Book Reviews, January 1986, January 1986

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“HRG — The Sportsman’s Ideal”

by Ian Dussek. 176 pp. 10 in x 7, in (Motor Racing Publicalions Ltd., Unit 6. The Pt/ton Estate. 46 Pitlake Road. Croydon, CRO 3YR. £14.951).

This long awaited one-make history of a very individual and well-liked sports car, that was in production, albeit in very small numbers. from 1935 to 1966, has been published by MRP under the aegis of the Michael Sedgwick Memorial Trust, and fills another important gap on the bookshelves. Because this car was purely a sports car, it had a full competition history that makes the book all the more interesting to MOTOR SPORT readers and no-one could have written up the HRG better than Ian Dussek, son of a well-known Norton competition rider, who bought his own HRG in 1959 as his first car and who co-founded the HRG Association in 1960. Ian having remained its Hon Secretary and Editor of its Gazette ever since.

In particular, the author’s intimate knowledge of the car he writes about comes over in the technical description of all the models, but there is a valuable look-back at the make’s competition history, well supported by a grand selection of photographs. It may come as a surprise to many to tot up the number of different makes of engine either considered for use in, or actually installed in the simple but effective HRG chassis. The characters associated with the car, from the “H-R-G” provided by Halford. Robbins and H R. Godfrey, not forgetting Grace Leather who became Secretary of HAG Engineering Co Ltd, and later a shareholder, to all those who worked on or campaigned the car in races and other competitive events. The essentially-HRG exploits of Peter Clark and Marcus Chambers and their henchmen at Le Mans and elsewhere are recorded in detail and the advent of the unusual Aerodynamic model and the postwar twin-cam Singer-engined HRG are naturally covered. In fact, it’s all there and as I road-tested the 1 1/2, litre red demonstrator and a postwar 1500 HRG for MOTOR SPORT and drove the blue prototype at a Bugatti OC Lewes Speed Trial. I read Ian’s book with especial attention and interest. Some of the pictures have been published else where but the rest are evocative of HRG days, and although the Appendices are simple, they tell sufficient about the 241 HRGs that were built. This book would make a fine start to the New Year for any sports-car enthusiast. Michael Ware. Curator of the NMM, contributes the Foreword — W.B.

“Ferrari 250GT SWB” by Ken Gross, and “Alf Borneo Alfetta GT” by David Owen, 136 pp. 83, x 7,” (Osprey. 12-14 Long Acre. London WC2. £7.95 each.)

Both of these new volumes in the Osprey AutoHistory series are up to the usual high standard, generously illustrated with mono pictures, plus a central colour section, but David Owen has had the harder job of illustrating his book. Devotee though l am, when you’ve seen one GTV… The only body variations in this series are the assortment of fat arches on the competition cars whereas hardly any two of the Ferraris are identical. Mr Gross illustrates the main variations of SWB 250GT, and lists all known chassis numbers of this beautiful car to my mind aesthetically superior to the GTO. and charts the steady development of the 3-litre V12 which propelled this essentially road-going coupe to so many race successes.

I think that David Owen makes too much allowance for the dreadful gearchange and driving position of the Alfa, but it is always best to have an enthusiast writing such a work. In fact, as I write this. I am debating whether to take home a Toyota Supra or a Mercedes 190 2.3 16 but Owen’s paean of praise has me wondering if I won’t lust leap into my own GT V6 after all! Good stuff, both of these books. GC

Orbis of London have come up with an enormous coverage of the Porsche, tilled “Porsche — Portralt Of A Legend” by Inge Seiff. which takes in all the Porsche lore in one great coffee-table-type tome of 288 big pages (they measure no less than 13″ X 10 1/2″ in fact) and with colour plates occupying whole pages of this area and many other pictures the same or double-page spreads, this is some book, pictorially alone. So many books about the inimitable German sports car have now appeared that I would not like to say how much of this £50 dedication is new, but I can say that

it is so nicely done that it compliments the car. Some of it is rather journalistic, like Peter Schutz’s chapter “If I were a car I’d be a Porsche” but there is much technical matter to counteract this, for instance after reading Judith Jackson’s piece on “A woman’s thoughts about male Porsche drivers”. This is ensured by contributors like Paul Frere, Juergen Barth, Peter Falk, von Hanstein, Professor Dr-lng Ferry Porsche himself and many others.

