Book Reviews, January 1968, January 1968

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“The Bugatti Story,” by L’Ebe Bugatti. 207 pp., 8 1/8 in. x 6 5/8 in. (Souvenir Press Ltd., 95, Mortimer Street, London, W.1. 37s. 6d.)

Rolls-Royce and Bugatti are perhaps the two most-chronicled motor cars of all time and while it is no surprise to find yet another book about the latter, unfortunately nothing much that is new emerges from this account of what she remembers of her famous father by Mademoiselle L’Ebe Bugatti. One has the impression that Miss Bugatti was persuaded by outside influences to write this book, which was first published in France in 1966.

“The Bugatti Story” contains a great deal of previously documented information, much of it contributed by Hugh Conway, and other material by Mr. Domboy, who worked for Bugatti from 1932 onwards, and with the addition of a great deal of padding, such as information about the various Clubs devoted to Bugatti affairs, how our B.O.C. came into being, a list of the different models built by Bugatti, reprints of articles which have appeared in various magazines about facets of the Ettore Bugatti legend, etc.

This is not to say that this latest Bugatti offering is entirely barren. From it, for instance, I gleaned fresh facts about the man himself, how he wore shoes and socks made like gloves, that his house really was a remarkable place (I consider that if the chateau at Molsheim and the cars which were discarded around it had been restored as a Bugatti Museum instead of the mansion being shut up and the Bugattis sold to that collector called Schlumpf, a remarkably profitable thing could have been made out of it), that, some of the guest bedrooms at the Hotellerie du Pur-Sang were built originally to serve as chicken houses, and how the Bugatti racing driver “Sabipa” got this name.

Most of the racing history is repetition, including the incorrect story of why de Vizcaya retired, apparently disqualified by a foolish action of Le Patron, from the 1920 voiturette race at Le Mans. The account of how Ettore Bugatti advised Goux about special German steel when Peugeot were in trouble with the crankshafts of the subsequently legendary 1912 7.6-litre G.P. Peugeots, and how he made the camshafts for the 1922 G.P. Ballot cars, is new to me, but even this is reproduced from a French journal.

There are the inevitable errors which most of us whose creations are connected with print come to dread, such as the great Hispano-Suiza designer’s name rendered as Birkham, while Bugatti is described as criticising “the 6- or 7-litre Napier car” Segrave was to drive in the 1926 Monza G.P., which rather spoils the point of the anecdote, especially as there was no such race in that year; what is intended is the Italian G.P., in which Segrave drove the V12 4-litre Sunbeam. One picture, of Earl Howe’s Type 59 G.P. Bugatti, is captioned as the car which won the 1935 Brooklands 500-mile Race, which is remarkable, because the Napier-Railton won this, and the “500” was never won by any Bugatti! This book is spoilt by repetition, necessary to give it any sort of substance. The fate of the six Bugatti Royales is once again listed, although I have read this in Conway’s standard reference work on the Bugatti, in an American magazine, and was interested to see that the President of the V.S.C.C. repeated it recently, but with very interesting additional information, in an article he wrote for a monthly contemporary.

If you want a description of the caravan Ettore Bugatti took to Lyons for the period of the Grand Prix in 1924 (if it really had 3 ton of water stored in the roof it must have been unpleasantly unstable, surely?) or a few extracts from a book about Lt. Loiseau’s Sahara crossing in a Type 40 Bugatti, together with a few “new” pictures, you may think this book worth 37s. 6d. I do not.—W. B.

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“Two-Stroke Power Units,” by P. E. Irving. 228 pp., 8 ¾ in. x 5 ½ in. (George Newnes Ltd., Tower House, Southampton Street, London, W.C.2. 42s.).

It might be thought that this book has arrived too late, with the two-stroke engine virtually defunct in cars, except for the stand made by Wartburg in West Germany. But anyone following this line of thought would be wrong, for there are still more two-strokes in use in the World than four-strokes, this simple form of power unit, which defies nature by pushing out the burnt and still-burning gases with waves of compressed petrol/air mixture, being found not only in the older versions of D.K.W., Saab and other cars, but in use as stationary engines, in boats, farm machinery, motorcycles, model diesels, etc.

This Temple Press book covers the lot, with some interesting history thrown in for good measure. There is a very intriguing chapter on competition two-strokes, in which the reader is reminded that tuned two-cycle power units have achieved over 220 b.h.p.-per-litre, which exceeds by a nice margin anything obtained from non-supercharged four-strokes, although it must be remembered that such power is developed only over a narrow band of some 1,000 r.p.m. or even less, and that formidable thermal problems are encountered.

