for instance, but at Ieast it, and Pomeroy’s last book, stop at a period, one pre-war, the other post-war, when the supercharger made its last effective bid to overcome cubic capacity restrictions.

One very valuable feature of Court’s book is a table of race results from 1894 to 1951 inclusive, giving 1, 2, 3 placings, race speeds and fastest laps. I find it interesting that in writing of the oft-quoted 1914 French G.P., Court does not attempt to over-enthuse. Indeed,he refuses to be drawn into describing the attitude of the crowds who saw Lautenschlager win, and even questions whether, in fact, this was the greatest G.P. of all time. He gives an extremely well-balanced study of the important aspects of the affair, again refusing to be drawn into stating what caused Boillot’s retirement, which he disposes of as ” a malady variously reported as a seized engine, a broken propeller shaft, back axle or valve—it matters not which.” I warm to an author who is prepared to admit that he doesn’t know, and who refuses to surmise. Court is equally unwilling to be drawn over what happened to the victorious Mercedes soon after the race had been run and war had broken out. He goes to some pains to dispel the myth that the Peugeots were the fastest cars on the course, siding with Karslake’s view, but is equally careful to give Mercedes all the credit for winning, which not all historians have done when discussing this race. Preparations and regulations for the more significant races are quite fully covered and altogether this book is a splendid accomplishment. Its price makes more superficial annuals and picture-books seem gems too highly priced!

It is set in 10 pt. Times Roman, 2 pt. leaded, and printed throughout on Ambassador Art paper, so reading it is no strain.—WB

***

“1898 Renault 1965” by Yves Richard, 176 pp. 9 in. X 12-1/4 in. (G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, EC1. 90s.)

One-make histories have been presented in various ways. This one, about the great marque of Renault, is mainly pictorial, of extremely high quality, a splendid browsing book. It is a welcome addition to one-make titles because the only other book about Renault was mainly biographical and political, being concerned with the Renault brothers rather than with their famous cars. If the present offering does not go very much further into intimate technicalities, it does present a wide range of Renault history in highly attractive picture form, the illustrations including reproductions of old posters, catalogue pages, huge full-page colour plates and an enormous number of early photographic prints.

The early racing days are well covered and if several of these pictures are previously-known hand-outs, almost all of them gain greatly from being enlarged. Divided into three periods, 1898-1918, 1919-1939 and 1945-1965, the book depicts delightfully the very earliest Renault models, recalls the tragedy of Paris-Madrid and the success in the first French G.P., the famous taxis of the Marne and the pioneer Renault tanks of World War One. The vintage models are fascinatingly portrayed, not forgetting the open Renault 45 and the single-seater saloon 45 which broke long-duration records at Montlhéry. Renault’s aviation interests introduce a nostalgic pang for the era of real flying, those startlingly massive Renault multi-tyred exploration vehicles are there, as is the well-streamlined straight-eight Nervasport racing coupé which set up a 48-hour record at nearly 102 m.p.h. at Monlhéry in 1934. More recent Renault competition successes are recalled in word and picture, especially the Le Mans cars and the gas-turbine Etoile Filante 270cv which did 192 m.p.h. at Salt Lake City in 1956 is the subject of a fine colour plate and supporting pictures, this car’s record being unbroken to the present day.

Mass-production is well emphasised by factory shots and the beauty of current Renault models is apparent from the illustrations on the last pages of this fine volume. It may not be one-make history as serious students like it but it is much better than nothing and would make a welcome gift to Renault owners and enthusiasts.—WB

***

“Marine Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War” by Heinz J. Nowarra. 210 pp. 11-1/4 in. x 8-2/5 in. (Harleyford Publications Ltd., Letchworth, Herts. 60s.)

