Book Reviews, January 1995, January 1995

Aston Martin – The Compleat Car, various authors. Palawan, £250.

£250 for a car book? Surely not. Well, to lean on a well-used metaphor, a Jaguar performs just as well as a Rolls-Royce, but there is something indefinable about the R-R which compels people to spend the extra. So it is when inspecting this enormous volume: it is complete, and it is beautiful. Its creator is Simon Draper, owner of many of the exceptional Astons which appear in it, who started his own publishing outfit to produce it. He has selected all the right authors Alan Archer and Neil Murray on pre-and post-war cars, Ted Cutting (Aston’s one-time Chief Designer) on team cars including his own projects, Richard Williams on AMR I while the layout and Richard Newton’s photography are exceptional, lovingly illustrating every road and race type and special from Bamford and Martin days up to DB7.

Though the book is huge (339pp, 500 pictures), the text is concise, often only one page per model, and the tone measured and without hype, making it a pleasure to read. The many period photos are superbly reproduced, and the very full spec tables include complete team car records. The edition is limited to 1500 numbered copies (no, ours was only on loan), plus another 150 leather-bound at £600.

Completely Morgan, Vol 2, by Ken Hill. Veloce, £30.00.

Hill’s second volume (the first we reviewed last month) is about the post-1968 models, and is again full of useful tables and data of the most comprehensive kind, these constituting, indeed, nearly 126 of the total 240 pages. However, those who are about to invest £30 should be warned that much of the historical material is repeated from the first volume, as is most of the Clubs’ data, the tables and the colour-gallery being the chief differences. I cannot decide whether the man spread over his Morgan in the Tailpiece picture is adoring it or whether, from his expression, he has just discovered that the steering-dampers have sheared again, with the prospect of imminent wheel-shimmy!

Three more of those Brooklands Books packed with performance figures, contemporary comments and nostalgic pictures, etc. are now available: two Gold Portfolios on the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud (see page 66) and the 1952-1961 Triumph TR2 and TR3 (£11.95 each) and a Performance Portfolio covering the 1986-1994 TVRs (£9.95). Try good bookshops or order direct, p&p £1.50 per book extra.

Jaguar, by Paul Skilleter and Mike Cotton. Haynes/PSL, £19.99.

Quite the best definitive history of this great British car, which won the 1980 GMA Montagu Trophy for books in this category, it has been updated into an expanded fourth edition, of 288 pages and 230 pictures which no Jaguar advocate should fail to read.

The Heart of the Beast, by Anthony Young. AQ/Menoshire, £29.95.

Whether or not you agree with the author’s summary that the ZR-1 Corvette will be classed as one of the century’s ten greatest cars, no-one could deny it hit a peak in the horses-for-dollars stakes. Even in US terms, where cars are much cheaper than here, the hottest “King of the Hill” ‘Vette offered Ferrari performance at a fraction of the price, and its genesis, triumphs and troubles are lovingly charted here, all the way from technical facts down to who attended which project meetings. Key figures from Lotus (who designed the LT-5 engine) and Mercury (who built it) have their say, and the politics which first created ZRI and then extinguished it as unviable are explored. One model books can be dull, but the conflicts and dramas make this a good read.

Ferrari Cars, by Giulio Schmidt. Haynes, £12.99 each.

These are two English-edition picture books for Ferrari fans, Giulio Schmidt’s presentation of the F1 cars, from the Tipo 125 to the F1-87 with 25 GP models in between, in fine colour pictures, descriptive text and specifications, and his companion volume on the Sports cars and prototypes, from 166MM to F40 Le Mans. lust the right presents for followers of Enzo Ferrari, whom, for some reason that escapes me, Schmidt calls “Drake”; too big for the Christmas stocking but they could be left on the driving seat of the Dino or what ever.

Donald Healey — My World of Cars, by Peter Gamier with Brian Healey. Haynes/ PSL, £16.99.

