Book reviews

Fifty Famous Motor Races
by Alan Henry. 224 pp. 11" x 7½". (Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd, Denington Estate, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, NN8 2RQ. £16.95.)

A nice idea, this, to remember fifty famous occasions - not necessarily superb contests but great events. Alan Henry has chosen races ranging from the 1935 German Grand Prix, when Nuvolari at his peak took victory for Alfa Romeo from under the noses of the German teams, to the 1987 British Grand Prix won so convincingly and popularly by Nigel Mansell.

Lots of pictures help us to relive history, including that classic one of a furious Alberto Ascari walking in with the guilty Marimon after their coming-together allowed Fangio to dodge through and win. The restraint necessary to stop the Italian thumping his adversary is tactfully omitted! This book is full of interesting reminiscence, but is expensive for what is, after all, a pot-boiler. However, it is such fun that it is perhaps worth it.

WB

*****

Handling and Roadholding - Car Suspension at Work
by Jeffrey Daniels. 160pp. 10" x 7". (MRP Lid, Unit 6, Pilton Estate, 46 Pitlake, Croydon CR0 3RY. £14.95)

Handling is as important as engine power, H perhaps more so, and this book sorts out this complex characteristic. It is scarcely a textbook on roll-centres, over steer and under-steer, nor is it aimed at those who have the task of setting up competition chassis; rather, it is an engineer's view of suspension problems and how they can be solved.

Daniels' text reads rather like those articles Technical Editors write for motoring magazines, which I found very acceptable. He covers FWD, RWD and 4WD in some detail, along with tyres, steering and forthcoming developments in suspensions; he discusses from the handling angle (no pun intended!) the cars he has driven, such as VW Beetle, early Ford Cortina, Citroen DS, Peugeot 404, Mini, Lotus Elan, Jaguar XJ6, BMW 1800, Fiat 128 and Renault 5GT Turbo.

There are masses of very clear diagrams (some seem familiar), but text-book chaps might accuse the author of "padding.” I liked it.

WB

*****

Observers Cars 1988/89
By Stuart Bladon. 192pp 6” x 4”. (Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London E8 5TZ. £3.95).

Any publication which reaches its thirty-first edition without a major change of format cannot be doing very much wrong. Sure enough, you would struggle to squeeze any more had information into the Observers Series’ latest genuinely pocket-sized wonder. The 181 current production models which occupy a page each of the 1988 volume represent what the illustrious author calls "a wide cross-section of the world's cars.” The type of engine, transmission, suspension, steering, brakes and tyres used by each is noted, along with dimensions, weight and performance figures. For the first time, the suitability or otherwise of unleaded fuel is also considered.

Reasonable criticisms must be few: the single, small black-and-white photograph of each model is not always sufficient to portray its character, and perhaps space should he found to tell the reader how much each car would cost him. On the other hand, it is most impressive that the book is sufficiently up-to-date to include 1988 Geneva Show debutants.

Comprehensive yet succinct, this is the best value reference book you could ever hope to find. It is not intended to be light reading, but it puts all the facts at your fingertips.

GT

*****

Porsche 956/962
by John Allen, 157 pp, 11“ x 8“. (GT Foulis & Co Ltd, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ). £13.95.

Another prize for Porsche enthusiasts – here is the story of the cars which made Porsche invincible in endurance racing, following victory at Le Mans on the 956’s debut with successive victories there in the next five years.

The defeat of Ford, Lancia, Jaguar, Chevrolet and Mercedes-Benz is told in text (with biographies of the drivers involved), black-and-white photographs, colour plates and circuit maps.

WB

*****

Tri-ang Toys
by White Mouse Editions. 85pp. (New Cavendish Books, 23 Craven Hill, London W2 3EN. £12.95).

As MOTOR SPORT takes an increasing interest in models, this publication is particularly opportune. It embraces all the Tri-ang toys and subsidiary products, including model vehicles from pedal-cars to Minic clockwork miniatures. Each is illustrated, reminding us of long-gone Rolls-Royce, Daimler and especially Vauxhall kiddies' cars, and of the Minic banner's record-breaking MG "Magic Midget.”

Frog aeroplanes (remember them?) are also among the galaxy of toys recalled - from the 5/- monoplane to a Mk II Hawker Hart (claimed to be the only flying scale-model biplane then available) for those with 42/- to spend.

New Cavendish Books has spared no expense in recording the complete history of these popular playthings, and biographical notes on the company's founders are also included.

WB

*****

Customizing and Tuning Mercedes
by Rudolph Heitz and Thomas Neff. 213pp. 9¼" x 8". (MR1' Ltd. Unit 6, Pilton Estate, 46 Pitlake, Croydon CR0 3RY. £17.95).

Well, well! Although JW has written lots about tuning-kits and hotted-up cars for us, these are much less in the news these days; so it is a surprise to discover just how many customised variations for the various Mercedes-Benz models exist, and that even these largely super-fast cars can still be the subject of tuning. This book covers how it is done and illustrates what is available in black-and-white and colour plates.

Where it falls down is in being over complete. Explanations of how engines work are included, in very superficial terms in places; there is much more to a four-valve-per-cylinder head than is admitted.

One feels that this part of the book (including a chapter on Mercedes in racing. which just cannot be done in eleven pages) was included simply to make use of many illustrations from the Daimler-Benz archives, which have anyway been seen many times previously. Incidentally, when the W 196 was wind-tunnel tested, did it really have a helmeted dummy in it?

