Book Reviews, July 1968, July 1968

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“Floyd Clymer’s 1967 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Yearbook”, 168 pp. 10¾ in. x 8¼ in. Soft covers. (Floyd Clymer Publications, 222 N. Virgil Avenue, Los Angeles, California. 83.)

This is the latest of the useful Clymer coverages of the once-a-year Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, which, although a year out of date, is most welcome for all the information it packs in about this unique American race, not least because those who have collected all these Clymer annuals have comprehensive coverage of all the races from 1911 onwards.

This 1967 version lists all the finishers and illustrates in big half-page pictures all these cars and drivers, the rule at Indianapolis that every entrant has to be officially photographed being a most valuable asset to historians. Besides providing very complete coverage of last year’s race, won by A. J. Foyt (Sheraton-Thompson Special) at 151.207 m.p.h., this book contains a list of Indianapolis officials, details of how the prize money was divided, driver biographies, lists of Indianapolis records, and articles on technicalities of the competing cars, a recap. on the dramatic 1947 race, a long article on race-engine designer Leo Goossen and another on the Miller-Fords of 1935and, naturally, lots of pictures and tabulated data of past and recent races. Floyd Clymer himself writes the Foreword, paying tribute therein to the late Jim Clark.

The photolitho printing and inclusion of Clymer advertising may prove distasteful to some readers, but if every race were as adequately covered there would be little to complain about.—W. B.

“The 6c 1750 Alfa Romeo”, by Luigi Fusi and Roy Slater. 187 pp. 9½ in. x 6¼ in, (Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., Gulf House, 2, Portland Street, London, W.1. 60s.)

It might be thought that, with Peter Hull’s history of all the Alfa Romeo catalogue and racing cars and Luigi Fusi’s more technical discourse on the different models of this famous make, there would be no scope for yet another volume on the Milan marque. Macdonald think otherwise, and are justified because this is a rather different type of book, devoted to the greatly coveted vintage 1750 Alfa Romeo.

With Fusi backing Slater’s enthusiastic one-model coverage with data from the Alfa Romeo factory, this work is quite something, and quite invaluable to anyone rebuilding, running or just enthusing over these fine motor cars.

All the derivatives of the 1750 model are explained, from 6c Super Sport and Gran Sport to 6c 1750 Turismo, and there are engine drawings, wiring diagrams, chassis diagrams, brake lining details, facia layouts and extremely detailed technical descriptions of the different versions, cam profiles, engine performance curves, crankshaft and bearing dimensions, piston sizes, etc., invaluable to those doing restoration work.

There are many excellent pictures (63 photographs in all) of 1750 Alfa Romeos, both in competition events and showing various body styles, engine variants, etc., although, naturally, only a selection from Slater’s incredibly complete collection could be published. The competition history of the 1750 Alfa Romeo is very adequately covered, with a table of events in which they competed from 1929 to 1933, with placings achieved. Even a driver-biography is included, from “Luigi Arcangeli (b. Forli, 1902)” to “Goffredo Zehender (b. Reggio, 1901), although this is, perhaps, somewhat superficial.

Particularly interesting is the list of all 1750s known to the authors in the last three years, the majority being in Britain, with engine, chassis and Reg. numbers, body type and builder, owner’s name and location, together with more detailed notes on some of the 102 cars thus listed.

The Preface is by Gianbattista Guidotti and it is certain that over one hundred copies of this unique book will have been sold immediately on publication!—W. B.

———

“John Surtees—Six Days in August”, by Michael Cooper-Evans. 133 pp. 8¾ in x 5½ in. (Pelham Books. Ltd., 26, Bloomsbury St., London, W.C.1. 35s.)

The purpose behind this book is obscure. It deals with six days in the life of racing driver John Surtees, when he was competing in a Honda in the 1967 German G.P. at the Nurburgring. These were disappointing, frustrating days for Surtees, because he didn’t finish better than fourth, and that mainly due to the retirement of other cars. Indeed, his only victory covered by the book was that very close affair at Monza that year.

So this is mainly a tale of failure—the failure of Honda to master Formula One racing. There is plenty of very interesting technical description and, because this is a full-length book devoted mainly to one race—although padded here and there with accounts of Surtees’ earlier races, driving round the Nurburgring, etc.—it includes lots of background and personal material. And, because such material, about how a racing driver lives, and responds to diverse situations, is nearly always fascinating, this is a book difficult to disregard. One conversation-piece between Hulme and Surtees is delightful. (How does an author remember these things? I suppose they probably carry portable tape-recorders these days. I used to listen just as avidly to what Birkin and Bertram and Maclure and Dixon said before the war but cannot recall it for committing to print!)

The illustrations are very clear and the text absorbingly readable. But, when the book is finished, the reader is left wondering why it was written, except to excuse Honda errors and show Surtees in a continually impeccable light, Honda casual preparation, Honda excess avoir-dupois, Honda unreliability his constant enemies.

Michael Cooper-Evans has done the best possible P.R. job for Big John, but after reading it the impression is enforced that Surtees, who is a jolly good, front-rank racing motorcyclist and F.1 driver, is wasting his time trying be designer, engineer, business organiser and team-manager, in effect, for Honda, instead of getting on with the task of driving their cars, which is where his ability lies. This is a story of inexcusable failures and how not to tackle motor racing and failure doesn’t usually make a good subject for a book. In fact, this is altogether an odd sort of book. Even its title “Six Days in August” is misleading, because the climax is victory at Monza in September. This is a classic example of how not to become World Champion and how not to win motor races, describing bungle after bungle, with Surtees professing to know what is wrong when so many times he was wrong—a pity, for a man who possesses great talent for top-line racing but is forgetting how to be a racing driver. Incidentally, Cooper-Evans proclaims Surtees as “intensely patriotic”, yet he rode Italian motorcycles, drove Italian cars, and Japanese cars and conducted engine deals with the Germans. . . .—W. B.