Book reviews, July 2015, July 2015

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The First American Grand Prix
The Savannah Auto Races 1908-1911
Tanya A Bailey

Impartiality is an essential factor when it comes to reviewing new books, yet this courted positive feedback the moment it emerged from its wrapping. Automotive literature is absolutely swamped with prose about Cobras, Corvettes, Mustangs and every possible shade of Porsche or Ferrari, so this scores top marks for covering something completely different.

It’s thorough, too, although that’s hardly a surprise given that the author owns and curates the Great Savannah Races Museum in Georgia.

Commencing by explaining how a city with few modern motor racing links came to host the inaugural American Grand Prix, the book highlights the key personalities of a pioneering age (there’s an action photo of British racing enigma Hughie Hughes, subject of an extensive profile in our May 2015 issue), provides detailed race overviews and explores the reasons for the sport’s post-1911 migration to other cities.

There’s lots of detail, and the images – while understandably few in number – are wonderfully crisp, given the photographic technology of the period.

Positive feedback fully justified, then. SA

Published by McFarland ISBN: 978-0-78647-697-8, £31.95

A Portrait of the Vintage Sports-Car Club 1934-2014
Thomas Pellow

It seems curious that the notion of a vintage car should have existed in 1934, when Alvis Speed 20s and Austin 7s were current showroom staples, but the VSCC’s founding principles were simple: it was an organisation for like-minded souls who wanted to compete in small cars, at least three years old and with a maximum value of £50.

Nine decades later the club is thriving, although car values have risen slightly…

‘Portrait’ is an apposite term for this celebratory volume, issued to commemorate the VSCC’s 80th anniversary last year. It’s a charming record of the people, cars and pursuits that make the club what it is, a bastion of grass-roots charm with members who are as happy negotiating cones on the Brooklands banking as they are popping in a quick time at Shelsley Walsh or Oulton Park. Cars often seem to pass from generation to generation… and a sense of engaging enthusiasm travels with them.

Pellow has captured the movement’s essence very well – and the same is true of the cover shot, which was taken a couple of summers ago in the Prescott paddock.

The club has been competing there since 1938. SA

Published by Pellow ISBN: 978-0-9542876-9-6

Sir Stirling Moss, My Racing Life
Sir Stirling Moss with Simon Taylor

There are always sceptics who question whether Moss belongs on the list of all-time greats, but that’s probably because they haven’t seen the breadth of his achievements spread out in front of them. This book provides an almost race-by-race account of Moss’s career, and the litany of ‘won this one by a minute’, ‘won that one by a lap’, ‘led that one until the car broke’ anecdotes seems endless – and of course quite justifiable.

The voice of ‘Mr Motor Racing’ drips from the page too, thanks to Simon Taylor, and even though this is broadly speaking a picture book, every introduction and caption is certainly worth reading. The photos aren’t bad either, ranging from the well-known to the obscure, including images of Stirling’s enthusiast parents in motoring competitions.

Now stop reading this review and head straight to page 88 of this issue to read an entire chapter of the book and you’ll see what I mean. ACH

Published by EVRO ISBN: 978-1-91050-506-9, £50

WSC Giants: Ferrari 333 SP
Terry O’Neil

The latest in Veloce’s line of sports car spotlights focuses on the last prototype Ferrari built. Even if it never ran a factory team in the ’90s, 333SPs flooded the market and were one of the pre-eminent prototypes of the era.

Veloce’s ‘Giants’ series will probably never win any literary prizes – too many chassis numbers for that – and as usual, the photo quality can vary massively from page to page. But one thing the book does very well is chart the sad decline and death of American sports car racing during the decade, prior to the formation of the ALMS and Grand-Am.

In terms of the sheer information on an often overlooked machine, there’s very little in print to touch it. ACH

Published by Veloce ISBN: 978-1-91050-506-9, £16.99