This tremendously interesting book with a Foreword by Carroll Shelby, first published in 1989, has been reprinted, with revisions. Not only cars — did you know that Donald Healey flew aeroplanes of the Sopwith Pup and BE2c kind when in the RFC and drove ABC. Ariel, Riley Redwing and Fiat 509 as well as Invicta and the Triumph and Healeys. They are all there, among the 124 illustrations. This 216-page book is a splendid history of a great and versatile driver.

Aston Martin & Lagonda — The V-engined cars, by David G Styles. Crowood AutoClassics, £19.95.

Latest in this well-presented series, Styles majors on the post-Sixties V8s up to the current Virage, but also sheds some interesting light on the Lagonda V12 which went to Le Mans in 1954 and ’55, as well as its pre-war Bentley-designed precursor. There are chapters on racing outings from M45 to AMR-1, and on specials from Embassy Ogle to the Vignale Lagonda. I like the useful tables which summarise biographies, model specs and dates, and there are some informative drawings.

Ginetta, by Bob Walklett. Bookmarque Publishing, £24.95.

Bob Walklett, with his three brothers, formed Ginetta cars in 1958, building these specialist sports cars at Witham Woodbridge and later back at Witham. Here are Bob’s memories of 31 years of British specialist car manufacture, the inside story, which while not making for a particularly “deep” book, is a very refreshing read. Before making kit and complete Ginettas, Walklett, son of an Army officer, served with the 6th Airborne Division in WW2 until wounded and taken prisoner in 1945. He then formed an agricultural engineering company, before making cars. (I found his accounts of glider warfare interesting, because when I was with MAP I wrote handling notes and loading instructions of Hannibals and the like).

Ginetta took the full typetest of a G32, at a cost of £100,000 and 26 tests over 12 months. Bob discusses his pitfalls and successes in the publicity field, looks at other specialist cars, remembers the horrors and joys of motor shows, the engines Ginetta used, their racing days, and much more besides. He does not mention Motor Sport but found Motoring News extremely understanding and helpful; so all is well! (But I admired the Ginetta and would have liked one. . .) The idea of a “W B” badge (for Walklett Bros) fell through however, as did an F1 Ginetta, for which “Wilkie” Wilkinson offered a V12 BRM engine for £3,000.

So another book for true enthusiasts’ bookshelves, complete with a list of type numbers from G1 to G32, and plenty of pictures. The author was an SMM&T Council Member by 1988.

Incidentally, the Witham works were once Charles Warren’s West End Garage, in 1921 agents for Belsize, GN, Essex and Morris cars and which by 1925 displayed the Bean badge, as a picture with an A7 Chummy parked beneath a swing-out BP petrol pump confirms.

TVR, Volume 2, by Graham Robson. MRP Collectors’ Guides, £13.99.

This new Guide is as full of information and good pictures as the earlier volumes. It covers Tasmin to Chimaera, following from Volume I, Grantura to Taimar, by the same well informed author. Essential for all TVR followers. Also new in the same series are two volumes on Porsche 911 and Derivatives, one covering the 1963-1980 cars, the second those from 1981-1994. Both are by Michael Cotton, who was PRO to the British arm of Porsche for seven years and knows as much about these cars as any author. And James Taylor has written one on the Mercedes-Benz 190, 200, 230 and S-class cars. Volume 4 of the Mercedes Guides, it packs in an incredible amount of data. Each Guide costs £13.99.

Spritely Years, by John Sprinzel and Tom Coulthard. Haynes, £19.99.

Personal reminiscences of participation in motoring sport are usually enjoyable and none more so than this account of his motoring life by John Sprinzel, whom we all remember. It is a book not too far in the past for you to recall the events he competed in, and the cars he and his rivals drove. So many personalities to recall, too. The book is beautifully produced in Haynes/PSL’s newest artpaper form, which shows up so well the masses of intriguing pictures.

A nostalgic book most certainly not to be missed! For sprightly Sprite fans it concludes with a long and detailed history of the Sebring Sprite, following a 13¼-page tabulation of the events Sprinzel drove or navigated in, compiled by Tom Coulthard. “An excellent read,” as the professional reviewers say, when exuding high praise.