However, for the sort of person who finds even a Mercedes-Benz too ordinary, and who knows that by "Baby Benz" is meant a 190 or W201, almost every option seems to be covered here - including the gull-wing embellishments and the Sbarro replica of a pre-war 540K roadster. The hook was published in the USA, one hopes by those who are not allergic to the smell of printers' ink and binders' glue!

WB

*****

About as heavy as an A7 gearbox and running to a vast number of magazine-size pages, The Austin Seven Manual by Doug Woodrow must surely become the A7 man's bible?

This book is packed with drawings to guide those dismantling and assembling these cars, which date from 1925 to 1939, and their components. Doug has compiled it from practical experience, and its accuracy is further guaranteed by the foreword by Barry Clarke, himself an acknowledged expert on the immortal A7.

The manual is available only from Mercury Publication Service Lid, PO Box 10,Utley, West Yorkshire LS21 3NH, for £27.50 inclusive of postage and packing. It is so full of practical advice that it should repay the A7 builder many times over, and in fact Barry recommends buying two copies - one for the workshop and one for the library. It seems the chap under the A7 is lucky at last...

WB

*****

How To Start Racing
edited by Russell Bulgin. 70pp. 12" x 8½" (Brands Hatch Publications Ltd, Brands Hatch Circuit, Fawkham, Dartford, Kent DA3 8NG. £3.00.)

MOTOR SPORT'S editorial office is a sitting target for telephone queries along the lines of: "I fancy doing a spot of racing. How do I start?” It would he nice to be able to offer a concise reply, but ironically our immediate thought is likely to be: "Phew! Where do we begin ... ?"

Thankfully there is now a simple answer - this inexpensive magazine-format guide which is available from High Street newsagents.

Ten journalists-cum-competitors have put together a series of thoughtful chapters on racing schools, buying a car and servicing it, racewear and safety measures, racing team administration and sponsorship-hunting.

Further articles, by Production Saloon competitor Mark Hales on racecraft and by inaugural Formula First champion Ben Edwards on his own introduction to the sport, are interesting but take a back seat; those covering motorcycle and truck racing are perhaps over-indulgent.

More sensible is the reminder that karts represent a cheaper alternative to cars, and a sobering ingredient of this section is the inclusion of an archive photograph of Ayrton Senna in just such a machine.

The writers seem fond of dangling such "future World Champion" carrots in front of their hopeful readers, but this eye-opener to the necessary hassles of organisation, paperwork and financial constraint is more likely to put readers off. That in itself might be no had thing.

GT

*****


Mike 'Taylor's Yemen Interceptor (first published in 1983) has been re-issued by GT Foulis Ltd at a price of £12.95. It deals with Mks I, II, III, IV, SP and FF, and I cannot see that much has been added except for eight lines or so about a .new Interceptor'83 being launched by Jensen Parts and Service at Motorfair live years ago.

An original caption error (suggesting the 541's radiator flap was adjusted by the transmission whereas it was in fact driver-operated) remains, and the address of the JOC is also out of date - nit-picking maybe, but this is a revised edition. But history does not change, or should not, and there is much of Jensen-past here (with many good pictures) for those who missed the first book.

WB

*****

Foulis & Co of Yeovil has published another of its "Super Profiles,” this time about the Morgan Plus-4, by John Teague. Morgans produce a special brand of enthusiasm, so this compilation of history, owners' views, production statistics, reprints of 1950s road test reports, buying hints and 1962 Le Mans account is certain to be popular The author, who himself owns two Plus-4s thinks there are not enough books about them, but that is a matter of opinion. His hard-backed book, with 56 pages and some colour photography, sells for a modest £5.95.

WB

*****

War Cars - British Armoured Cars in the First World War
by David Fletcher. 97pp. (HMSO Publications Centre, PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT. £7.50)

For anyone who likes to study all aspects of the motor car, this excellent review is essential. It also tells an interesting story.

It has the merit of HMSO authority, and the fact that it is written by the Librarian of the Tank Museum. In this magazine-size soft cover publication he not only tells the whole story of our armoured vehicles from 1888 (the Maxim Quadricycle) to the 1914-18 war, but he illustrates this with 195 good photographs (many of them published for the first time) and drawings.

Rolls-Royce fans are especially well-served but the number of other makes that were armoured in various ways is quite astonishing. Even AC had a go, while Talbot at Barlby Grove (the pictures show the well-know gasometer in the background) made trailers for such vehicles.

Testing at Southwold, action shots at the front, the motorcycle side including the Scot Sociable Guncar, anti-aircraft cars, a summary of units involved, technical and tactic outcomes - it is all here, with makes ranging from Armstrong-Whitworth to Wolseley Recommended!

WB

*****

Shire Publications Ltd of Princes Risborough is now including one-make titles in its jolly "Shire Album" series. The latest is Graham Robson's Triumph Sports Cars with lots of good pictures in its 32 pages for just £1.50.

WB

*****

Number ten in the valuable series on R-R companies, personalities and machinery has been published by the Rolls Royce Heritage Trust (PO Box 31, Derby). This latest 125-pager is by Peter Stokes about the DH Aero-Engine division, Napier and other associates of the Rolls-Royce Small EngineDivision/Helicopter Engine Group.

If the subject sounds dull, the book is anything but. From Gypsy to Gem (1926 1986) with digressions, it is packed with drawings and photographs of engines (including jet and rocket propulsion), aeroplanes, people (including Mike Hailwood on a racing motorcycle), aerodromes and factories. There is a feast of information there for the £5 charged to non-members of the Trust, and I advise you to order it now!

WB