Irving’s book is printed on excellent art paper, is packed with very good pictures and drawings, and covers in detail the construction and design of the two-stroke engine in its many guises. It is amusing to realise that, today, 50 c.c. two-strokes like the Suzuki RM62 give 11 b.h.p. at 11,500 r.p.m., because when I was a boy a 30 c.c. two-stroke petrol engine was regarded as extraordinarily small, being of model-boat size.—W. B.

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“The. First Tank Battle,” by Robert Woollcombe. 232 pp., 8 ¾ in. x 5 ½ in. (Arthur Barker Ltd., 5, Winsley Street, London, W.1. 45s.).

It can rightly be said that nothing good comes out of war, except for the pleasure one derives from reading about wars of the past. As what has happened cannot be undone, this is an innocent pleasure, with the proviso that while people glorify war between Nations which like to be called civilised it is unlikely to be eradicated. But the 1914-18 conflict is so far in the past, that never again will armies advance by stealth, with shelter and darkness and silence counting for much, nor will fighter aeroplanes decide major issues or bomber crews leave in the moonless dusk to bomb vital targets to the extent that this happened in wars of the past, for we have entered the horrific, scientific push-button age of unseen destruction. So I can see no harm in admitting that there is interesting, exciting reading in this book of Woollcombes about that remarkable tank battle at Cambrai in 1917.

This is a technical discourse on the strategic outcome of this classic battle, written by one whose grandfather commanded the IV Army Corps, at this engagement. It does not give as much technical detail of the tanks as I had hoped (other books do this) but by combining extracts from all available sources of information about the Battle of Cambrai an excellent insight is obtained without any further reading. And this is exciting reading, about an era long past, of tough troops denied the modern luxury of troop transporters, because there weren’t any, fighting beside the scarcely-developed cumbersome and crude machines of the Tank Corps as it then was.

Those to whom the morbid fascination of the First World War is irresistible will welcome this detailed and painstaking account of the first significant attack of mechanised warfare. The author who has been over the ground quite recently where the battle took place by what he calls a “motor drive,” remarks on the compactness of the area and gives a realistic word-picture of it . . . ” . . . in late November the same fields are dank with the mists that once masked the assembly of the tank assault at Cambrai . . . The mud today is the same as in 1917, glutinous, quickly turning runny. The little roads between the villages are greasy with it, and it spatters and cakes the Citroëns.”

There are detailed maps and some rather indifferent pictures. The Foreword is by Captain Sir Basil Liddell Hart, D.Litt.—W. B.

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“Armoured Fighting Vehicles.” Illustrated and described by Malcolm McGregor. 34 pp., 14 in x 19 in. (Hugh Evelyn Ltd., 9. Fitzroy Square, London. W.1. 75s.)

This, the latest of the Hugh Evelyn “gigantics,” covers armoured fighting vehicles from 1918 to 1945, the armoured cars depicted in the big colour illustrations, which are the purpose of the book, being the 1919 Peerless, the 1920 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the 1941 Daimler Mk. 1, and the 8-wheel Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kzf. 234/4 of 1944. The tanks range from the Mk. V male tank of 1918 to the Infantry Mk. IV Churchill VII of 1945. All are depicted, in colour which shows the camouflage, unit insignia, serial numbers, etc. The pictures are printed, unbacked, at the end of the book, an improvement on earlier works in this series, which have them interspersed with text.

The text mentions that armoured fighting vehicles may have developed from the Mercedes car, which Comdr., Samson borrowed from his brother and armed with a machine gun, using it to support the R.N.A.S. squadron which took part in the retreat to the Marne in 1914, and refers to the Peerless owing much to the British Austin lorry, which was news to me, although I gather the author means historically rather than technically. Incidentally, the weight of these Peerless 40 h p. chassis with double solid-rubber back tyres is given as about 3 tons, which should add fuel to the fire which has been raging in a monthly contemporary as to whether a Siddley Special private car with hiduminium engine could ever have weighed in the region or 5 or 7 tons!.—W. B.

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“Veteran & Vintage Aircraft,” by L. Hunt. 157 pp. 10 in. x 7½ in. (Leslie Hunt, 90, Woodside, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. By post, 26s. 3d.)

This is an enlarged edition of a little book which Mr. Hunt brought out to raise funds for “Trueloves” School for physically-handicapped boys at Ingatestone. His book raised £600, which has brought the school a covered way or “Bicester blister” between house and hobbies centre. Now the author has launched this big, illustrated, up-to-date edition, any profit on which, he says, will be used to purchase or restore worthwhile historic aeroplanes.

