Books for the new year

“Motoring My Way” by Stanley Sedgwick. 192 pp. 10 in. x 7 1/4 in. (B. T. Botsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W1H OAH. £6.95. Author’s proceeds to the Bentley DC’s W.O. Bentley Memorial Fund.)

That remarkable man Stanley Sedgwick, President of the Bentley DC, has done it again—written a very worthwhile motoring book. This time it is not a stack of statistics about Bentley motor cars but the readable story of his motoring life—and he is quite a motorist, as well as an accomplished writer!

Sedgwick has given “Motoring My Way” to the Bentley DC so that the profits from its sales will swell the W. O. Bentley Memorial Fund ; so any excuse for writing such a personal account, if excuse were needed, is more than adequately met. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the luxury and highliving described on every page and had the wicked thought that there might well be a counter-story, “Motoring the Other Way”, about, say, a tenth-hand Austin 7 owner eating at “Bert’s Caffs” and refilling the sump of his car with the draining from those of the kind Stanley indulges in… That apart, this is a very enjoyable book, which makes you feel at every page that you should be putting it down and getting out a car, and driving hard for the next day and night. This is because, when Sedgwick has finished telling you of the Bentleys he has owned, his first 3-litre bought during the war, his Le Mans 4 1/2-litre that caught fire but was rebuilt, a 6 1/2-litre, his present splendid 8-litre twoseater, a very serviceable Mk. VI, and his rare and covetable R-type Continental “Olag”, he gets onto those long, fast journeys for which he has made such a name. These have been the subject of articles in the weekly motoring journals. But the accounts of them in this book bear reading nevertheless—and not everyone reads those weeklies, do they?

I will return to these Sedgwick marathons later. Before the author deals with them, he gives us a very full and worthwhile discourse about those flying kilo. runs which the BDC organises in Belgium, and then tells us in detail of the BDC attempts to better the 1953 performance of Tom Plowman who, more or less for a joke, had averaged just under 107 miles in an hour at Montlhery in his 30/98 Vauxhall. I am glad Sedgwick pays warm tribute to the courage and enthusiasm of the late Forrest Lycett in respect of those f.s. kilo. sprints. And I hope 30/98 folk will read his book, if only because it should afford them a laugh at the terrible difficulty so many Bentleys had in beating the lone 30/98’s speed of 106.9 m.p.h., put up by this older-sort of Vauxhall motor car. To summarise, first they tried to do it at Monza, taking a Speed Six, a 3-litre and a funny 4 1/2-litre Bentley with de Dion rear suspension, which latter improvement that aged 30/98 certainly didn’t aspire to. The 3-litre broke a valve, so did the Speed Six, then the 3-litre broke another valve, but managed 89.19 miles in the hour. Next, they had a go at Montlhery. This time the Speed Six caught fire and the 3-litre broke a gudgeon-pin. They returned to Montlhery in 1960, with the three original cars and an extra 4 1/2-litre Bentley. The Speed Six this time broke a valve cap, the 3-litre lost all its oil, one 4 1/2-litre holed a piston, but McDonald’s 4 1/2-litre made it—at 111.18 m.p.h. The repaired Speed Six then tried again, but dropped a valve through a piston. (Good cars, these 30/98s—and I suppose one day one of them may better the Bentley’s 111.18 miles in the hour?)

Turning away from all this concentrated speed, Sedgwick’s views on different kinds of cars are most informative. He has not only owned Bentleys. His personal cars have also included the 1910 45/50 Mercedes, a RollsRoyce Phantom III, a 2500T Berlinetta Ferrari, Lincoln Continentals, a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and a Double-Six Daimler (you see how all this might affect an impoverished Austin 7 owner?). There are most interesting discussions about his reasons for buying such cars and their respective merits in his eyes, and he retraces for us some impressively long fun-journeys made in the Edwardian Mercedes.

Indeed, all Stanley’s marathons are undertaken for fun. He tells again of those epics in Bob Gregory’s 1904 “Flying Fifteen” Darracq (a car discovered, I think, by E. K. H. K. Kerslake), and of short runs and fabulously quick-times over great distances in R-type Bentley Continentals, a 300SL Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows and a T-series Bentley, in a Mercedes 600 and a Mercedes 280SE, and he reminds us that long ago he even did the Monte Carlo Rally, twice, in Jowett Javelins, first as part of the “works” team, then, in 1952, with a private owner.