This is another of those comprehensive and beautifully-illustrated Harleyford aviation histories, this one covering all the marine aircraft of World War One, from the Austro-Hungarian Phonix A to the Italian Caproni Ca47. That it covers aeroplanes, seaplanes and flying boats of all Nations, as well as Zeppelins, makes it particularly all embracing. The coverage is as complete as we have come to expect from these large volumes, which is more complete than anyone has any right to hope for. The aircraft of Austro-Hungary, Germany, Britain, France, Russia, America and Italy are included, 56 of them illustrated with 1/72-3-view scale drawings, some as pull-out folders, while the photographs are legion, totalling approximately 500. There is a colour frontispiece of a 1918 North Sea air battle. The British section was compiled by Bruce Robertson and Peter G. Cooksley. Production was in the experienced hands of D. A. Russell, M.I.Mech.E., and R. Dock and in these days it is nice to find good art paper throughout and extremely strong binding. The book concludes with tables of dimensions and performance and altogether is all that aviation historians could desire and, of course, uniform with the other fine Harleyford aviation histories. Strongly recommended. — WB

***

” The Supermarine Walrus” by G. W. R. Nicholl. 211 pp. 8-3/4 in. x 5-1/2 in.(G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, EC1. 36s.)

Here is a new line in aviation books, not a one-make history but a one-model story, like the earlier Tiger Moth history. Lt. Cmdr. Nicholl, O.B.E., Assoc. R.I.N.A., R.N., writes with enthusiasm about the origins of the lovable single-engined pusher biplane amphibian built by Vickers Supermarine. He actually flew the old ” Shagbat ” for eight years and commanded 700 Squadron, and his affection for and knowledge of this unique aeroplane comes over very well indeed. In addition, the book is generous with technical data and information about the incredible operational achievements of the Walrus. The final chapter deals with the last of the line of Walrus machines and I like the question posed therein by the author: ” What, for instance, were those precise characteristics that made the little Tiger Moth or the Dakota just that much better than others in their respective spheres?” As he says, ” No computer or telemetry instrument will reveal that.” So it was with the Walrus, that comic but so practical flying machine with a maximum speed lower than that of a Jaguar E-type.

This book is about these fascinating machines, and it is well provided with pictures, sectional drawing, tabulated data and index. It gave me great pleasure.—WB

***

Rubery Owen & Co. Ltd. have issued a most interesting book, ” Some Aspects of Motor Racing Research,” to explain why industrial organisations indulge in this undertaking and to explain how they tackle the very formidable problems involved. The book is a pocket history of G.P. racing (even if we do not think it true that in 1906 Renault was attempting an aerodynamic shape with its successful G.P. car, the “streamlined ” bonnet being, surely just the normal thing found on these cars?) and contains much about testing modern racing cars and making them tick, B.R.M.s in particular, that is enormously readable. For instance, the race procedure followed in the Rover-B.R.M. pit during the 1963 gas-turbine demonstration is quoted in detail. Very interesting, too, are a diagram showing how racing drivers have sat lower and lower in B.R M. Fl cars since 1958, and a table showing the changes in these racing cars between 1958/59 and 1966. The publication is available free, on mentioning Motor Sport. Application should be made to the Owen Organisation, Public Relations Office, Kent House, Market Place, Oxford Circus, London, W1

***

For Charity

Sir,

We will be holding our Annual Rag Charity Week from March 4th until March 11th, 1967. The entire Rag will be run in conjunction with Wall Hall Ladies’ College of Education of Radlett, and the funds raised will be going to the Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, The British Rheumatism and Arthritis Association, and the Camphill Village Trust Fund.

As part of our money-raising efforts, a Vintage/Veteran Car display is being arranged on February 25th, 1967. At present it is proposed that it will be in the form of an out-door static display in the college grounds. Suitable steps will be taken to ensure that the cars are properly safeguarded and refreshments will be available for the entrants. If any readers are interested in bringing their cars along to this event, would they please contact me for further details.

Hatfield College of Technology, Students Union Rag Committee, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts. — J. RAWLINS, pp. MIKE STOKES

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