Book Reviews, March 1960, March 1960
“Le Mans ’59,” by Stirling Moss. 115 pp. 10 in. x 7-1/2 in. (Cassell & Co., Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 15s.)
This book, to celebrate and forever commemorate the Aston Martin victory at Le Mans last year, when the British cars vanquished the formidable Ferraris, is packed full of interesting information and lavishly illastrated with magnificent pictures which capture the atmosphere of the famous 24-hour sports-car race.
Moss pulls no punches – he repeatedly emphasises his dislike for the race he writes up so effectively, he admits that before Salvadori and Shelby brought the Aston Martin past the chequered flag he thought a Ferrari would win, and he deals with deliberate baulking of fast cars by far slower ones in this dangerous race.
Because this is Moss writing you hang on to every word – we notice he lets his clutch out to get away whereas we always thought we were letting ours in – and these words capture so effectively the spirit of Le Mans that many readers must surely book their grandstand seats soon after shutting the covers of this unique book. In time “Le Mans ’59” will go on the shelf with other motor-racing history books but at present it is vitally alive, in text and picture, as it tells of the painstaking approach by Aston Martin to the problems involved and of how everything worked out during the long hours of the race.
Information is detailed even to the movements chart issued to all Aston Martin personnel engaged in “Operation Le Mans,” to the drivers’ briefing before the race by Reg. Parnell and a verbatim tape-recording of what Moss, Salvadori and Shelby thought about the Aston Martin victory after they had had time to think the race over.
The illustrations, printed on fine glossy art paper, capture almost every facet of Le Mans, even to the strip-tease girls in the fun-fairs that are found in the public enclosures. The book comes in a fine colour dust jacket showing No. 5 Aston Martin, the ultimate winner, cornering at speed. Cassell are to be warmly congratulated on publishing so much attractive material for a modest 15s.
“The Ferrari,” by Hans Tanner. 212 pp. 8-3/4 in. x 5-5/8 in. (G. T. Foulis & Co., Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 21s.)
Here for the first time is the history of one of the greatest names in motor racing. The career of Enzo Ferrari is traced from his early beginnings as a driver of Alfa-Romeos in races of the immediate post-war period – he was second in the 1919 Targa Florio at the wheel of a 40/60 Alfa-Romeo – through the formation and operation of the Scuderia Ferrari whereby the racing of P2 and P3 Alfa-Romeos was carried on after the parent factory had abandoned racing, to his advent as the builder of Ferrari sports and racing cars. Thereafter success followed success as the story unfolds in this fascinating book.
We read of the exploits of the 1-1/2-litre supercharged Ferraris, of the big ublown Formula 1 machines, and of the four-cylinder and V12 F.2 Ferraris. The account goes on to deal with the 2-1/2-litre F.1 racing cars we know so well, and covers the Lancia-Ferraris and the present Dino V6 cars. Chapters are devoted to experimental and special Ferraris and to the sports and touring models – “touring” being a relative term where this marque is concerned! There is plenty of technical matter and the book is well endowed with sectional drawings, cut-aways and photographs.
Not the least valuable part of the book are the elaborate appendices, covering the racing successes and failures of Ferrari from 1948 to 1958, race results by types of car, a summary of F.1 results year by year front 1948 to 1958, giving reasons for all retirements, and very detailed specifications of Ferrari engines from 125S to 410SA and of all the Grand Prix Ferraris, complete to details of compression-ratio, power output and engine speed.
This book fills another gap in motor-racing history and it is impossible to think of a more intriguing or significant one.
“Scotland’s Motoring Story,” by Duncan Robertson. .56 pp. 9-3/4 in x 7-3/14 in., soft covers. (McKenzie Vincent & Co., Ltd., 101, Renfrew Street, Glasgow, C.2. Proceeds donated to BEN – 2s. 6d.)
When reading a passage from this book, “Stirling was a fighter, and well he deserves his many accolades,” we thonght this must be about Stirling Moss. In fact, the reference is to John Stirling, of Hamilton, who had much to do with the establishment of the Daimler car in Scotland. On its large glossy art pages this book traces much of Scotland’s motoring history and the text is balanced by fascinating pictures of such cars as the Albion, Kelvin, Skeoch, Stirling, Drummond, Little Scotsman, Gilchrist, Arroll-Johnston, Atholl, Beardmore, Argyll, Rob Roy, Galloway and Arrol-Aster. Text superficial, illustrations worth while.
Motoring historians will want a copy of “Scotland’s Motoring Story,” all proceeds from the sale of which are donated to BEN, the Motor and Cycle Trades Benevolent Fund. Don’t forget to include some stamps!
“With Your Car in the South of France,” by Dudley and Marianne Noble. 176 pp. 7-1/2 in. x 5 in. (Frederick Muller Ltd., 110, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4 12s. 6d.)
Few people know or love France better than much-travelled Dudley Noble and his wife. In this book – No. 8 in “Bon Viveuer’s Continental Holiday Series” – they tell yon many worthwhile facts about motoring to and on the French Riviera. They do not mince matters, such as the chance of encountering bad weather. but they do lay bare their great experience of the best routes, hotels, clothing and procedures to use. Vintage enthusiasts will be happy to know that Dudley Noble visited Nice in 1926 when he was testing a 9/20 Rover. He also makes reference to his first experience of moter travel in France, in the 1914 Paris-Nice Trial on a motorcycle, and to his battle with the Blue Train, in a Rover, in 1930. A pleasantly, written little book that makes you want to drop everything and cross the Channel.
