Book Reviews, July 1951, July 1951

MALCOLM CAMBELL, by Lady Dorothy Campbell. (Hutchinson & Co., Stratford Place, W.1. 262 pp. 21s)

This is an absorbing, detailed account of the life of the late Sir Malcolm Campbell by one of his wives, yet in some ways one might wish the book had never been written. Campbell is, and rightly so, a hero to motoring enthusiasts, but after reading Lady Campbell’s account of twenty years with him he appears to have been more like a headstrong, if very brave, small boy. Segrave and Seaman are remembered as perfect diplomats, Parry Thomas as a great engineer who adored children, Birkin as a great English gentleman and sportsman, as well as great racing motorists. No book so far published has said otherwise, so it seems hard that Campbell, who was their equal as a driver, should have his private life exposed in cold print.

Some new motoring facts appear as well—we are reminded, for instance, that the streamlining applied to the V12 350-h.p. Sunbeam in late 1924 by Campbell and which Pratley had to remove in restoring the great car to Brooklands trim, was the work of Boulton and Paul—but obviously much from “My Thirty Years of Speed” is repeated.

Some of Lady Campbell’s study of this great and amazing man who was her husband is absorbing; other chapters seem superficial, while we wonder how many of our readers will forgive her for saying that : “It is as a racing motorist —a rather distasteful term when applied to so-many-sided a personality as his— that he is best known . . . ” It is surprising, too, that Hutchinson’s have been guilty of such careless preparation as rendering marque as “mark” in two places and of captioning one photograph ” Cornering in a Mountain race, Brooklands,” when the circuit shown is not that, circuit at all, and the car is the Bimotore Alfa-Romeo which Malcolm never raced. The rebuilt 4-litre Sunbeam is captioned, “The 350-h.p Sunbeam, 1932,” suggesting confusion with the earlier 350h.p. single-seater, of which, surprisingly, not a single picture appears. Indeed, from a motoring angle, the illustrations are inadequate to the story.

Campbell is said to have unofficially beaten the speeds set up by Lee Guinness at Brooklands with the big Sunbeam in 1922 with his runs at Saltburn later that year in the same eat, but, if so, the book underrates the Saltburn speeds. It is interesting that the famous incident of both supercharged Fiats retiring in the 1923 200 Mile Race is ascribed to Salamano driving too fast for Brooklands and Campbell foolishly tailing him, then continuing unnecessarily fast after he had observed the Italian in trouble.

It is, perhaps, a tribute to the full life Malcolm Campbell lived—racing driver, record-breaker, explorer, journalist, author, politician, aviator, motor-boat pilot and searcher for buried treasure— that in this big book there is only restricted reference to his road and later track-racing exploits and none at all to his business associations with Brooklands Track. This book tells us a lot about Campbell, much that we might prefer not to know, but it by no means tells all. Incidentally, this strange but versatile man, lovable at all events to us, lived for a time at Headley Grove, Epsom, where another racing motorist, K. N. Hutchison, lives today.—W. B.

MOTOR SPECIFICATIONS AND PRICES, 1951. (Stone and Cox, 44, Fleet Street, E.C.4, 957 pp., 15s.)

For some years we have used an old Stone and Cox specifications book as a quick reference to the older cars. Now we are glad to find that a new edition of this useful work has appeared. It is not merely another list of 1951 cars—it gives details of all models, not only of British and foreign cars but of commercial vehicles, farm vehicles, motorcycles, steam vehicles, etc., right back in most instanees to 1925. The data given are model no. or type, maker’s and R.A.C. h.p., no. of cylinders, bore. stroke and c.c., price of chassis and complete car, wheelbase and tyre size, for each model, each year. This is obviously data of immense interest to all enthusiasts and is given in good clear type, together with the present address of the manufacturers. We note with some regret that additional specification details that appeared in earlier volumes have been omitted, but, even so, this reference work i.e a very considerable and valuable achievement. Additional data includes how to calculate cubic capacity, a c.c. table for four-cylinder engines, an h.p. rating table for one- to six-cylinder engines and an inches—mm. conversion table. All the rare makes, A.B.C., Bedelia, etc., are included and very few discrepancies have been spotted, except that Jowett starts at 1929, whereas these cars were obviously going strong in 1925.—W. B. 

Before the war, when postage rates were reasonable, we had a theory that a tramp, by begging a popular magazine and sufficient 1d. stamps, could live handsomely on the free food samples he could thereby acquire. Today, not much that is free remains, and the racing Motor-cycle fraternity should deem itself fortunate that C. C. Wakefield and Shell-Mex and B.P. have put out two very attractive free booklets for them. The Castrol book is a big affair with 80 splendidly drawn views by Joseph Pike of famous corners on the I.O.M. T.T. Circuit, with lines and brief descriptions by Geoff Duke, stating how he takes these hazards, in what gear, at what speed. The other little book, from Shell, is a guide to this year’s European motor-cycle races, with descriptions and maps of each circuit, last year’s winners and space for entering this year’s events. Dates and organisers’ addresses are also given. By mentioning Motor Sport you can get the former from C. C. Wakefield, Ltd., Dept P, Grosvenor Street. London, W.1, and the latter from Shell-Mex and B.P Ltd., Shel-Mex House, Strand, W.C.2. Mobiloil also weighs in with their hardy annual, “How to See the T.T. in Comfort,” which will be useful to those going to the Manx races in September. This is available from the Vacuitin Oil Co., Ltd.