“Bugatti—Le Pur-sang des Automobiles,” by H. G. Conway, 453 pp., 9 in. x 5 9/16 in. (G. T. Foulis & Co., Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 84.s).
The publishing event of last month should undoubtedly have been the arrival of the new Bugatti book by Hugh Conway, long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated—any disappointment stems from the fact that I have read some of the contents elsewhere.
It is beautifully produced, is a scholarly work, as one would expect from Conway’s pen, is less cumbersomely arranged than the previous Bugatti book and it contains a rare collection of pictures, many of them new, augmented with line drawings from the contemporary motoring journals. Some of the text is heavy reading, because Conway puts it all down, whether the full facts or only the debatable points about the earliest models are known.
In a way the approach is more “popular” than that of the old Bugatti tome —”And a final word to wives! A Bugatti may keep him occupied at weekends, make him late for meals, even absorb cash you might otherwise have been allowed to get your hands on! But it keeps him out of pubs (except when it’s running), he’ll never have time for other girls, is fun also for young Jimmy (or will be when he comes along), and you’ll be real proud when he, eventually, takes you out in it. So if he’s a President of a Bank let him have that brand new 46S in a packing case in Marseilles if he wants to, and if you’ve only been married six months let him keep his cambox and blower beside the bed in your one-room apartment if he says he has to.”
Most of us will skip that, sort of journalese to get to the chapters on all the Bugatti types from 8-valve pre-1914 cars to Types 60 to 101. These are dealt with comprehensively, competently (as far as the facts are known) and delightfully in Part I. Part II provides much fascinating historical information, taking in cars, the firm, early racing activities, aero-engines, boats and railcars. Part III is a charming “Bugatti Miscellany,” divided into nine fascinating chapters.
The book gains from the Bugatti Register being now a separate publication and from the high-quality art paper on which Foulis have printed it. Inevitably many quotations from contemporary journals are involved, which Conway has chosen to reprint verbatim (with acknowledgement to Autocar and The Motor but none to Motor Sport, from which liberal quotations have been taken!) and I see that my “Special Bugatti Types” have been deleted, which is probably just as well, for I wrote them for Bugantics when I was very young (earning Hon. Life Membership. of the B.O.C. and a Club pennant, which was more than I deserved and of both of which I am very proud) and no-one gave me a chance of editing them for the former Bugatti book. There are also liberal quotations of the late E. N. Duffield’s writings—always delightful but from their verbosity presumably in the “1d. a line” category!
Hugh Conway’s book is one of the “greats ” of motoring literature. It is expensive and will be bought mainly by those who own, or hold especially dear, the cars of the late Ettore Bugatti. I hope it makes money for its publisher. — W. B.
“A Pictorial Survey of Racing Cars Between the Years 1919 and 1939,” by T. A. S. O. Mathieson. 224 pp., 10 in. x 7 1/2 in. (Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 62, Doughty Street, London, W.C.1. 63s.)
This is another long-awaited book, which I found both very acceptable and rather disappointing. Acceptable because new pictures of racing cars presented very clearly on art-paper and with their drivers named are always pleasing, disappointing because not all the illustrations, numbering over 300, are new to me and the text supporting these illustrations confines itself to very brief technical/historical accounts of the subjects of the pictures.
The idea behind Mathieson’s book is a splendid one—to illustrate cars and drivers of the nostalgic 1919-1939 period from his collection of 2,500 or more negatives from the Prieur/Branger and other collections. The task was obviously tackled with enthusiasm but the result is a bit tangled—obscure cars jostle with makes famous in G.P. racing; an A.V. gets a picture the same size as that of Nuvolari’s Swiss G.P. Auto-Union of 1938.
I had hoped to see all the many variants of successful pre-1914 twin o.h.c. Peugeots sorted out pictorially, and it was only when I found that the first Peugeot picture depicted the 1920 car at Indianapolis that I remembered the book starts with the Year 1919—yet under Sunbeam we find a 1916 4.9-litre illustrated.
