Book reviews, June 1982, June 1982

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“Tiger, Alpine, Rapier — Sporting Cars from the Rootes Group” by Richard Langworth. 175 pp., 10″ x 7 1/4″ (Osprey Publishing Co. Ltd., 12-14, Long Acre, London, WC2E 9LP. £9.95)

Some time ago Richard Langworth gave the impression that he was anti-British, by issuing some snide back-window stickers deriding British cars. He has made some amends for this by saying in the Preface to this book about some of Rootes’ more sporting cars that “I have a great admiration for the British Motoring press, for I was weaned on Dennis May and schooled by Bill Buddy, and my run of Autocar is one item I must never be without”. So in forgiving Richard at least part of his sin against us I read his book with much pleasure, having always regarded the Ford V8-powered Sunbeam Tiger as a very likeable car and having happy memories of Alpines and Rapiers from my earliest road-testing days.

The memories come crowding back, from reading and studying this book. There are quotes from MOTOR SPORT in the text and Langworth has put in a magnificent collection of memory-provoking pictures. These include Rootes publicity photographs, reproductions of their advertisement copy of the relevant time (recalling to me how they used to use big numerals suggesting overall success in a competition when often only a class win had been scored!), shots of the models he is writing about in all forms of competitions, models of another sort posing with these cars, even glamorous Rosemary Smith in beach attire, contrasting with a uniformed chauffeur standing by a Humber Pullman. Names like Norman Garrad, Peter Harper, Peter Proctor, Raymond Baxter, Sheila van Damm, Nancy Mitchell, Gatsonides, Stirling Moss and others too numerous to list, turn on the nostalgia, not only in respect of the Alpines and Rapiers but also the Humbers, the story starting with the Hillman Minx and the Talbot Ten that derived from it the first car I road-tested for MOTOR SPORT, getting a speeding ticket for my pains). There are views of Rootes’ Motor Show stands, their Devonshire House premises in Piccadilly, very prestigious in 1920 but impossible to park anywhere near in post-war days, and altogether this is a very worthwhile “read” for enthusiasts for the makes and types of sporting cars it covers.

The closing chapters are about the Imp (“The car that killed the Rootes Group?”) and the aftermath (“Chrysler’s Vision!”) and there are Appendices giving performance figures for cars ranging from the Sunbeam Ten of 1947 to the Alpine coupé of 1969, averaged between Autocar and Road & Track, covering the specifications and contemporary prices of these cars (by Graham Robson), and dealing with production runs and Sunbeam Tiger prototypes etc. There have been other books on these subjects but there is space on the shelves for this one. — W.B.

The Magpie Publishing Co. has brought out two books “The Morgan Year Book 1980-81” compiled by Cohn Musgrove, and “The Jaguar Driver’s Year Book 1980-81” by Paul Skilleter, both priced at £8.95.

A new Foulis “Mini Marque History Series” book is “Lotus — The Complete Story” by Chris Harvey, explanatory from its title, and priced at £5.95.

“The Observer’s Book of Cars” has long been appreciated as a pocket-size reference to current models. Now this publisher, Frederick Warne, has enlarged the idea, with two rather nice little, well-illustrated volumes, useful as quick references even to those well versed in the periods covered, namely Classic Cars after 1945 by Mark White and Vintage Cars and Pre-War Classics by the same author. Each book costs £1.95.

Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 28, Devonshire Road, London, W4 2HD, have a soft cover 160-page book for drag enthusiasts called “Quarter”, by Stephen Myatt, which tells you a very great deal about this aspect of the Sport, on two wheels and four (or four with two off the deck!), serious or merely showmanship. It costs £6.50.

Connoisseur Carbooks Spring 1982 Catalogue has just been published. The 72 page booklet lists and describes all books currently available, plus many important titles scheduled for publication between now and the end of July. Subjects covered are cars, commercial vehicles and motorcycles. Also included, at the end of the catalogue, is a list of books due for publication later in the year for which exact prices and publication dates have not yet been fixed. Available from Connoisseur Carbooks at 28 / 32 Devonshire Road, London W4 2HD.

Finally, for this month, there has been a spate of new motorcycling books. Osprey offer in their “Collector’s Library” series “Vincent Vee-Twins” by Roy Harper, which must enthrall anyone who loves high-performance two-wheelers; Phil Irving writing the Foreword. This one sells for £7.95, as does another in the same series, “BSA Gold Star and Other Singles” by Roy Bacon, Foreword by Brian Martin. Both are massively-illustrated data books. Of more general appeal are “British Motor Cycles Since 1950” by Steve Wilson, which is a PSI, of Cambridge publication priced at £8.95 and compiled by Steve Wilson, very much a catalogue-type reference work, and “Exotic Motorcycles” from Osprey (£9.95) which we might have passed over were it not by Vic Willoughby, about 24 well-remembered machines, from the NSU “Flying Hammock” to a Norton with Reynolds’ pivoted-fork, these being road or track tested for The Motor Cycle, often before any other journalist or the only writer allowed to swing his leg over the saddle — fascinating stuff . . . The types tested include not only up-to-the-minute jobs but restored Big Brough Superiors, be it noted. Unusual travel stories are to be found in “Motorcycle Touring” by Peter “the Bear’ Thoeming and Peter Rae, about adventure in many parts of the world on a variety of machines. Osprey netted this one sell it for £9.95. Finally, there is self-explanatory IAM “Advanced Motorcycling” soft-cover manual which can be yours for £4 or £6.95 in hard-back, from the Queen A Press, Holywell House, Worship Street, London EC2A 2EN. — W.B.