Books for the New Year

The Scimitar and its forebears by Don Poker. 231pp (Court Publications, Drays Court, Witcombe, Gloucs GL3 4TN. £11.95 + £1.55 p&p)

That the Reliant marque should have had to wait until now for a comprehensive history to be written is surprising; that the author of such a work should be Don Pither is not. Stalwart of the Historic Rally Car Register, Sabre racer, Scimitar hill-climber, and proprietor of a company devoted to Scimitars, Pither concentrates here on the sporting Reliants from Sabre to SS1, and including chapters on might-have-heron. It is extras such as styling sketches, diagrams, and adverts which usefully amplify the text and photographs, making this not only thorough but a lively read. Particularly welcome is the chart listing the models in order, a quick reference of real value to a journalist. A fine effort, especially as this is Pither’s first book. The foreword is by the Princess Royal, herself an owner. GC

La Tour de France Automobile 1899-1986 by Maurice Louche. 445pp (available from the author, Campagne Cabronne, 13980 Alhens, France. 490FFr inc P&P)

Though it has always to call itself the Tour Auto to distinguish itself from the two-wheeled Tour de France, this venerable event has been amongst the most prestigious in Europe in its day, and this large and well-illustrated volume gives us a very thorough picture of the fifty Tours there have been since the start in 1899.

The text is all in French, and although there is much of interest in the pictures, which go right back to the first Tour, it would be a shame to miss the textual details, whether of the Phanomobile which entered in 1912, or of the Ford GT70 in 1971. But, a far cry from its apogee around 1970 when a Matra-Simca CG, Ligier JS2 or Ferrari 512M could be seen bellowing up the hill-climbs around the country, the book closes with the sad postscript that the 1987 event had to be cancelled for lack of entries. Looking at the success of the Mille Miglia, says the author, is it time to institute a historic Tour? Purchase would be something of an indulgence at nearly £50, but sportscar fans will enjoy what they see. GC

Two books of interest to advocates of 4WD and off-road driving enthusiasts are Nick Dimbleby’s Range Rover Conversions, which describes and illustrates all manner of changes that can be made to a popular car if you are a oil-exporting Arab or otherwise very wealthy, and Nick Baldwin’s The illustrated History Of Off-Road Vehicles. Both are large-format Foulis of Yeovil productions, very adequately illustrated and priced respectively at £7.50 and £8.95 . WB

Chapter and verse on Jaguar vs Porsche The Battle for Le Mans is set out in a book of that name by Ken Wells, published by William Kimberley Ltd of 4 Church Close, Whetstone, London N20 OJU and priced at £14.95. The pictures, in both colour and black-and-white and on pages sufficiently large ( 12in x 8in) to do them justice, are pretty impressive; the text, if somewhat “journalese”, takes you through the race from the trackside, and tables tell the detailed story of practice as well as the various stages of the race itself. WB

Readers who specialise in the history of coachbuilding companies should add ECW by Maurice Doggett to their library. This Transport Publishing book, priced at £14.00, covers the activities of Eastern Coach Works of Lowestoft from beginning (in 1919) to end (in 1946) with very full pictorial backing. Conversely, those whose interests lie with Classic Cars will look for the book of that title by Graham Robson, in which he describes such machines from the point of view of the collector, the restorer and the driver. This 224-page Patrick Stevens Ltd paperback costs £7.99. WB

An oddity of human existence is how for a Iong time nothing happens and then comes the flood. It is so with books about aero-engines! From WW1, Burls’ was the only book on the subject, until in 1971 Leonard Setright produced The Power To Fly. Last year, however, we had Bill Gunston’s World Encyclopaedia of Aero Engines and this year two books on previously rather obscure, albeit fascinating, rotary aero-engines.

I now learn from a keen American reader of Motor Sport, Jerry Sherman, who has very kindly sent me a copy, of The History of Aircraft Piston Engines by Herschel Smith, which Sunflower University Press (1531 Yuma, Manhattan , Kansas 66502-4228 ) published in the USA in 1981 and which has just come out in what the publishers describe as a “corrected edition”, running “from the Manly Balzer to the Continental Tiara”. WB

Another book which would make an excellent Christmas present is Early Days on the Road in Hull & West Riding by Ted Dodsworth. Ted has set out a fine photographic record of transport, starting from the days when horse-drawn vehicles and bicycles were the only occupants of the roads. His ability to identify practically every motor and steam vehicle depicted is praiseworthy.

Charabanc outings in vehicles as rare as the NER’s Stirling 14-seater bus and Hallford 34-seater are there, along with Daimler, Atlas and Commer coaches, and a Hull Tramways Saurer. The view of Cottingham in about 1924 with just a single-decker bus and a horse-and-cart on the road is delightfully evocative.

Popular cars in the area, such as Volum and Argylls, cars and motorcycles on WW1 military duties, Sunbeam, Belsize and Renault taxis are all depicted (I particularly like the picture of a policeman handing a wedding couple into a Unic which does not appear to be licensed)). The Model T Ford is not overlooked, especially as one picture shows the 7-cwt and one-tonner vans of William Casinos’ fleet.

Those who are interested in fire-engines, steam-wagons, trams and horses are most certainly not neglected, nor is the Press, for therein the Hull Daily Mail’s 1922 Model T van and c1914 Triumph side-car outfit. Calamities include a Briton tourer in a North Cave ditch . . .

With a total of 154 pictures in 96 pages, this should be just the thing for Christmas morning, and even if you do not like cars, the horse studies are excellent. It is available from Hutton Press Ltd, 130 Canada Drive, Cherry Barton, Beverley, North Humberside HU17 7SB for £4.50. , WB