Books for the New Year
“Cooper Cars” by Doug Nye. 376 pp 10 in x 7½ in (Osprey Publishing Ltd, 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP £20.00)
This is a considerable magnum opus by the well-known motor racing writer Doug Nye. There have inevitably been other books about Cooper Cars, the famous Surbiton builders of highly successful racing cars, commencing with their ingenious Cooper 500s. John Cooper himself has written one, as Nye readily admits, and there have been others. But this masterly work is the complete history of Cooper Cars Ltd, seen from the technical, and one might say very personal, angle. Because Cooper’s have taken part in so very many races, from 1946 onwards, the record of the front-engined cars occupying no fewer than 31 pages at the end of this book, Nye, although granted many large pages by Osprey’s, of quite small type, had a long story to give us, so had to decide whether to devote the detail to the races or to the cars. He chose the latter course, rightly in my opinion, so the races invariably get but a few lines each. I had to adopt much the same course when getting the 28 seasons of Brooklands’ racing between two covers and one eminent motoring historian was kind enough to say he had expected this treatment to be boring but found that it held his attention to the end. The same can be said of this great Cooper tome, at all events by those who love the more recent motor racing, all over the World, and the legends in particular of the volatile Cooper Company, its “boss” John Cooper, and all the chaps who worked for him and raced his cars.
Nye has dug deep and has exactly captured the atmosphere of this remarkable organisation. His accounts of the pranks that went on there, in the very language used by the participants, shows this to be a Cooper story by a dedicated Cooper fan. Innumerable good pictures, meticulously captioned, and quotes from the contemporary motoring press — Motor Sport gets its quota — and of famous racing men from Stirling downwards, help bring the text to life, making this a great read and an essential record for any true blue (or green) motor racing follower. One is tempted to quote some of Nye’s better Cooper anecdotes but I have never regarded it as fair for a reviewer to “lift” such precious material, for the benefit of the review rather than the book. So to enjoy the stuff Doug has dug up you will need to buy or borrow this book. It will take you quite a long time to get through it but you will find it is all there, set down in entertaining fashion, especially for those who want Cooper data rather than a race history. Nye has even put in a picture of what he thinks is this reviewer failing to take much interest in Eric Brandon leaving the start-line at Prescott in 1946, first meeting for the Mk. I Cooper-JAP, and the other 300-plus illustrations run from things like the miniature car Charles Cooper made for John and Charles’s Flying Flea (A7-powered), to Bill Knight taking records with a 250 cc C.v.-Norton. The text takes you from the 500s through the sports cars, to the Cooper-Bristols, F3, F2, F1, with the winning begining in 1958, on to the great years for Cooper, the 1½-litre cars, the Maserati project, and the record cars. A very good start to the 1984 motor-book season.
“Race & Rally Car Source Book” by Allan Staniforth. 204 pp. 11 in x 8½ in (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £8.95).
This book packs a lot in, about many different types of racing car, from 750 Specials to Fl Williams, as it unfolds the techniques of their design and the purpose behind their specifications. The author, who has built a number of specials of his own, and with Richard Blackmore the Terrapins, hopes his all-embracing explanation of the way things are in such cars, and the reasons therefore, will aid those embarking on, or dispairing of, a DIY race or rally car. There is certainly lots of meat here — the chapters start you off on construction, then deal with special aspects such as aerodynamics, suspension and steering (“The heart of the matter?”), and run through such successful trailblazers as Rally Saab, Mini and Ford, to the Audi Quattro, and even disclose the “secrets” of cars like the Fl machinery from Vanwall to Lotus 78 and Brabham BT46B. The appendices list weights of materials, metal comparisons, gauge equivalents, torque-wrench settings, a guide to spherical joints, and even give the references to rubber mixes for Dunlop, Avon, Goodyear, Michelin and other tyres etc. Among this almost surfeit of information there must be much useful data that will brush off on someone, and most special builders will read the book with great concentration and, I am sure, much enjoyment. — W.B.
“ATA Girl — Memories of a Wartime Ferry Pilot” by Rosemary du Cross. 105 pp. 9½” x 6¼”. (Frederick Miller Ltd, Dataday House, 8 Alexandra Road, London, SW19 7.7Z. £5.95).
This is a charming little book recalling the carefree pre-war aviation days, although it is mainly about Lady du Cross’s experiences as a ferry-pilot with Air Transport Auxiliary. Two books have already appeared on this aspect of flying, by Lettice Curtis, notably for her “forgotten Pilots”, so this one is somewhat repetitive. One can, however, forgive Lady du Cross for this, because her account is charmingly written and includes some fresh anecdotes. She brushes aside the problems of flying all kinds of military aeroplanes, up to four-engined bombers and unusual American fighters, saying the excellent ATA loose-leaf handling notes made it easy. What modesty! Undoubtedly those ATA girls were courageous and competent, in high degree. . . .
