Frank Williams – The inside story
By Maurice Hamilton
Macmillan, £16.99. ISBN: 333 71716 3
He’s the most enigmatic man in the Formula One pitlane and the most misunderstood. Of course, he doesn’t help by not aiding his biographer’s efforts, but at least Maurice Hamilton has vast experience of the sport to fall back on as he peels back the veneer that masks the character of Frank Williams.
Using interviews spanning the three decades that Williams has been involved in GP racing, Hamilton’s book is a valuable insight into the style in which the team is run. If you want to know why some of the more sensitive yet successful drivers have been dropped by Williams, then first you need to understand the relationship that Frank had with drivers like Piers Courage and Alan Jones. It’s all in the book.
Frank Williams — The inside story is a well-crafted and enjoyable read and Hamilton avoids the cardinal sin of so many current historical racing tomes by refraining from simply trooping out lists of race results and telling the story behind them instead. Recommended. MF
Napier – The first to wear the green
By David Venables
Haynes Publishing, £35.00. ISBN: 85429 989
This book is the long-awaited full account of the Napier company and its impact on motor racing in the great races at the turn of the last century. I was delighted to write its foreword, as Napier history is important and the make’s impact on our early participation so significant, that it is surprising that we have had to wait so long for such a history about it.
Anthony Heal made amends long ago with his articles of the same title in Motor Sport but the only available book was the somewhat superficial Men and Machines — D.Napier & Son, 1808-1958 by Wilson & Reader. Now this has been rectified by the hard work of David Venables, hard because not many people remained to assist him (apart from Guy Griffiths who worked at Acton during WW2 and who persuaded David to make the effort).
The result is required reading for historians. Haynes has high production values in which the illustrations arc improved by enlargement and good paper for the old and many ‘new’ photographs included. Inevitably, Venables has had to thread his way through previously recounted periods but so skilfully has he done this by including many new facts, that it does not detract from his book, which fills a crucial gap in one-make documentation.
So, we now have 208 pages of Napier history, from the reign of Queen Victoria to 1960s LSR bids, to enhance our bookshelves.
Haynes recent titles include Beetle, by Hans-Rudiger Etzold, a production history of ‘the people’s car’. This may seem a little late but it has some impact with a new Beetle in the offing, even if advocates of the famous version may hardly recognise any likeness. There’s also Porsche 911 — The Evolution by Clauspeter Becker which has lavish coffee-table text and pictures for Porsche peoples’ coffee tables. WB
The complete catalogue of British cars 1985-1975
By David Culshaw and Peter Horrobin
Haynes, £19.99. ISBN: 1 874105 93 6
First issued in 1974, this updated volume retains its period look — businesslike rather than beautiful. But for density of information, it’s a winner. Every British make between the stated years has a short text entry, some photographs, and a table of dates and specifications for all models. This makes it more comprehensive on production models than even Georgano’s Encyclopaedia, while separate appendices cover light cars, three-wheelers, steamers, electrics and one-offs in less detail. There is even a table of addresses for the listed makes. All pictures arc period ones, and make logos are illustrated too.
I can’t think of another single source where you could find the right tyre size for your Whitlock 12, or look up with equal ease Bleriot-Whippet, Hillman Avenger or Panther J72. Hardly a gripping read, but handy to refer to and well worth the price. GC
The Hampton story
By Trevor Picken
Hampton, £25.00. ISBN: 9531672 08
It was a real Christmas treat for me to receive this book about Hampton cars. It is one of the best one-make histories of those devoted to the lesser-known cars. It is beautifully produced and contains about every photograph of Hampton cars available. Textually this is a most complete story of this make, which commenced before the First World War. All is revealed in this landscape-type book with its fine dust-jacket. Personnel, Hamptons in competition, factory shots, catalogue reproductions, drawings and a section on the five existing Hamptons are interspersed with pictorial asides, letter-heads, snapshots, old adverts and catalogue covers in satisfying profusion.
Picken includes the minutest details along with pictures of buildings associated with the Hampton, the factory at Shelsley Hall and Pike and Dudbridge House, home of Mr Hatton-Hall, chairman of the 1926 London Company. The Hampton coupe, until recently run by the late Mrs Bonnie Monro, and other restored cars have much told about them, and the account of Max Williamson’s ownership of a Hampton was especially pleasing to me because we used to correspond regularly when he ran a sports side-valve Riley.
An entrancing book and a sound history, which I cannot recommend too highly. WB
The golden age of the American racing car
By Griffith Borgeson
Society of Automotive Engineers, USA, £29.95. ISBN: 7680 0023 8
This detailed history, first issued in 1966, was one of the first thorough overviews of US racing. Griffith Borgeson updated his major work shortly before he died, and this second edition includes extra period photographs as well as modem colour shots of cars which were wrecks, or lost, at the time that the first edition came out.