The last part of Stanley Sedgwick’s book is, indeed, devoted to these fabled high-speed runs, often alone, across Europe. We are told of a non-stop journey from the English Channel to the Med. in a 1951 Mk. VI Bentley, at 46.6 m.p.h. and 17.31 m.p.g., of doing Paris to Cobham (Surrey) in the same Mk. VI in 5 h. 35 mm. overall, and of driving a Mini home from Monte Carlo. Then it gets more serious, or perhaps I should say faster. Like Monte Carlo to Cobham in the Bentley “Olga”, which embraced Nice to Boulogne at over 61 m.p.h. average and 17.34 m.p.g., a similar little journey in a 1966 Lincoln Continental at 70 m.p.h.„ and 1,000 miles in a day in this country in the 8-litre Bentley. Then there is the story of driving across France and back in a day in a Rolls-Royce Corniche, at 84.54 m.p.h. and 11.35 m.p.g., and doing Dunkerque to Marseilles in the (modern) Double-Six Daimler at an average speed of 90.95 m.p.h. (the Corniche had done 88.8 on this leg of its double-journey—all speeds, by the way, are running-time averages, excluding stops) at 10.45 m.p.g. (the R-R gave 11.95 m.p.g. on this part of its run). But it didn’t break down, as the Daimler did afterwards. Sedgwick is famous for such driving and for keeping meticulous records of such accomplishments, from which the book, itself clearly laid out and full of excellent pictures, benefits.

These high-speed runs will be of great interest to all those who enjoy motoring for its own sake as well as motor cars. In passing, I am amused to find that the author’s 707-mile journey across France in the Mk. VI Bentley in 1952 took 15 h. 10 min. running-time, because in 1938, when the A1 was far slower than it is today, I drove a 4 1/2-litre Bentley from London to John O’Groats 702 miles) in 13 h. 53 min. And I suppose the jaunt round Europe which Motor Sport took in 1972 in a BMW 3.0 CSL, which put 3,789 miles into four days, with each night spent in a bed, and 124.7 miles into its best hour, the running-time average from Calais to Nice being over 100 m.p.h., at 15.13 m.p.g., would be the kind of leisurely motoring tour to appeal to Stanley Sedgwick? Incidentally, he writes of doing Le Touquet to Nice in 1954 in a Jaguar XK120, actually stopping for three nights on the way… Reading again, in good detail, and with accompanying maps and tabulated schedules, of these fast but not furious drives of Stanley’s, one ponders on what there is left to do. It might be amusing to repeat H. E. Symons’ drive from London to Nairobi, across the Sahara in a Rolls-Royce Phantom III with a R-R Camargue, and surely it is about time someone had a go at the London-Cape Town record, at whatever it now stands at ? In a Range-Rover, maybe…? And even in this restrictive age there are some so-many-capitals or frontiers in so-many-days sort of runs that might still represent a possible fun-target. If off-the-road motoring is not to Stanley’s liking, there are, as I have just said, other targets to reach out for, like our ten European Capitals in four days, because it should now be possible to more than halve the journey times of those who undertook such stunts two or more decades age. And if today’s Autoroutes make for dull motoring how about seeing what the difference in journey times would be, driving across France first along N7 (which C. R. Minchin used as the subject for his mystery story, written in response to a remark by Sir Henry Royce that, as an engineer, he would not be able to turn out a successful novel), returning in the same car over the Autoroutes? But I see Sedgwick hints at something far more ambitious—a possible re-run this year of Paris-Pekin to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of that great race….