The book contains masses of pictures of existing historic aircraft and data on those known to be preserved in the British Isles, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslavakia, Denmark, Finland, France, West Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Majorca, Sweden, Switzerland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Middle East, Rhodesia, S. Africa, Syria, Zambia, the Far East, Australia, Fiji, New Guinea, New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America, Mexico and the West Indies. This impressive list runs to 3,102 aeroplanes (903 types), 101 missiles (43 types), 95 replicas (44 types), 47 gliders (30 types), four airships and balloons (four types) and a lone spacecraft. (It will be appreciated that the term vintage is interpreted liberally in the aircraft world; ancients still flying are included.)

The text is really one gigantic index under territories, with notes on the old aeroplanes to be found there, giving registration-letters, if known. It is a splendid browsing-ground for those who love old aeroplanes and a useful reference work for anyone hoping to locate museums devoted to such, when they are travelling in this country or abroad. There are 539 pictures, including three in colour on the dust-jacket, of which the large one shows D.H. Tiger Moth seaplane G-AIVW. Whether your interests lie in historic racing aeroplanes, light ‘craft left over from the 1923 Lympne contests, military aircraft, or old air-liners and private aeroplanes, the index will tell you if they are in the book, but not on which page; I must now do some browsing to see whether those four Ford Trimotors still operate on scheduled services, for one day I would like to be flown in one.

The need to keep a very watchful eye on the whereabouts and welfare of the older aeroplanes is emphasised by a table in the Foreword, which shows that out of a dozen types built in numbers exceeding 6,000, ranging from 8,000 Heinkel He111s to 33,000 Messerschmitt Bf109s, a mere 140 or so of these are all that are known to exist now; as the author points out, to see a Fairey Battle you have to go to Canada and the only surviving Typhoon is in store in America, while of the 8,600 Tiger Moths built only 100 remain on the British Register and as recently as 1966 a vintage aeroplane ended its life as part of a Guy Fawkes bonfire.

This book may seem expensive but the price includes packing and Postage (a few copies will be distributed by responsible Societies and certain aviation booksellers) and in buying it you may be helping in the preservation of some more historic aircraft—W. B.

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“Aircraft Markings of the World-1912 to 1967,” by Bruce Robertson. 232 pp., 11 ¼ x 8 ½ in. (Harleyford Publications Ltd., Letchworth., Herts. 70s.)

Here is the latest in the great Harleyford Series of aeronautical books. Quite stupendous in the scope of its information and the number of its colour and black and white illustrations, this copious work compiled by the usual Harleyford team covers the markings of the World’s civil and military aircraft since 1912. Of historical and geographical appeal as well as a mine of aeronautical information, this big book explains the significance of National insignia, airline motifs, unit badges, crests and emblems and it even describes the origins of National flags where this is appropriate to an explanation of aircraft markings.

Obviously a specialised work, it is one which will be of unparalleled use to model makers and aeronautical fraternity in general and it is uniform in size and quality with previous Harleyford aviation books. What, we wonder, will their next fascinating title be?—W. B.

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It is good to learn that the Meccano Magazine, first published in 1916 as a single broadsheet about Meccano model-building and later to become one of the most authoritative boy’s magazines, is being published again. It has been taken over by the Model Aeronautical Press Ltd., 13-35, Bridge Street, Hemel Hempstead,. Herts., and comes out monthly, price 2.s. 6d. The first issue of the new series, dated January, 1968, contains instructions for building a big Meccano steam-car, which uses 2 in. wheels shod with Meccano Dunlop tyres and is, we are interested to see, propelled by a Meccano oscillating steam-engine, suitably geared down. Final drive is by chain and the model is based on “a modified version of a prototype designed and built by Mr. Louis Hertz of Scarsdale, New York,” about which perhaps someone can tell us more? On another page some 1929 Meccano models are recalled.

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Now available from Abingdon is a companion broadsheet to “M.G.s Through the Ages.” Entitled “Healey History” this lists all the models of Healey and Austin-Healey from 1946-1967, with photographs, brief specification and numbers produced of each model. Some outstanding competition successes are also listed. The chart measures. approximately 16 in. x 22 in., is printed on good art paper and is an ideal aid to identification of the various models produced by Warwick and Abingdon. Copies of this chart, and also the earlier M.G. chart, can be obtained free of charge from “Safety Fast,” B.M.C. Ltd., Abingdon-on-Thames, Berks., on mentioning Motor Sport.