Let me be fair. This is picture-book I shall treasure and return to time and again. It depicts for the first time some racing cars never before illustrated in English publications. The quality of the pictures and illustrations is really first-class. But 63s. isn’t 3s. 6d. or even 9s. 6d., the price of a Batsford Pocket-Book, so T. A. S. O. Mathieson’s work must surely remain a collector’s piece of small circulation.
In a work so comprehensive, compiled by one so knowledgeable, himself a racing driver with Bugattis pre-war and Frazer Nash, Maserati and Ferrari cars in the immediate post-war period, it comes as a surprise, not to find an ultra-fascinating Appendix of really rare cars illustrated, but described superficially because so little is known of them—they range from America and AS to Tatra and Z and it underlines the scope of Mathieson’s negatives that he can depict them at all, although the 1 1/2-litre Vale Special might surely have been transferred to the body of the book?—as to find at the very end a list of racing car makes for which no pictures are included, yet, under the heading “Great Britain,” omitting Lanchester, Armstrong Siddeley, Marseal, Marendaz Special, Beardmore, Jowett, etc., under “France” Bedeila, etc., for which pictures could easily have been found and which are no more rare than makes like Marlborough, Bertelli, La Perle, B.U.C. and Vernandi, which are included.
I maintain that almost every make has raced somewhere, sometime, with the possible exception of the Trojan, so to list a few is just sticking out one’s neck.
In view of a recent letter we published from the Mercedes-Benz Club I am delighted that T. A. S. O. Mathieson found that “of all the manufacturers only Mercedes-Benz really satisfy the searchers after facts.”
This is a delightful, if expensive, book. How important it is depends on what you are looking for.
But do not let everyone who owns a collection of old motor racing negatives get the idea that they have the makings of a good book. Mathieson was years collecting his, and loves racing cars.
“Speed,” by John Surtees. 168 pp., 8 in. x 5 1/4 in. (Arthur Barker, 20, New Bond Street, London. W. 1. 16s.)
Accounts of racing careers told by the riders and drivers themselves are usually interesting, often enthralling, and this story by John Surtees of his Championship career on motorcycles and his quick rise to fame as a G.P. driver, is no exception, although naturally of greater appeal to Motorcycle racing, than car racing enthusiasts.
It is a compact, very readable, modest story—so modest that the author underrates by two years, on p.118, the year in which he first won the Motorcycle World Championship!
This is a book in Arthur Barker’s “Sport Today” series and they are to be congratulated on getting Surtees on their list. Perhaps Graham Hill will he the next? — W. B.
“Competition Driving,” by Paul Frère. 144 pp., 8 11/16 in. x, 5 5/8. in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1. 18s.)
We have had “The Racing Driver” by Motor Sport’s Denis Jenkinson and a text-book on how to go motor racing, by Piero Taruffi. Whether there is room for another instructional manual so soon is debatable, until one realises that Paul Frère, the talented Belgium motor journalist who writes as well as he drives, and drives as well as he writes, has put into simple language, backed up with photographs and diagrams, all that the beginner needs to know about preparing to drive a competition car, and driving it.
How to dress, what equipment to buy, the theory and practice of cornering (“From Slipping to Sliding!”), driving in rain, winter and at night, and so on; it is all there, lucidly told by one of the most lucid racing driver/writers in the game. This typical Batsford book should teach those who can learn from the printed word how to become good racing drivers. There is an Appendix on banking angle and tyre loads, which is hardly for beginners, and the book is indexed. It is really quite remarkable how chaps like Chiron, Caracciola, Nuvolari, Seaman and Co., managed to drive so well with no diagrams and text-books to guide them.—W. B.
What else?—Having in the past accorded high praise to the travel guide books of Alison Lascelles, I am pleased to tell you that she has written “Motoring Holidays in Belguim and Holland” (Arthur Barker, 16s.). She continues to adopt her delightful classification of hotels as “The Bentleys,” “The Rovers,” “The Consuls—Mr. C is the family man from the semi-det. in Surbiton,” And the “M. G.s.”
CONTENTS, July 1936
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