The final chapter of this absorbing book, which is dedicated to the memory of W.O. Bentley, tells of some of Con and Stanley Sedgwick’s quite remarkable voyages about the World, meeting BDC folk en route and seeing many interesting and unusual cars. Anyone with a taste for travel will enjoy this, exhausted as it may make them feel! From Moscow to Suez, Fiji and all stops in between, as it were…. Sedgwick cannot help making interesting observations, on places, hotels, people and cars. I was astonished, for instance, that he discovered a tatty 4 1/2/Mk. VI Bentley in Dar es Salaam “owned by a Mr. William Boddy” and hasten to say it is nothing to do with me. The discovery of two Nurburg-type Mercedes in Tokio, bought new by HIM The Emperor of Japan, is an example of how an uninspiring car may yet have good sales-potential for its maker, for presumably Mercedes-Benz aimed this car for such a market. And so this book, even though some may find it a trifle overpowering, interests and holds one’s respectful attention, to many it will come as a welcome breath of refreshing air, in a World that is so rapidly becoming stereo-typed, unadventurous, and mundane.W.B.

“Great Moments In Sport—Motor Racing” by Doug Nye. 176 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. (Pelham Books Ltd., 52, Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3EF. £5.25).

This is a book in a series devoted to great moments in sport. Doug Nye has written an enjoyable but not notable book, each chapter being the kind of thing usually forming .a magazine article. He ranges over many years of motor racing, starting with the defeat of George Boillot’s twin-cam, four-wheel-braked Peugeot in the classic French Grand Prix of 1914 by the team of single-cam, rear-wheel-braked Mercedes to James Hunt’s win for Lord Hesketh in the Hesketh 308B at Zandvoort in 1974. In between there is a racy chapter about such events as Jimmy Murphy winning the 1921 French Grand Prix for Duesenburg at Le Mans, Segrave bringing a Sunbeam home first at Tours in 1923, Lockhart’s success at Indianapolis in 1926, Tazio Nuvolari putting it over the Germans at the Nurburgring in 1935, “Bira” winning at Brooklands, the triumph of “Pampas Bull” Froilan Gonzales, Hawthorn’s victory over Fangio at Reims, how Moss won the Mille Miglia for Mercedes-Benz, Fangio’s greatest race, Moss’ mastery at Monaco, the split-second finish between Clark and Hill at Silverstone, Hill’s Monaco hat-trick, the genius of Jackie Stewart, and more besides.

Nye doesn’t make mistakes, the writing is of simple-tone, but inspired, and the illustrations are good. Nothing new emerges, but this is a good introduction to motorracing history and drama.—W.B.

“Let’s Call It Fiesta—The Autobiography of Ford’s Project Bobcat”, by Edouard Seidler. 239 pp. 8 1/4 in. x 6 in. (Patrick Stephens Ltd., Bar Hill, Cambridge, (:133 8EL. £4.95).

So the book has come to us before the car! This is the complete story of how Ford’s new small-tar was conceived, written by 44-year old Edouard Seidler, who is known to me as the writer who interviews the Heads of the Motor Industry for British motor journals. The book is published by Edita SA, in Switzerland.

The Ford Bobcat FWD transverse-engined small-car, later renamed Fiesta, has been a rumour, a speculative piece of automotive sculpture, for far too long. It is proclaimed to be “one of the most important projects in the history of the automobile”, and “the first ‘universal’ vehicle conceived by Ford since the Model-T”. Over £850,000 went in conceiving it. It has been said that never again will the World see so much care, worry, thought, and expense expended on such a project, at all events in Europe, because impoverished currency will not permit of it. So Seidler was lucky to be privileged to write the first full story of how Ford tackled this vital and stupendous Bobcat exercise. His book is worth reading, although it is much more about styling, finance, and Ford personalities than about engineering and motor cars. But it is significant that the book has beaten the car, so far as British writers are concerned! There is such a thing as waiting too long to try a new car. The Bobcat sounded enormously exciting at first hearing, even if it was to be of Issigonis concept and use a modified Kent engine. But for me the enthusiasm, staunch Ford follower that I have been for so many years, is wearing a bit thin. As this book tells, when the project began in 1973 it was the Fiat 127 and the Renault 5 that Ford was out to beat—remarkably, they even built their first body-mock-ups on the Fiat 127 platform. But time moved along, to the point where it was clearly the Audi 50, the the Volkswagen Golf and Polo, that Ford feared. Wait too long, and potential customers may go for a ball, instead of having a Fiesta… .

