Book reviews, June 1979, June 1979

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“The Le Mans 24 hours Race — 1978” Edited by Christian Moity and Jean-Marc Teissedre. 159 pp. 12½” x 9¾”. (Menoshire Ltd., 49, Churchfield Road, W. Acton, London W3 6AY. £14.95)

Last year’s Le Mans race was a memorable occasion, with Renault making their bid to overcome Porsche domination with their turbocharged Renault-Alpine A443s and succeeding. The drama, the tenseness, the technicalities and the mechanical tragedies of this unforgettable event are set out magnificently in this Edita-SA book, which is fully up to the standards set by this publisher’s annual “Automobile Year”. It is all there, in clear black-and-white pictures and in superb colour plates. The captions are to the point, unspoiled by journalistic imagination and I regard the double-spread colour picture of the victorious Renault being brought in with the gendarmes pushing back the enthusiastic spectators one of the finest motor-racing photographs of all time.

The pictures of the winners, Didier who had to be revived before making his triumphant appearance on the balcony, and Jaussaud, overcome with emotion as the Marseillaise is played, are as dramatic as the historic occasion and throughout the book everything of importance is recorded in excellent pictures, many in full colour, on the best art paper, and accompanying story. This is thus a remarkably effective and covetable record of a great motor-race. The other participants, the technicalities, the circuit, the preparations., Le Mans itself, the AOC, the historic cars which raced again, Moss in a Maserati 250F, it’s all there, in the de luxe format and production favoured by Edita-Sa. From scrutineering to the victorious Renault outcome, it’s a complete, beautifully-presented record, which every Renault follower and most motor-racing enthusiasts will wish to possess. Paul Frère writes of the technical significance of the race, the cars in the various groups are not overlooked, and there is an hour-by-hour progress report in picture and tables. Nor are the post-race celebrations forgotten, the appearance of the Renault and the winning drivers in the centre of Paris being duly recorded. The classified results in full, lap-speeds, the pit-stops and the reasons for these, a leader-board chart, here is the complete record of Le Mans, 1978, the race is which Jabouille’s Renault was radar-timed at 224.9 m.p.h. and did 228 m.p.h. in practice along the Mulsanne straight, and lapped at a record speed of 142.445 m.p.h., a race involving 55 cars, 155 drivers, 326 mechanics, 27 time-keepers, 130 radio-operators, 155 firemen, 291 policemen, 615 medical staff, 896 marshals, 905 CRS, 1,100 crowd controllers, 1,277 gendarmes, not to mention one Goodyear balloon, 13 TV stations, 20 radio stations, 29 Press agencies, 258 magazines or newspapers homing on the race, 2,175 journalists on Le Mans duty and 200,000 spectators. Or so this book tells us. To whet the appetite before attending this year’s 24 Hueres du Mans. I can think of nothing better. — W . B.

“V8” by Michael Frostick. 112 pp. 9½” x 7. (Dalton Watson Ltd., 78, Wardour Street, London WIV 4AN. £5.75)

Having written my article about some of the lesser straight-eight-cylindered cars for the April MOTOR SPORT and about some aspects of the Ford V8 for the May issue, I was amused to find this book about vee-eight cars in general in the review list. It is the second in the National Motor Museum Trust’s Beaulieu Books picture-coverage, and a rather specialised field is generously surveyed. The pioneer vee-eights such as the 1903 Paris-Madrid Ader racer and the Rolls-Royce Legalimit are there, as is the 200 h.p. Darracq of 1905 which covered a flying kilo, at over 117 m.p.h. on its 22½-litres, and the 1906 Adams and Antoinette vee-eights.

The earlier American cars of this engine type, such as the Daniels, the celebrated Cadillac and the King, Cole and Lincoln of the early 1920s get good coverage. The 1920 Guy V8 is depicted as a touring car and its ingenious engine illustrated but the contemporary Talbot-Darracq V8 has been relegated to a reproduced advertisement for it, at the end of the book. However, the De Dion Bouton V8 which was notable in the field is in its rightful place and thereafter all manner of well-known vee-eight-cylinder ears, from Alfa Romeo, Allard and Apperson to Zil III, are pictured and written up, mainly by way of long, picture-captions. Separate chapters are devoted to the Ford V8 in its earlier forms and as a competition job, including the cars with Ford-Cosworth DFV GP engines. So plenty of competition cars are there, among the Daimlers and the Rolls-Royce Cloud Ills, etc., and this is an amusing “browsing house” of the rare, the unusual and the better or very well known. I am glad to see that the Leidart, Raymond Mays, Standard V8 and Autovia are not forgotten in searching for more surprising examples of this breed and that a whole page is devoted to the Ford badge and the V8 motif which is rightly Ford’s. It is interesting, too, that Frostick says that the popular idea among other historians that the Ford breakthrough was in finding a way, via Sorensen, to cast a V8 block in one piece isn’t true. He attributes the Ford breakthrough to being able to mass-produce such V8 power units, but I would suggest that one was very much tied in with the other, and that the pre-Ford examples of one-piece vee-eight blocks by General Motors in 1929 and by Lancia with the Dilambda are not particularly relevant. There are some good shots of Ford Specials and Allards, etc., in trials and rallies, including one of a member of the Ford V8 “Jabberwock” team, in this book which includes appropriate military vehicles, commercial vehicles and even a launch powered with two (or sometimes three) of the older side-valve Ford V8 engines. But in saying they never took to the air Frostick is wide of the mark, because I recall at least two aeroplanes in which the Ford V8 was used.

