Book reviews, June 1985, June 1985

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Errett Lobben Cord – His Empire, His Motor Cars: Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg. by Griffiths Borgeson, 280 pp. 111/2″ x 17″. (Automobile Quarterly Publicaiions, Princetown, New Jersey, USA. $400)

I have in my time reviewed some pretty hefty books but this one is so large that it defied the letter-balance and I had to resort to the bath!oom scales (I had contemplated a weighbridge) to assess its worth in weight! — approx 101/2 lb. It is, then,  a highly impressive-looking tome, as befits an .Automobile Quarterly Commemorative Marque Book, of which only a Limited Edition will be published.

I rather think the fascinating Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg story has been told in the pages of Automobile Quarterly but here it is in full detail, on thick art-paper pages, illustrated, as they say, by a positive wealth of fine pictures, not overlooking – as if one could – the four multi-page “Color Portfolios” respectively by Randy Ema on Auburn, Richard Greene on the L-29 Cord, Ethan Allen Turner on the 810/812 Cord,and Raymond A. Wolff on Duesenberg. Borgeson, however, takes the main stage with countless (Well, perhaps I’m lazy!) pictures of the cars and the personalities behind the life stories of Lobban Cord, who was “sufficiently notabie” as an entrepreneur to have had his likeness twice on the cover of Time, and the history unfolds in a long and erudite text. It is all there the automobiles, the aeroplanes, the factory interiors,the engineering illustrations; the ladies, the racing-cars, the advertising, the tables of statistics – if you want it,  here you should find it, in this truly lavish production that needs a strong hand to leaf through it.

Borgeson has arranged this treat for Auburn and Cord buffs in three separate parts, of 18 chapters, sub-divided into two to four divisions. That is apart from the Foreword by publisher L Scott-Bailey; the acknowledgements that alone occupy two of the very large landscape pages, a Prologue, a family-tree of EL. Cord, the tables, Indexand credits, and an Epilogue. Formidable!

The Parts are called ,”Square One to First Empire”, “A Wall Street Western”, and “Back To The’ Land”. It is, literally a great achievement, beautifully produced (goldleaf page edgings, massive covers, and its own travelling case) and when my arms feel stronger I shall read more of it. It is certain to become that popular thing,. a “collectors item”. The aeroplane story is well-covered, too . WB

Jaguar – the Complete Illustrated History” by Philip Porter. (Frederick Warne, Penguin Books, Kings Road, London, SW10. £14.95)

Together with’ Porsche and Ferrari enthusiasts, Jaguar fans are copiously provided with reading matter about their marque. Thus a new volume needs to boast at least one particularly strong aspect to make an impact, and in this case the rather confident sub-title is vindicated’ ..

As an illustrated history it is indeed complete, every model being depicted, mostly in hitherto unpublished photographs, as well as vehicles which never reached the public, and Porter’.s access to factory picture files and those of Norman Dewis, Jaguar’s chief test driver, gives his book an extra fascination
even for those who may have already read widely on the. subject . .

There are not only gleaming publicity shots, but also grubby prototypes at MIRA and mock-ups in the factory, plus some sad pictures of the XJ13 after, as well as before its devastating accident. Crisp monochrome shots abound on every glossy page, though the central colour section is somewhat erratic, its
generally excellent quality being let down by some fuzzy and oddly-tinted pictures.

Porter’s text is concise, readable, and comprehensive, including a chapter on “Styling Influences”, and has Fore and After-words by the late Sir William Lyons and John Egan respectively. It succeeds well in its author’s avowed intention to steer a middle course between the “definitive” and the “coffee-table” volume; and, given the lavish number of illustrations, makes a good value single volume purchase. at just under £15. GC

Two more Super Profiles from the Haynes Group (Sparkford, Yeovil,. Somerset) cover the Ford GT40 and the Lancia Stratos. Although only a small proportion of these books is fresh text, their “compilation” approach serves to bring together a useful collection of information on their respective
subjects, including road tests, clubs, parts sources, and a buying guide, though the last seems somewhat optimistic in the case of both of these extremely desirable and rare machines. Examples of either for sale are so unusual that prospective buyers must be prepared to take whatever comes up. John Allen’s GT40 book is well illustrated and has a useful bibliography;Graham Robson’s is the first work solely on the Stratos, Lancia’s supercar of a decade ago.

Both volumes are attractively presented, with a colour section, and cost £4.95 each. GC

The Car Bodywork Repair Manual by Lindsay Porter. 292 pp. 11 in x 8 in (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ, £9.95)

Those who have any interest in the older cars must sooner or later come up against bodywork restoration problews. This large explanatory book on how best to cope, with its instructions made all the easier to understand from the photographs and linedrawings which supplement the text, more than 950 of them, as step-by-step techniques are uncovered, should be of inestimable  value to those tackling rust and other problems of car restoration.

The book covers welding, painting, glassfibre repairs, panel-beating the restoration of bodywork, interiors, etc, so is fully comprehensive, and this is a completely revised edition of a book written by the author of Haynes’ “Purchase & DIY Restoration” who has been the proprietor of a car restoration business. For those who simply want to keep cars in tiptop condition, apart from thoughts of full resuscitation, this is THE book.  WB.