There will, anyway, be a hard-sell ahead of Ford. In the first place, as Seidler spends so many pages telling us, it is primarily Spain that has benefited from Bobcat—at a time when Britain is gasping for injections of fresh finance, more jobs, and renewed hope for the future. Then, whereas previous Ford small-car exercises have been largely the concern of Dagenham and Cologne, the Fiesta has much American thinking behind it; to the English, names like Iacocca, Reickert, racing-driver Uwe Bahnsen, and Sperlich, etc. will seem strange. Then it is a fact, as Seidler confirms, that even the name Fiesta isn’t new—Henry Ford had to ask permission from, of all Companies, General Motors, before he could use it on the new Ford. And General Motors themselves had come out with the Chevette before any of us have so much as driven a Bobcat…

A further thought that this book conjures up is that Bobcat seems likely to win or lose mainly on styling. It is an astonishing fact that while it was still top-secret and hidden from the gaze of all journalists and motoring writers, Ford organised showings in a great many countries to ordinary potential carbuyers, who saw Bobcat and other Ford stylings lined-up with the opposition, and were asked to vote for their favourite. How the Bobcat gradually won these voting sessions against other in-production little cars, and in what order, is most interestingly revealed in “Let’s Call It Fiesta”. But a car on a carpet is just so much sculpture, and can only be judged as such. The real proof, of the superiority or otherwise, of “Bobcat-become-Fiesta” will be in the driving thereof. (As an aside from bookreviewing, I would like to drive it, not as part of some pampered Press party but over the ordinary give-and-take roads of Wales and England, and over a big enough mileage to assess fuel-thirst and initial dependability. But judging by recent Ford Press Office performances, I am far from optimistic! Having reminded them, before and after the Motor Show, that the only Ford I drove in 1976 was a troublesome 1.3 Economy Cortina, requests for a go in some other Ford model fell on deaf, or disinterested, ears. . .) But let me hasten back to book-reviewing!

Seidler, who was allowed by Henry Ford himself to live with the Bobcat Project, makes it quite clear how much this small-car undertaking troubled Ford, how much it was to cost, and how introducing a new car today, of this vital nature, is very much a competitive styling-exercise, allied to drastic price-cutting of every nut and bolt, literally. As this stupendous venture into making the best car in a class which so many other manufacturers have filled satisfactorily for years got into its stride, some amusing facets and even “Rolls-Royce-like touches came to Edouard’s notice. At one of the aforementioned “customer clinics” to see what the ordinary citizens thought of unfinalised Bobcats (carefully screened from we horrid journalists, but with one unfortunate leakage), a lady from Paris refused to return to her husband, another voter, whose every impression was essential to Ford, thought he was in Sweden when he was in fact, in Switzerland(!), and the husband of another lady approached about going to one of these secret rendezvous with Bobcat, immediately informed the police, fearing a vice-racket. According to Seidler, Ford contrived to keep the French police in the dark. Then the German contingent arrived at their “clinic” with Teutonic efficiency, only to find that the essential questionnaires, exceedingly carefully prepared, had been left behind… . Incidentally, at these “clinks” the future shape of Bobcat was assessed against Fiat, Renault, lionda and Peugeot rivals, etc. (and later, of course, against the new VWs) but Leyland’s Mini wasn’t included. Never Mind, Sir Alec. I suspect that your Mini Minor was conceived without any such horrific gestation period, and if it had never happened the Fiesta might never have happened either! The latter, by the way, is known to the Americans as a “Mini-Mite”, which may not be acceptable in this country of little cars.

As to the R-R facets, there is Ford’s “Blue Letter” of top secret decisions, and. there was the search for a stuffed Lynx (bobcat), from which badges of its head were made, so that those working on the project, having been initiated into the Order of the Bobcat, could be easily recognised. The former smacks of those famous Royce “Bibles”, but I do not know whether Derby would have enthused over the latter ploy.

There is not much in Seidler’s book about how the engineering and road-ability of the Bobcat was tested, apart from mentions of tests in extremes of climates and the test-track work which you would expect to be employed for any new car, big or small, apart, that is, from a description of Ford’s “top-brass” driving the unfinalised Fiesta at Dunton, against the Fiat 127, Renault 5, Audi 50, etc. When Henry Ford criticised transmission and wind noise, Iacocca disliked steering-column vibration, a stiff gear-change and poor sunvizors and facia, Caldwell and Secrest hard back seats, noisy wipers and out-of-reach controls. More for the “Blue Letter”!