The book opens with revelations about Rosemary’s dancing career, before flying became her obsession. It is amusing that she describes her parents, Sir J. D. Rees, MP and Lady Rees, as “poor but honest”. Poor she may have thought them, but they were able to buy her a new Miles Hawk Major (G-ADBT), later replaced by a Miles Whitney Straight, in which she took part in many pre-war European Air Rallies . . . After the war she ran her own one-woman air-taxi service for a while, with her Percival Proctor, as Sky Taxi, before she married and turned to politics — and learning to ride, at the age of 70. Cars are not mentioned by make but it is interesting that the “kind man with a garage in Henley”, who produced quite a lot of clients for the air-taxi business (at 1/6d a mile), was Squire of Squire Motors, presumably the makers of that exciting twin-cam 1½-litre sports car, and there is mention of racing motorcyclist Wal Handley and Armstrong Payne, the latter W. B. Scott’s motor-racing friend, who both died while with ATA. The book is illustrated with reproductions of Press write-ups, cartoons, and pages from the ATA handling notes. The author says the latter made flying so easy, but to a layman they look horribly complicated and great credit goes to this girl who flew 91 types of aeroplane on 1,025 deliveries while in ATA, having been taught to fly by the inimitable Captain Baker at Heston in Avro Cadets. Another one for the flying buffs among otn readers to collect. — W.B.
The explanation of what rallying is all about, by experienced Stuart Turner and Tony Mason, has gone into a new edition of “Drive It!” — The Complete Book of Rallying, by the Haynes Publishing Group, having first appeared in 1978 and been reprinted thrice in between, which speaks for itself. Running to 136 pages measuring 11 in x 8 in, with a picture on almost every
page, the price is a modest £6.95.
A weighty 220-page coffee-table tome has come from Haynes, called “Extraordinary Automobiles”, as Peter Vann and Gerald Asaria see them. The claim for it is that “it transcends the ordinary run of books of traditional shots of that most hackneyed subject — four-wheel motor vehicle productions” — which may be why a six-wheeled Wolfrace Spaceship is included! The idea of the authors is to “appeal to the senses, summoning up a great dream, addressed to our longing for escape and our yearning for the exceptional”. To this end the 12 in x 9 in volume has 220 colour shots of bodywork, not only by the well-known Italian stylists but also by Caruna, Duchatelet, Art7., Rinspeed, Sbarro, B+B, and Wood & Pickett, backed up by the work of Aston Martin, Panther, Wolfrace, etc and the many Replicas of former great cars. I think those engaged on automotive styling should be intrigued but it is expensive, at £24.
The Haynes Publishing Group has two books of especial interest to sports-car enthusiasts in its latest publications in its “Super Profiles” series. These are “Fiat X1/9” by Graham Robson and “Triumph Stag” by James Taylor. Of identical format, these 56-page 10¾ in x 8¼ in books include colour pictures and each costs £4.95. Taylor says of the Stag that he “considers it to be one of the greatest failures of the Leyland era, brilliantly conceived but badly let down in the execution”, but has a sufficiently great affection for it to have written this book about it. Graham Robson met the individualistic Fiat X1/9 when it was released to the motoring press in 1973 and says he would certainly have one in his stable today were it not for the fact that as “a high-mileage professional motoring writer he needs more space and a highergeared car”. These IWO books will show what these controversial sports cars are like, and how they were developed. — W.B.
Yet another Ferrari book! — Osprey have come up with “Ferrari 250LM”, by Marcel Massini, with Rob de la Rive Box. This 196 page, 10 in X 7½ in book gives excellent coverage and illustrations relating to what the authors call “Ferrari’s first street legal mid-engined GT car, truly an exotic among exotics”. Even model and toy Ferrari LMs are included. It sells (the book I mean) for £14.95 and is no accident, because this well-known publishing house has a dozen other Ferrari titles on its list.
Motor Racing Publications Ltd can supply the Americanpublished “Illustrated MG Buyer’s Guide” by Richard Knudson, which takes a deep look at the used MG market, with valuable hints on what to go for and what to investigate when you do so. A 157-page, 9¼ in x 7½ in soft cover publication, it costs £7.95 here and others in the series cover Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, Mustang, Alfa Romeo and Lamborghini.
Patrick Stephens Ltd of Barr Hill, Cambridge, have published No 7 in their fascinating range of books which look at disused airfields all over the country, with copious pictures of the aircraft that used them, old buildings, aerial views, and the rest. A fine guide to those who She to hunt historic sites. This latest one, priced at £10.95, covers the military airfields of Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland, as seen by David L. Smith. Enjoyment for aviation buffs. * *
Still on an aviation theme, Haynes latest Aeroplane Super Profiles cover the Super Etendard, the Sea King, and the F-4 Phantom II. Slim but data-packed books, ideal for the bookshelf, with dramatic pictures, some in colour, and data tables, each one sells for £4.95, the Series Editor being Christopher Chant.
Haynes have come up with “TR for Triumph” by Chris Harvey, the title self-explanatory to sports-car folk. This specialist 231 page book is priced at £14.95.
Two useful books in Osprey’s “How To Restore” series are “Car Interiors” by Peter Wallage, and “Electrical & Ignition Systems” by the same author. Each costs £6.95.