Book reviews, June 1983, June 1983

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Great Marques — MG” by Chris Harvey. 80 pp. 12½” x 9½”. (Octopus Books Ltd., 59 Grosvenor Street, London, W 1X 9DA. £3.95.) 

This is the MG history, in the Octopus “Great Marques” series edited by John Blunsden. The author is described in the publisher’s blurb as “a renowned authority on the MG” (I find myself thinking of McComb), but I include this book for its 60 large colour photographs of various MG models up to the current Metro Turbo, most of them by Ian Dawson and Chris Linton, rather than for the text, because with so much concentrated MG history already in print, this is superficial. The pictures have been chosen haphazardly but are nice — and the price is right. — W.B.

* * * 

Gilles Vivo” by Cesare De Agostini. 200 pp. 11¼” x 8½” (Conti Editore — 40068 San Lazzaro di Savena, Bologna, Italy. 20,000 Lire).

Anyone who was a fan of the little French-Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve (and there cannot be many Motor Sport readers who did not admire him) will want this book, even though it is written in Italian, for the words of De Agostini cannot hope to enlarge on what was written about Villeneuve while he was racing, but the collection of colour photographs are a memorable tribute to this inspired driver. There are 190 colour photos of Villeneuve in action and in private life and they cover every happening in his short but meteoric career in Formula 1 in various Ferraris.

Even now, a year after his death at Zolder in a practice accident, he is talked about by enthusiasts as the standard by which to judge others. His judgement at high speed, his reflexes, his tenacity and sheer excitement in his driving made us all go out on the circuits just to see him in action. He will remain a standard by which to judge brilliance in Formula One, like Stirling Moss and Jimmy Clark. The book should soon be available from the Specialist Bookshops such as Connoisseur Carbooks of Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London W4 2HD. You will not be disappointed in this one. — D.S.J. 

* * * 

From the Ground Up — A History of RAF Ground Crew” by F. J. Adkin. 219 pp. 9″ x 7″. (Airlife Publishing Ltd., 7 St. John’s Hill, Shrewsbury, Salop. £11.95.) 

This book fills a gap in aviation history by looking at the ground crews from ballooning days onwards. It is composed of short reminiscences of those who served in this capacity at various times, supplemented by the author’s own experiences, he having worked for 22 years as an airframe fitter and later as mechanical inspector on Vulcan bombers, etc. A great deal of ground is covered, rates of pay, ranks, the women’s services, equipment, relaxation, procedures, uniforms, etc., and the pranks and songs of the time are there, although I was disappointed not to find the verses that are said to have inspired Count Zborowski to name his first aero-engined racing car “Chitty-Bang-Bang”. 

This book fills a gap in our knowledge of RAF life in the ranks but on motorised matters the author seems a trifle wide of the mark at times. An RFC workshop lorry is captioned as a Crossley when it is almost certainly a Leyland or Thornycroft three-tonner, and an “HMAC Eagle” Rolls-Royce armoured-car is said to be on solid tyres when it is patently on pneumatics. However, there is interesting material on these armoured-cars, good pictures all through the book (but a pity that classic of a station padre reading the lesson to other ranks from the cockpit of a pusher-biplane, which we have used in Motor Sport, was omitted), and a Merryweather solid-tyred station fire-engine and a Model-T Ford Huck’s-start or rotating the propeller of a Sopwith Snipe of 5-FTS, together with pictures of a Fordson tractor driven by a WAAF and towing a bomb-train and of an RAF six-wheeled tanker maintain the vehicular interest. — W.B. 

* * * 

MGA 1500, 1600, Twin Cam” by Wilson McComb, “Jaguar D Type & XKSS” by Graham Robson, “Chevrolet Corvette” by Thomas Falconer. Each of 135 pp. 8½” x 7¼”. (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 12-14 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9LP. Each £6.95.) 

Here are three more books in the well-known “Osprey AutoHistory” style, well-illustrated, and with data tables to back an individual test. Wilson McComb is ever-interesting on a subject he knows so intimately, and his “inside stories” add to the enjoyment of recapturing the days of the MGAs. It is good to have the temperamental (but Wilson does not altogether agree!) Twin-Cam model recalled — only 2,111 were built, compared to 98,970 of the push-rod MGAs, and I never did get the pre-release test-car I tried to persuade John Thornley to let Motor Sport have. McComb is thorough with his tables, too, giving useful information on technicalities, output figures, and competition successes.

Robson covers the exciting field of the very fast Jaguars, including “works” and customer D-types and XKSS, and comes in also with the Deetype and Lynx replicas. For a change there is the American story of the Chevrolet Corvette, covering the 1962-82 305, 327, 350, 427 and 454 vee-eights. These are excellent reference works, very suitable for the library shelves, and Editor Tim Parker is to be congratulated on the regular continuity of this delightful series. — W. B .

* * * 

Another large-format, stiff-cover book has come from Temple Press/Newnes Books, Astronaut House, Hounslow Road, Feltham, Middlesex TW14 9AR, in the Autocar series of reprints of one-make articles from that journal. This time the subject is the definitely sporting one of the Healey, in a book of 160 12″ x 8¼” pages edited by Peter Gamier, FRSA. There are road-tests of all the production Healeys from the 1948 2.4-liter to the 1973 Jensen-Healey, and reports of races in which this make did well, descriptions of the cars and their engines, and articles on competition, record-breaking and special-bodied Healeys, etc. 