Perhaps we have been kept waiting too long for the Fiesta’s impact to be like that of the new Ford Model-A, away back in 1927. Students of auto-styling, however, should be anxious to study the 120 black-and-white illustrations and the 28 colour-plates in “Let’s Call It Fiesta”, depicting the many development stages in the Bobcat Project. Future owners will, maybe, feel a sense of importance, after reading Seidler, at owning a car which Ford troubled so much about. I hope that the Fiesta is a success, for the sake of those British workers who may one day build it. Meanwhile, if you haven’t driven this much-publicised car, which has cost Ford so much in anxiety and dollars, at least you can read Seidler’s view of it.—W.B.

“Great Auto Races” by Peter Helck. 266 pp. 113/4 in. x 13 in. (New English Library Ltd., Barnard’s Inn, London, EC1N 2JR. £27.00).

Soon after the war was over I began to see the paintings of Peter H.elck reproduced, in the black-and-white of those days, in Club magazines and elsewhere. Later it became known that the talented American artist had been to Brooklands in the 1920s and had been taken round the Track by Miss Ivy Cummings. Later still, we recognised him for the great automotive painter that he is. Helck is a genuine enthusiast, which is why, full of action as his pictures invariably are, they are painstakingly accurate, and especially, they convey the feeling of the people connected with fast cars and motor-racing—the drivers, mechanics, on-lookers, officials, grease-boys, etc., which is where, in my opinion, Helck is greater than Crosby.

This book of his works is the coffee-table tome par excellence. It contains masses of his historic and famous pictures, in full colour (backed up by black-and-white drawings), of all manner of motor-racing scenes. Helck shows us, in his inimitable style, the pioneer days; the dirt tracks of 1902 to the 1950s, the Vanderbilt Cup races of 1906 (which was where he “came in”, as it were) to 1916, the Grant’s Prix from 1906 to 1916 (sic), Indianapolis and Brooklands, long-distance marathons like the New York-Paris Race of 1908, hill-climbs, the Land Speed Record, sports ears in action, etc.. etc. You name it, it seems to be all here, in Helck’s weighty tome.

I predict that this one will become what these days they term a “collector’s piece”. Chose who adore art will find it irresistible, and it is art of the highest standard, motoring or otherwise. Personally, I prefer photographs, as being even more accurate than drawings or Paintings (how does one know the correct Shade, or even colour, in many instances, when painting ancient cars?), but I realise that to say this in the same breath as saying Helck” is sacrilege. In some of his pictures the cars do lean over to the lure of speed, but So they did, I know, in some early speed Photographs. What I mean is perhaps best conveyed by one fielck painting of Brooklands, where cars front various different eras of the Motor Course are depicted, all racing round the banking in close company. It never happened. So it leaves me cold.

But those who like motoring art at its finest will find their fill in this great, and expensive, collection. Indeed, they will be treating themselves to 90 full-colour plates and a total of 217 illustrations, and there is a linking textual commentary. This remarkable artist Helck can do justice to cars from the dawn of motoring to the present-day racers, but I think he deals best of all with the Edwardian giants. His eye for background detail, and his ability to capture the atmosphere of an occasion, whether of a winner on his way to an important victory or an aecident of Paris-Madrid proportions, is no less talented. The Foreword is by Henry Austin Clark Junr., the Introduction by that girl motoring historian of much Merit. Beverly Rae Kimes.—W.B.

“Lancia” by Michael Frostiek. 208 pp. 10 in. x 7 1/4 in. (Dalton Watson Ltd., 76, Wardour Street, London W1V 4AN. £7.50).