Also with a strong German theme is a largely pictorial book by Erik Johnson of Mercedes-Benz enthusiast UK Ltd, called “The Dawn of Motoring” to make the point that Benz and Daimler of Germany produced the first practical horseless-carriages 100 years ago this year. Again, many of the pictures may be familiar but the result is entirely attractive and no historian or Mercedes-Benz enthusiast can afford not to have this nicely and generously illustrated historical record, which runs up to the overwhelming Mercedes victory in the 1914 French GP. It is available for £5.95 from M-B UK at Milton Keynes.

Then Kimberley are continuing their useful coverages of great racing drivers, in uniform softcover books, the latest being those about Derek Bell by Bob Constanduros and Gilles Villeneuve by MOTOR SPORT’s Alan Henry. Fine action pictures and good colour shots embellish the text in these little studies of famous modern racing drivers. Each one costs £2.50. W B

Haynes have now published their Morris Minor 1000 “all models” repair manual by Lindsay Porter, which starts with a history of the famous Morris Minor and then deals with the nitty-gritty of Its restoration in a 256-page pictorial repair sequence. Its price of £10.95 might well save much more than that for those about to start rebuilding one of the Morris Minor models. There is a guide to buying these cars, bodywork repairs occupy 139 of the 11 in x 8 1/4 in pages, and the Foreword is by John Frye, Chairman of the Morris Minor OC — W.B

Airlife Publications of 7, St John’s Hill, Shrewsbury SY1 1JE have published a very readable story of the life of Air Vice-Marshal Donald Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO, the famous Pathfinder pilot of the war years, but a versatile person, a great flying-boat pilot and inimitable navigator, who also made the Fairthorpe economy and sports cars, which duly get mentioned in the book. There is another motoring reference, about the late Holland Birkett who when he was killed flying was Chairman of Blackbushe Aero Club, and for whom Bennett named a lane leading to the aerodrome. The Air Vice Marshal had fought so hard to save Birkett Lane, only to have the locals pull it down. This is an excellent biography of the controversial and sometimes difficult character, well worth reading, but I wish the biographer, Alan Bramson had included the bit about how, after a brush with the autocratic SMM&T through not being allowed to take his own furniture onto his stand, Bennett withdrew all his Fairthorpe exhibits from the London Motor Show! The book is priced at £12.95. W.B.

I don’t know who buys the big “coffee-table” tomes, which seem inappropriate to flat dwellers and the smaller houses current today, but publishers still dole them out. An attractive one in this form is “101 Great Marques” (11 1/2 in 9, in) by the dedicated Andrew Whyte, in which the colour pictures are very effective, old cars figure alongside the moderns, and makers badges are used at the head of each marque discourse, these running from AC to Wolseley. Octupus Books do this one and charge £9.95 for it. Another of the kind, is “Great Marques of Germany” by Jonathon Wood. (12 1/2ln x 9 in. 224 pp). with a Foreword by Prof Dr Ferdinand Porsche. Here is more good colour and pretty hefty coverage, at a cost of £12.95. The publisher’s address is: 59, Grosvenor Street, London W1X 9DA — W.B.

“Volkswagen Golf GTI — The Enthusiast’s Companion” Edited by Ray Hutton, 112 pp. 10 in o 7 1/4 in (Motor Racing Publications Ltd, Unit A. The Paton Estate, Croydon, CRO 3RY £7.95.)

Even current makes and models merit books about them these days and the VW Golf GTI is so Popular and has set such a trend that MRP have done this little coverage of the car, about how it evolved, its technical make up (try Jeffrey Daniels), what it is like on test (by none other than John Miles), how to maintain it (by Editor Hutton), how to hot it up (by experienced Jeremy Walton) and the Golf’s sporting successes (by Peter Nelson). With reproductions of Golf advertising matter and copious Golf pictures, here is a sensible New Year present for keen owners of these cars. — W.B.

Rolls-Royce Motors has published two sets of cards depicting Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars from the early days to the present, comprising 50 cards in all, with a bound 60-page album in which to stick them, the idea being to celebrate the centenary of the motor-car and the year in which RR made its 100 000th car. The sets cost £11.15 each or £19.90 for the combined Bentley and Royce set, including postage and packing. and are obtainable from Queste Magazine Ltd, PO Box 18, Crewe, Cheshire, CW1 3PL. — W.B.

Those seeking a “stocking” type of present need look no further than the fascinatingly illustrated new “Vintage Motor Cars”, book in the Shire Album series (No. 146) selling at a modest £1.25 from UK bookshops.

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