Book Reviews, July 1991, July 1991

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Stuart Turner, who needs no introduction, and former professional jockey John Taylor, who became European Rallycross Champion and then Tarmac Rally Champion, have written jointly a book useful to those who aspire to drive in competitions. Published by Patrick Stephens/Hayes, at £15.95, How to reach Top covers all that such aspiring competitors need to know before hopefully embarking on their chosen careers. Racing is covered as well as rallying and as the chapters unfold over the 208 9-1/4in x 6in pages one feels the starting grids fast approaching! There is even a rather improbable questionnaire for anyone trying to find a driver for his precious car, advice on obtaining sponsorship, how to speak in public, and a morbid Appendix on First Aid, and an equally off-putting one on the conditions appertaining to renting a hire car! But don’t be put off; there is much of value and a great deal of helpful information as well. — WB

***

The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust has published another book in its truly excellent Historical Series as reviewed previously in this column. No 17 covers Charlie Rolls — pioneer aviator by Gordon Bruce, and is a fascinating account about the aviation aspect of the short life of the Hon CS Rolls, the first R of Rolls-Royce. The family tree, Roll’s ballooning, his links with the Wright brothers, how he tried unsuccessfully to embark Rolls-Royce Ltd on an aviation policy in the pioneer days, the aeroplanes he owned, and his army aviation associations, all are dealt with in meticulous style by this knowledgeable author. Rolls died when his aeroplane crashed at Bournemouth in 1910 while attempting a spot-landing contest, and the book reveals new facts about the accident, including photographs and diagrams, and a detailed look at how the flying-ground was laid out, in reference to the crash. Bruce who was Company Secretary to Short Bros. who built many of Roll’s aeroplanes, even pinpoints the exact place of impact of the machine in which Rolls crashed.

The book has many other historic illustrations; it refers to the Silver Ghost (or 40/50hp) R-R cars used by Rolls, and is altogether a very readable and valuable work, in the usual format of these very creditable historic publications. Moreover, with the present rising price of books, the value is outstanding, the price being £6 to non-members of the Trust, including postage and packing. Make cheques payable to Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, PO Box 31, Derby.

***

Last month we reviewed the new book Automobiles Voisin by Pascal Courteault, published by New Cavendish Books at £100. Such an ambitious publication merits further comment, after another flick through its 374 pages. The elegant drawings of Voisin cars and Gabriel Voisin’s pertinent comments on many aspects of motoring and selling his cars in the vintage years are of much appeal, including his poetic description of a track record bid, as are the book’s references and pictures of the lesser Voisin products, the cyclecars and the motorized bicycle of 1919. Not to overlook much illustrated material on the Voisin inflatable and other portable houses, complete with garage, of course. Show stands give an inkling of what Voisin offered to the visitors and one is reminded that he even offered a simple camion. Some of the cars are very sporting, like the CI superlegere and many of the open models which followed. The clean layout of many of the engines is clearly apparent. Three of the 12 cars owned by the Royal Court of Yugoslavia are illustrated, with their coupé-de-ville bodies, Royal crowns on radiator caps, and gas searchlights, a contrast to the racing Voisins, of which the 18hp model racing in the 1922 Concours de Consommation du Mans had four up in its boat-like body.

Very low and long-tailed is the Strasbourg sports-racing Voisin with the Eifel Tower in the background, and one meets again some of the lesser known drivers who raced these cars, like Ohlsson Kiriloff, Gulotta, de Presale, van Doorninck etc. The many illustrations of the 1923 GP cars with their revolutionary “tank” bodies repay long study, engine internals included, likewise their sports-racing counterparts. Of production models, there is a very Bentley-like Voisin with bodywork by Jarvis of Wimbledon. One unusual picture shows one of the six chassis which were used for eight days and nine nights non-stop to drive pumps during the floods at Issy-les-Moulineaux in 1924. But it is the many Voisin record-breaking cars that get some of the most interesting and frequent photographs and descriptions. It must be recognised that Voisin preceded Citroën’s wheel-tracks in going for records of stupendously long duration, for instance up to 17 days at an average of over 119 kph. All alloy engines with aluminium con rods and magnesium pistons were used, but the V12 record car had a crankcase of welded sheet metal.

Altogether a splendid book, full of wonderful pictures and drawings. The 1924 sports-car race run in conjunction with the French GP at Lyons was preceded by a night reliability run, from midnight to 4am, in which the starters had to be used, hoods erected for three laps and in which there was a petrol consumption rule. After which the drivers faced the race proper at midday! The book tells us that Rougier had changed his Solex carburetor for one of another make in a secret commission and was delayed for 18 minutes in getting his engine going, then crashed and broke his arm, Gabriel Voisin being furious when he heard of the carburetor change. There was also a comment that the Voisins had no proper chassis and should be disqualified. In the end Peugeot was the winner. More lesser-known drivers are listed — Dauvergne, Gauderman, Piccioni, Bisson.

One very interesting reference is to Rolls-Royce asking Voisin for information on their V12 engines, including that in the record-breaker, when planning the Phantom III, and how honoured Voisin felt, and how in recognition he was allowed to try a Phantom III later on. A book you shouldn’t miss. It should be known that Peter Hull did the English translation without taking a fee, in order to benefit the Michael Sedgwick Memorial Trust which assists with worthwhile motoring books that publishers might otherwise not feel inclined to finance. — WB

***

Paul Shabsachs of Manchester, after reading the review of Automobiles Voisin reminds us that the correct title of Gabriel Voisin’s book about his life with aeroplanes was Men, Women and 10,000 Kites, an English language edition of which was published by Putnam in 1963. He also sent us the photograph of Rougier’s GP Voisin. — WB

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