Dalton Watson are renowned for their beautifully-produced, largely-pictorial motoring history books, on rich art paper. Here is their tribute to the notable make of Lancia. It is a subject which lends itself well to such treatment and while many of the illustrations have appeared previously, the coverage of many of the great Lancia models is good. and most enjoyable to return to. Many of the photographs used have come, I think, from Lancia of Turin’s own archives and they include the racing cars, along with the ordinary models. After a textual discourse on the pre-war cars, the vintage period opens with the Lambda, a memorable model of the 1920s cars. I am reminded, from a tine picture of a Lambda dash, that this was of engine-turned metal, when most cars of the period had wooden dashboards; but the Lambda, with its space-frame, independent front suspension, and ball-gate gear-change, was a very advanced conception in its day. There is a picture of its narrow-angle vee-four engine too, to remind me that I have always thought the Lambda’s o.h.c. valve gear, under the “dome of St. Paul’s” cover, to be the finest looking of all time.

There are indeed 30 pictures devoted to the Lambda, including one period advertisement; the 1928 “Airway saloon by Albany Coachworks is included and there is a very sporting 1926 Casaro torpedo. The other famous Lancia models get like treatment and I ant reminded that the Aprilia I road-tested for Motor Sport before the war was by far and away the best small car of its time. The book concludes with a specifications table but lacks a breakdown of sales-figures, which I understand was a useful part of the same publisher’s book on Mercedes cars (which has not been received by us for review).

The Lancia MC publishes one of the more professional of the many Club journals and it will be interesting to see What this Club, which is, quite rightly, jealous of Lancia history being wrongly interpreted, has to say about Frostick’s “Lancia”. While I enjoyed what pictures there are, and they include a colour-frontispiece of a Farina-bodied Lancia which is now in the National Motor Museum, and extend to the Ciarrima, concluding with plenty of shots of competition Lancias, there are some horrible omissions. Where, for instance, is the Aprilia cabriolet, or come co that, the Mille Miglia Astura, or the 1935 Augusta sports limousine ? Then It seems remarkable lax not to have put in a 1112 Aurelia; and the author has been unable to identify the well-known Raymond Loen”s Flaminia. More pictures of Lancia’s delightful attention to detail would have been appreciated—the folding window-winders used from the Aprilia onwards, and the blind for the rear window of the 2000, etc. Some errors have crept in, too. Sc) while this is an eminently commendable “browsing book.” the need for a scholarly definitive-history of this famous Make remains.— W.B.

“TVR—Success Against The Odds” by Peter Filby. 224 pp. 9 3/4 in. x 7 in. Wilton House Gentry Ltd. 16, Regenet, Street, London SW1 £6 .50).

Here is another gap in the closing ranks of the one-make histories filled in. The author had a Unipower GT, became a TVR devotee, and decided that the remarkable TVR story should he told, a story described as one in the most extraordinary in the history of the Motor Industry. It is a complex 20-year history, involving two bankruptcies and three or four “near misses”, but this has not deterred Filby from setting it all down. He writes in a more flippant style than is usually employed for vintage history ; but this is more recent stuff, and the book is sincere and very detailed, even to Appendices giving details of every TVR model produced.

The small motor manufacturers deserve every encouragement, especially at the present time, and so it is good to have this Story of the TVR. front its modest start to Martin Lilley’s take-over in the late 1960s. It is all there, the business history as well as the development of the cars, with 1 50 pictures to bring the story alive. 1 see that a bit of female “striptease” has got in, which will not surprise anyone who has seen the TVR stand on Motor Show Press Day! There are drawings as well, including those showing the humble sheds once used as a factory. l’he pictures could be better reproduced; but the main thing is that here is a full history of the ‘I’VR. It will interest those who favour this car, from its small beginnings down to the advent of the TVR Turbo, and all those who see fun in owning an individualistic, smallproduction motor car should find something for them in this hook.—W.B.

• • •

There have of late been several books about the better American automobiles. We have had several one-make histories, a hook on 16-eylinder USA productions, and so on. These have now been joined by “The Olympian Cars” by Richard Burns Carson, a big 273-page tome about the American luxury-cars of the 1920s and 30s. Written in a fairly popular style, the book’s strength comes front a multiplicity (almost 4()0) of pictures, of Auburn, Cord, Duesenburg, Cadillac. etc.. etc. The book is published only in America. But we thought it should be brought to the attention of the Clubs, here and in Europe, who like American cars a this kind. It is published by the Borzoi Book people, of 201 East 50th Street. New York. NY 10022, at 25.00 dollars.