Borgeson spoke to many of those people who were directly involved in the early days, even to the man who built many of the board-tracks which shaped much American racing. He writes with great authority, using first-hand material, about the great years of Offenhauser, Frontenac, Duesenberg and, particularly, Millen The author, of cotuse, was instrumental in retrieving the two Millers from the Bugatti factory where they inspired the twin-cam Type 51, and he dwells on the technical ingenuity of Harry Miller. Having seen the engineering quality of the ex-Duray Packard Cable Special during restoration at Chris Leydon’s workshop in the USA, it was not difficult for me to understand why.
Borgeson also illuminates other FWD pioneers such as Christie, and provides drawings plus tables of winners, records and engine specs. A thorough guide to an often-ignored area of history. GC
A-Z of British coachbuilders 1919-1960
By Nick Walker
Bay View Book £24.95. ISBN: 1 870979 93 1
If ever a book has been needed, this is it, because over the years I have had so many queries about coach-makers but have had little data on the subject. All this is resolved most effectively in this book. How he found all the facts amazes me and deserves high praise. Addresses of some 323 companies are published, from long accounts of the famous names, to the obscure. A most valuable reference on its own. But it does not stop there. Walker includes over 400 good pictures, 50 of them top-class colour Plates to show the fine cars he is enlightening us about, as well as an illustrated glossary of body types, a subject that can puzzle even established vintage car folk, and chapters dividing the subject into products of the 1920s, the 1930s and describing post-war survivors, ending with how to buy a good coach-built body on the chassis of your choice.
Nick is not against putting in a bibliography of the few other out-of-print titles on this important but until now neglected subject, plus a good index. It is a trifle trite to say ‘strongly recommended’, but this time I mean it, most sincerely. WB
Peking to Paris – Diary of a great adventure
By Friedrich W Walter
Friedrich W Walter, £24.00.
This unusual book takes the diary idea seriously, with handwritten comments decorating lined pages, over which photographs, pages of road-book, sketch maps, notes and text (English and German) in typewriter style record the impressions of the author, a German competitor on the Peking-Paris rally.
It’s more about the journey than the rally; Walter makes no attempt to relate the story of the event, but offers a flavour of the countries and their inhabitants and the hazards facing the crews on their 10,000-mile challenge. An attractive way of presenting a trek through landscapes where the road book has warnings like “Beware sandstorms for 480km”. GC
Bentley – The vintage years
By Michael Hoy
HM Bentley and Partners, £70.00. ISBN: 0 9532443 0
Bentley people will cheer fora new edition of the Hay ‘bible’, then look twice at the publisher. Stanley Mann has acquired WO’s brother’s company name, and this venture is in response to constant queries from his customers about where they can look up a certain car. This updated edition incorporates even more detail on individual chassis, revised text with much new research, 100 ‘new’ photographs and picture cross-references to registration numbers. The structure remains the same, with hearty chapters on every WO model, plus the racing. Then come the tables, taking almost half the book, the product of Michael Hay’s compulsively thorough researching. Impressive, and to some indispensable, but expensive. Still, first editions sell for more than that… GC
Formula One – 50 golden years
Edited by David Tremayne
Apex, £4.95, ISBN 09531900
Something called the F1/50 Council has been formed to celebrate 50 years of F1. Their first undertaking is this softback magazine-style book, featuring known writers like Mark Hughes, David Tremayne and Tony Dodgins, which covers the period decade by decade, with an authoritative overview, 10 top drivers and five great races for each 10-year span. Pithy personality profiles plus sidebars on technical milestones stop it from being a mere history, and there is a handy statistical summary.
A rather dubious front cover shows last year’s Ferrari 310B ‘morphing’ into Ascari’s 1952 500, while the pages on the future are more computer firm plug than serious look ahead; but it’s a useful volume GC
Retro ’97 video
David Wegulin Productions, £14.99
If it seems hard to believe that exotic racing cars were seen tearing round the streets of Basildon last summer, here’s the proof A BRM V16 pauses at a Give Way sign, a Formula One Simtek streaks the wrong way up a one-way street… In between the cars, Retro instigator Canon Lionel Webber explains how the event ran away with him, to the good fortune of us all and the benefit of his bell-tower appeal.
In-car footage shows the irrepressible clergyman handling a C-type jaguar, while in the paddock Amon, Bell, Moss and Brooks receive a driven’ briefing in an Essex car park… Doug Nye’s commentary identifies faces and cars, but otherwise, as the good Canon told me, “there’s no music, just engines.” GC