Book reviews, July 2004, July 2004

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Alfa Romeo Giuletta by Angelo Tito Anselmo; ISBN 88-7911-340-2 Published Giorgio Nada Editore, £29.99

I thought I knew a lot about Alfas generally and Giuliettas in particular, but this golden anniversary reissue contained much which was fresh to me. Anselmo’s book has interviews with many important people, from Alfa’s then-MD to the test driver who refined the little car’s handling, and they give the inside story of the uphill struggle to get the Giulietta into production.

Especially interesting is how the design changed before going on sale. Photos of wind-tunnel models, bucks and full-size mock-ups illustrate this progression, but it’s the proposed revamp models which are really startling, while the number of coachbuilt variations by the Italian carozzezie is astonishing.

The racing history forms a separate section, and includes an interview with Sanesi who drove frequently for Alfa and helped develop the road cars. GC

******

Formula 5000 in Europe: Race by Race: by Wolfgang Klopfer ISBN 3 8334 0545 7 Published by Books on Demand

Formula 5000 was an important rung on the motorsport ladder on both sides of the Atlantic for more than half a decade, yet it is still waiting for its definitive history to be produced. Wolfgang Klopfer’s work doesn’t pretend to be that; rather, as its tide suggests, it is a race-by-race review of the seven-year history of the British-based European F5000 series.

This is very much a low-budget production, with disappointing black-and-white photography to match, but nowhere else can you find mini-reports of every race between 1969 and 1975, a chronicle of events won by drivers like Frank Gardner, Brian Redman and Teddy Pilette. Combine it with Brian Cowdrey’s Formula 5000: A-Z — The1969-1975 Era, and you’d have a half-decent history of a memorable category. GW

******

Matra au mans by François Hurel: ISBN 2-914920-31-8 Published by Editions du Palmer, £37.99

Matra’s place in the history of sportscar racing was sealed by that hat-trick of Le Mans 24 Hours victories in 1972-74. Thirty years after the French manufacturer decided to concentrate on Formula One instead there is finally a book — albeit in French — that takes an in-depth look at its nine-season foray in endurance racing.

Well-known sportscar journalist and author François Hurel tells the story of the early years with the BRM-engined MS620 of 1968 through to the triumphs with the MS670. He has sought out the leading characters involved in the project, including drivers Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Pierre Beltoise and technical figures such as Gérard Ducarouge and aero-dynamicist Robert Choulet

The photography is solid rather than spectacular but, in the absence of an English work, this Matra au Mans has a place in the library of any sportscar racing enthusiast. GW

******

Silent Thunder by Leonard W Miller: ISBN 1 56902 177 5 Published by The Red Sea Press Inc., £10

Flick back through the pages of this magazine. How many black faces do you see? Racing can be sadly labelled a ‘white man’s sport’ and this riveting autobiography gives some indications why.

Leonard Miller grew up in Pennsylvania and fell in love with racing in 1939, aged five. While most young African-Americans were drawn to Stick-and-ball’ sports, Miller’s passion for cars remained and he recounts his early experiences building and driving hot rods.

By the late 1960s, the Miller Brothers team was drag racing, before being turned on to circuits. Miller ran John Mahler in the 1972 Indianapolis 500, then began the Black American Racers team. Its biggest successes came with black driver Benny Scott in Formula A, Super Vee and, in ’75, Formula 5000.

But this is not a simple racing story, it goes far beyond sport. Through each chapter, Miller is faced with shocking racial prejudice at every level, but refuses to be treated as an outsider. A revealing, inspiring tale. DS

******

The Fast Set by Charles Jennings: ISBN 316 86190 1 Published by Little, Brown, £18.99

If you have more than a passing interest in the history of the Land Speed Record, then it is unlikely that you’ll be able to put this work down. The Fast Set tells the story of a classic period of record breaking through the lives of a trio of British heroes.

Sir Henry Segrave, Sir Malcolm Campbell and John Cobb couldn’t have been more different characters, yet they dominated the battle for the LSR for the best part of a quarter of a century. And don’t forget that Cobb held the record for more than 10 years after he had perished trying to take the water record on Loch Ness.

Author Charles Jennings reveals the rivalry between them at the same time as delving beyond the nuts and bolts of their exploits behind the wheel. A readable and enjoyable work. GW

******

Porsche 904: The Truth and the Rumours by Phillipe Olczyk & Mike Morris: ISBN 9952 8002 3 1 Published by [email protected], £65

This is an odd book. As with the previous volumes on Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Bizzarrini and OSCA there is nothing wrong with the choice of subject. It is the execution that lets it down.

Former Le Mans racer Olczyk cannot be faulted for his work ethic. Four years of investigation have gone in to tracking down over 650 photos and histories of more than 100 of these pretty chassis. It includes a thorough results section, a magazine cuttings chapter and the reproduction of the 904’s FIA homologation papers. But despite its quality hard-back format it cannot escape the appearance of a lovingly-compiled scrapbook.

Olczyk admits his task for accuracy is a tough one. But his attacking defence of the quest for chassis authenticity forms a bizarre introduction. DS

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