A specialised book but an interesting one. — W.B.

“The Component Contribution” by Alan Baker. 172 pp. 9½” x 6″. (Hutchinson Benham, 3, Fitzroy Square, London WIP 6JD. £7.50)

This book, by Alan Baker, BSc(Eng), ACGI, FIMechE, looks at the contribution the Motor Industry and allied industries have made to internal-combustion engine technology; he is a writer well qualified to do this. The book’s chapter titles are self-explanatory: “Automotive reciprocating power-units”, “Aircraft reciprocating power units”, “Industrial, marine and locomotive diesels”, “Rotary engines” and “Areas of common interest”, each suitably sub-divided. The products of renowned companies from AC Delco to Zenith are met with in considerable detail in this “new-slant” book and there is much in it for historians as well as for students and engineers to absorb. — W.B.

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“Tuning and Maintenance of MG Cars” by Philip H. Smith. 180 pp. 9¼” x 7″. (J. H. Haynes and Co. Ltd., Sparkford, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £5.95).

This is a reprint under the Foulis Motoring Book banner of Philip Smith’s classic work of 1952, in an improved format with revised illustrations. It deals with the overhead-camshaft engine cars 1929-1936 and T-series push-rod engine cars 1936-1954 and is an essential “bible” for owners of those cars, its contents as relevant and accurate today as in 1952. Some of the current MG racers have wrung further power out of the remarkable push-rod XPAG and XPEG engines and developed means of enlarging their capacities, but Smith’s basic premises survive.

Smith deals thoroughly with the theory and practice of maintenance, repair and performance tuning. Additionally, the hard covers enclose a wealth of information on chassis, suspension systems, gearboxes, electrical systems and many other mechanical components.

Nobody who owns one of the relevant Abingdon models should be without this. — C.R.

“The Jaguar Driver’s ‘Year Book 1978” compiled by Paul Skilleter. 120 pp. 12″ x 8½”. (Brooklands Books, Holmerise, Seven Hills Road, Cobham, Surrey. £6.00).

This is the second series of Skilleter’s Jaguar Driver’s Year Book, a theme which he has now followed up with a similar Austin-Healey annual. Brooklands Books is an associate company of Magpie Publishing, who publish the excellent Skilleter-edited Jaguar Driver Magazine for the JDC, £6.00 may seem a lot of money to see pages and pages of often similar Jaguar photographs (232 b. and w., 4 colour plates), which is what a casual glance suggests. Not that dyed-in-the-wood Jaguar enthusiasts are likely to object . . . In fact this Jaguar book has much more than that tucked away amongst the illustrations: a ten-page article on how to “Stop the Rot” in an E-type; a track test of a racing E-type and a Classic Saloon racing Mk VII; a most useful directory of services and parts suppliers for obsolete Jaguars; an “Identifile” listing and illustrating every SS and Jaguar model ever made; and a pictoral review of Jaguar events and activities at home and abroad in 1978 are just some of the contents. — C.R.

“The Jaguar XK” by Chris Harvey. 246 pp. 10″ x 8¼”. (The Oxford Illustrated Press Ltd. £15.00).

The latest in Chris Harvey’s series (earlier books dealt with the E-type, MG T-types and Big Healeys) deals with this classic series of Jaguar sports cars, which by virtue of its famous straight-six engine and C and D-type racing derivatives was to do so much for the standing of the British motor industry and British motor racing across the world. It is a subject which has been well chronicled many times, but Harvey has managed to find some different angles, conveyed in his usual bouncy, enthusiastic, easy-read style. That it does cover new ground — or at least cover old ground in an alternative fashion — is conveyed by the name of the picture researcher, Paul Skilleter, who would not have collaborated in a book which paralleled too closely his “Jaguar Sports Cars”, arguably the standard work on the subject. However, it is a bit “clubified” in parts, much like Skilleter’s Year Book, above.