The book opens with a long account by Donald Healey himself on designing a high-performance car, illustrated with a picture of him in the Invicta with which he won the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally, which has been in the news in these pages recently, and concludes with an explanation of the demise of the Company and production figures for the Warwickshire and Longbridge / Abingdon cars. With colour plates as well, what a treat for Healey enthusiasts, all for £7.95. — W.B. 

* * * 

A little book that gave me more pleasure than anything I have read for a considerable time is “Rolls-Royce — the formative years, 1906-1939” by Alec Harvey-Bailey. It forms the first of an “Historical Series” on which the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust has embarked and while it covers much-trodden ground it does this in such an authoritative and clear manner, with well-chosen illustrations, that it should be read by all true R-R believers. But it goes beyond that. The author, “A.H.B.” at Rolls-Royce, was with the company for 42 years and his father, “By” to Royce, was there before him. So this really is authentic history, covering the cars and the aero-engines. But there is more again, i.e., the fascinating anecdotes and personal reminiscences of the author, and one is now avid for more of these — in the R-R EC magazine perhaps?

In the little book under review, which is actually a reprint of a lecture Mr. Harvey-Bailey gave to the R-R Heritage Trust, he concludes the car-section by remembering some of the better average speeds achieved by Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars before the war. Such as Lord Hives doing West Wittering (after a visit to Sir Henry Royce) to Derby in the early morning in under four hours, Derby to Marble Arch, London, with the later Bentleys in just over two hours being commonplace, and Royal Redgates on the A5 to the Derby factory occupying about 32 minutes for the 29 miles of this narrow, cambered, corner-infested road. “By” is remembered as doing the 148 miles front Kingston-on-Thames to Derby in a 3½-litre Bentley in 2 hr. 48 min., this taking in a tear-up with a supercharged Auburn Speedster until the American car gave up, involving Towcester to Redgates, 42 miles, in 37 minutes. 

Harvey-Bailey also remembers his father getting from Stamford to Grantham in 1920 in a 40/50 h.p. Rolls-Royce in 18 minutes, and being able to beat the Manchester-London express train from Matlock to Derby after the advent of R-R servo four-wheel brakes, but not in the two-wheel-brake days, largely on account of time lost then in slowing for the S-bend over the River Derwent on the A6. Harvey-Bailey’s own best used to be Buxton-Derby in 31 minutes, in a Bentley, at night. Sleator’s great run at over 62 m.p.h. from Paris to Cannes in a Van Vooreen M-series Bentley in 1939 and Stanley Sedgwick’s fine performances are also recalled, like the latter’s Dunkirk-Marseilles-Dunkirk in a Rolls-Royce Corniche at better than 76 m.p.h., using the Autoroutes. Great days, long since evaporated in bureaucratic vapour. . . . 

One awaits with impatience further published lectures of this kind, which are to include Alec’s “The Merlin at War”, “Sixty Years of Bristol Engines” by Gordon Lewis, “In the Beginning — the R-R Manchester Days” by M. H. Evans, who is Chairman of the Trust, “The Rateau Case” (supercharging?) by Harry Pearson, and “Early Days at Barnoldswick” by Jim Boal. Meanwhile, the aforesaid first book is available, to those who mention Motor Sport, for £3.75, post-free from Richard Hough, Librarian, Rolls-Royce Limited, PO Box No. 31, Derby, DE2 8BJ. There is a small reduction to Trust members, who have to be R-R employees or retired R-R employees, although Associate Membership is open to those who have R-R interests at’ heart, at £2.00 per year, or £20 for Life Membership; details from the same address. — W.B. 

* * * 

Another of those fine ‘bus histories has emerged from The Transport Publishing Co., 128 Pikes Lane, Glossop, Derbyshire. It is “The Best Of British Buses, No. 8 — The Utilities”, by the painstaking researcher Alan Townsin. It is packed with fine pictures of those ‘buses we had to ride in during the 1941 to 1946 war-disrupted years and it will delight commercial-vehicle and Public-Service vehicle addicts. It costs £7.00 with card covers or £8.50 in casebound form, from the address above.

* * * 

Those learning to fly should find “The Flying Instructors Patter Manual” by Peter Phillips and Robert Cole of considerable assistance to swift progress with their aerial lessons and a buffer against being taken by surprise at what may come over the inter-com. (I nearly wrote Gosport tube!). The title is self-explanatory, this book being a word for word account of all the flying exercises as spoken in the air, in the words of its publishers, Airlift Ltd., address above. The price is £10.50. 

* * * 

Brooklands Books have added two more titles to their long list of one-make coverage, in Press road-test reproduction form. These are “Alfa Romeo Spider, 1600, 1750 and 2000”, and “Daimler Dart & V-8 250”. Each one costs £5.50, or £6.00 direct from “Bookstop”, Kolmerie, Seven Hills Road, Cobham, Surrey. Motor Sport test-reports appear in both of these soft-cover publications.