The-BBC VIdeo Supercharged – The Grand Prix Car 1924-1939 is now available at £24.95 a copy, providing 79 minutes of viewing, from much very historic old film to modern colour presentation of John Watson giving his views after driving a GP Bugatti and Black’s P3 Alfa Romeo. This is a considerably
extended version of the BBC “Horizon” programme. While some howlers have slipped in, these cannot mar a unique showing of the development of the GP car over 15 between-war years, from Fiat to Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union, the latter magic period captured by much George Monkhouse footage. There are comments by Hugh Conway and Monkhouse, and WB was called in to spout about Brooklands after leaping from a K3 MG on the Members’ banking, both the British Grands Prix held at the Track being included, with as a diversion, the unhappy Dunfee crash in the big Bentley.

Order from BBC Video, Freepost, Liverpool. L1 8AB. (05l-7088202), mentioning Motor Sport.

Haynes of Yeovil have the very big definitive manual by David Vizard on Tuning BL’s A Series Engine, which goes into great detail to help those who want to make anything from a Mini through to a Maestro or a Montego go quicker. This 436 page, 103/4 x 8in book costing a provisional £14.95, and the same profile publisher has reissued unchanged, John Wyer’s thirty years of motor racing reminiscences, his That Certain Sound. WB.

Yet another topical book from the Foulis Haynes house is Drive It! – The Complete Book of Long Circuit Karting by Mike Smith & Rodger Calvert, which is self explanatory and very well explains and illustrates this branch of motoring sport.

Those who are made aware that this year the 100th anniversary of the motor car is being celebrated and who want to discover something of what this implies, by reading history, will find much of it in Ray Hutton’s A Century of Motoring, published by Express Newspapers PLC at £2.50. Lots of fine, nostalgic pictures, many in colour. WB.

Very well written, gripping in its exciting appeal is Phantom over Vietnam by Fighter Pilot, USMC, John Trotti, which is his factual account of flying F-4 Phantoms in the Vietnam war. This valuable addition to military aviation history, by a pilot who joined the Marines so that he could fly and who served for over 30 months in Vietnam, comes from the exclusive list of Airlife Publishing Ltd, 7, St John’s Hill, Shrewsbury, Salop,  and costs £11.95.  WB.

The Transport Publishing Company of Glossop has issued another of its excellent books in its British Bus Systems series, this being Number 6, covering in the most commendable detail the Southdown. All transport enthusiasts and those who have used the Southdown routes are in for a treat, especially as in this Colin Morris book the multitude of photographs are beautifully reproduced – surprise items to me are pictures of 1921 Unic char-a-banc, 1922 De Dion 19-seater and an overbodied Model-T Ford ‘bus, in the “Rolling Stock” chapter. Everything Southdown you might say is there, including a pull-out route map; the book sells for a very modest £7, or £8.50 if case-bound.  WB.

Of small concern to Motor Sport’s readers, but usetul perhaps for their friends who have to take the driving-test, Haynes have a little soft-cover booklet Essential L-Test Techniques — In Pictures. WB. .

Cars in Books

Brooklands Track crops up in unexpected places, although as it was active from 1907 to 1939 and still hosts an annual Re-Union, perhaps this should cause little surprise. However, I confess I was surprised when a reader drew my attention to several references in Attack The Lusitania by Raymond Hitchcock, which was published in paperback form by Sphere Books. It is, I believe, a work of fiction, but the references to Brooklands ring true. For instance, a character therein, Gavin Tweedman, of “Naval Intelligence” is described as having a wooden leg, his other lost in the brambles beyond the Members’ Hill, following an accident on the Track after a tyre burst! Nor is this all, for a later reference is to him or another character driving down to Brooklands when it was officially closed and “borrowing”, presumably from Louis Coatalen, the big V12 Sunbeam, which he drove twice round the Track before opening it up. A Vickers Gunbus then took-off from the aerodrome and “they lapped together at 90 mph. Then he [the Sunbeam’s driver] put his foot down to the floorboards and, to the chagrin of a dozen RFC mechanics, beat the Gunbus into the finishing straight by twenty yards”.

This must imply. the pre-1914 side-valve V12 Sunbeam single-seater, and as that car, when driven by Chassagne, had lapped at 118.58 mph in 1913, it could certainly have beaten a Vickers Gunbus, an aeroplane with a top speed of about 86 mph in its latest form, even when handled by an inexperienced driver . . . In fact, early versions of the Gunbus were hard put to do 60 to 70 mph at sea-level.

This book is apparently out-of-print, so I have not read it, but our informant says other cars therein are a Sheffield-Simplex, a 21/2litre sleeve-valve Minerva and a 1,018 cc .Morris-Oxford, which correctly refers to the 1913/14 White-and-Poppe-engined model.

There is also the obsolete submarine “pressed into service for a special operation”, powered by a I6-cylinder, horizontally opposed 600 bhp Wolseley petrol-engine which was “mistakenly refuelled with diesel oil”. Even if this is fiction, it seems that the author must have been well acquainted with Brooklands; but my researches do not show him to have been a BARC member either before or after the First World War. But how interesting! Yet another case of Brooklands in Books”.  WB.

 

 

 

 

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