Harvey re-tells the story of how Lyons, Heynes, Baily and Hassan designed the XK engine during wartime fire-watching sessions, that Jaguar’s current MD Bob Knight was responsible for chassis work when the team designed the car to wrap round the engine after the war and credits the late Harry Weslake for gas-flow development on the cylinder head. Lyons “leaned heavily” on the Bugatti 57SC Atlantique coupe for XK 120 styling inspiration, Harvey reaffirms.

Harvey dishes out a mixture which includes a tribute to the XK, chapters on production and “extra-special” XKs, contemporary road test reports (including W.B.’s comments), constructive sections on the models’ strengths and weaknesses, restoration, modifications and interchangeability of spare parts, concours cars, Jaguar specials, comments from owners abroad (a bit trite some of this) and an interesting chapter of comparisons with contemporary rivals. As a self-confessed XK enthusiast he falls into the trap of becoming too eulogistic at times.

One-marque book prices seem to be hitting the ceiling and this one, at £15.00, is no exception. C.R.

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Dunlop have sponsored a British version of the guide to Relais Routiers, long established in France as the traveller’s friend in the quest for good, low-priced meals and accommodation. Published in paperback by Collins at 95p, the first edition is available now through W. H. Smith and other leading booksellers.

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Another essential handbook for the Continental motorist is the RAC Continental Handbook, the 1979 edition of which has just been published at a cost of £4.50. Copies are available from RAC offices.

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The major influence of Bedford on the ‘bus and coach industry over almost 50 years is recorded in a new publication from Vauxhall Motors, “Bedford ‘Buses and Coaches Since 1931”. A partner to the general history of the Bedford range, published in October 1978 to coincide with the production of the 3-millionth Bedford commercial vehicle, the latest booklet contains over 100 photographs to illustrate the text, which traces the development of Bedford p.s.v. chassis from the first 14-seater introduced in 1931. Copies of both booklets are available free of charge, mentioning MOTOR SPORT, from the Public Relations Department, Vauxhall Motors Ltd., Luton, Beds.

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Tony Hogg’s book “Thunderboating with Bill Muncey”, reviewed previously, is now available from Patrick Stevens Ltd., Bar Hill, Cambridge CB3 8EL for £5.95.

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Those wishing to know where the summer’s and autumn’s traction-engine rallies are held may like to know that the National Traction Engine Club has again issued a fixture-list of the approved rallies. This costs 10p but is probably intended for members. However, if those non-members requiring one care to send this sum and sufficient for postage to NTEC’s Sales Officer, A. G. Wilson, 7, Welton Road, Daventry, Northants NN11 5PP, referring to MOTOR SPORT, this should be available.

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Michael Ware’s main interest apart from motoring — he is Curator of the National Motor. Museum — is Britain’s waterways. In his series of “Historic Waterways Scenes” the first book covers inland navigations. It will suggest some fascinating exploration expeditions by car, even if its 141 pictures, rather misty as befits the subject, do not take in road transport, apart from a few shots of traction-engines towing boats to the water or testing the strength of a bridge over the Rochdale canal (actually the Grove Bridge at Milnrow), a near vintage ‘bus, probably a Leyland, outside the Canal Tavern near Derby, and the owner of a Lanchester 21 saloon, circa 1924, looking at the 475 ft. long, 28 ft. high iron aqueduct at Edstone near Stratford. The publishers are Moorland Publishing Co., Market Place, Hartington, Buxton, Derbyshire SK 17 0AL, and the price is £5.50.

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I have not enjoyed the light-hearted and spectacular racing once called stock-car racing since I went to a meeting at Aldershot Stadium many years ago. Incidentally, after the racing the public were allowed to see how quickly they could lap the dirt course, which knowing how strict the RAC is, astonished me. This bumping-and-boring sport was quite different to American Stock-Car racing and is now known as Hot Rod racing, over 1/4-mile or shorter tarmac ovals, with no deliberate shunting off the track of one’s opponents allowed — I suppose we must leave that to “Jallopy” contests in farmer Giles’ fields. There are now Hot-Rod ovals at Ipswich, Ballymena, Aghadowey, Crewe, Buxton, Newton Abbot (very short), Brands Hatch, Skegness, Wisbech, Bovingdon, Hednesford, Wimbledon, Cowdenbeath, Ringwood, Yarmouth, Eastbourne and Aldershot. This class of racing was introduced here in 1963 by Bill Morris and Motor Racing Publications consider it of sufficient importance to have published a well-illustrated, soft-cover, 50-page magazine-size book about it, by World Champion Barry Lee and David Gordon, Features Editor of the Ealing Gazette and an authority on this facet of motor-racing. This “Guide to Hot Rod Racing” costs £1.80.— W.B.