“Automobiles Work Like This,” by Phil Drackett. 64 pp. 10 in. x 6-3/4 in. (Phoenix House Ltd., 38, William IV Street, London, W.C.2. 9s. 6d.)
Very superficial. The youngster who wants to know how the Otto cycle functions could be misled by statements such as: “Most of them (cars) have what is known as a four-stroke engine, which differs in various types and makes only by the number of cylinders and their disposition”; “To enablee the exhaust valve, the inlet valve and the sparking plug to do their jobs at the right time, they must be linked to the crankshaft and this linking apparatus is known as the timing gear”; or – the only explanation of ignition – “A device known as a sparking plug is fitted to the top of each cylinder and current is supplied to each plug from a battery.”
The blurb on the dust jacket says that the author explains in simple terms how the automobile works. They are far too simple. He would have done better to expand this theme instead of trying to compress into 64 pages details of turbines, diesel engines, cars of the future, careers in the industry and so on. Avoid this one.
“The Book of Sports Cars,” by Charles Lam Markmann and Mark Sherwin. Foreword by Briggs Cunningham. 323 pp. 11-3/4 in. x 8-1/2 in. (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. 15 dollars.)
This book sets out to be a fantastically comprehensive volume of pictures and text covering in great detail the World’s sports cars. The authors studied 58 reference books and countless magazines, Motor Sport included, and wrote for help to most of the one-make Clubs and Registers before compiling it. In theory it should be the sports-car book to end all such books. However, authors and publishers who have similar works in mind can breathe again, for after the first impact of this weighty tome full of pictures (many of them admittedly extremely rare and unique) has been absorbed, the reader discovers that the authors lack a sufficient grasp of their subject for their book to stand as a reliable work of reference. After spending the equivalent of £5 this could come as a nasty shock!
Without going into great detail, such startling errors of fact come to light as reference to a side-valve Salmson with four push-rods (which, as by now everyone qualified to write of this make should be aware, had overhead valves), a picture of a perfectly normal vintage A.C. Anzani side-valve two-seater captioned as having four o.h. valves per cylinder, a picture of a very staid bull-nose Crossley two-seater said to be “identical to the 20/70 in appearance except for knock-off Rudge wheels,” the statement that the 16/60 H.E. was available wills a Cozette supercharger (they have obviously confused it with the 12-h.p. H.E.) and that “there is no record of any sporting participation by either coupé or the tourer.” whereas an H.E. Six tourer ran in the 1928 Six-Hour Race at Brooklands (while this car did not have “1/4-elliptic springs all round,” as stated), and the remark that in the first Jowett engine “cooling was by expansion” and so on. Although the authors refer to my history of Brooklands (in which I, too, made mistakes), they didn’t read it very carefully if they think that the Double Twelve Race was “invariably faster than Indianapolis” and that the Mountain circuit involved going up the Test Hill!
There is a picture allegedly of Lea-Francis saloons racing at Oulton Park whereas they are merely touring round in the annual V.S.C.C. parade, the statement that at Brooklands the Leyland Eight “hit 115 m.p.h. on its first try,” whereas, in fact, Thomas was left on the line in his first race, the old bon mote of dating Old No. 1 M.G. as 1923 and giving it a Hotchkiss engine, an illustration of a delightful “Double Twelve” M.G. captioned as the prototype M-type, no reference to the sports Riley Redwing but a picture of a Riley Grebe, which looks like a Sprite, a picture claimed to be of the Singer which won the 1912 Standard Car Race at Brooklands but depicting merely a normal Singer Ten two-seater, the inclusion of the Triumph Dolomite and later roadster as sports cars, ditto a quite unsporting Stellite, the British Salmson loosely described as “essentially the same as its French contemporary,” a picture of a late-series Lancia Lambda passed off as “the first series of 1922,” etc., etc. Fiat history is sketchy, with no reference to the 507 and the 500 docked of 70-c.c. We are told that the “tank”-bodied sports/racing Chenard-Walcker was “known even to its admirers as the Wart Hog,” whereas this was a name given by a private owner to his saloon, in recent times! I love, too, the Singer Kayedon, “for the famous driver.” And I am sure Renault will love the authors’ reference to the Dauphine’s “excellent road-holding which gives it advantage in race and rally use.” The 24-hour run of an open Renault 45 at Montlhéry is described as “the marque’s last sporting success until our own period,” completely overlooking the later, faster record by the Renault 45 saloon.
It is a thousand pities that such an elaborate and expensive book should be marred by so many errors. The pictures (over 700 of them) to a very large extent make up for this, or would do so if so many inappropriate ones of chopped-about cars, or of cars half-hidden by grass verges or sometimes photographed in a fog, or else merely manufacturers’ hand-out material, hadn’t been used.
The end of the book tries to make amends with interesting biographies of designers and drivers, from Allard to Voisin., Barnato to Elsie Wisdom. Even here these errors have clung to the authors’ pens: thus Moss and Jenkinson are said to have driven a Mercedes-Benz 300SRL to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia. The book concludes with a chapter on race venues and 4-1/2 pages of acknowledgments to those persons who tried to help the authors in their formidable task. “The Book of Sports Cars” is a good idea, which hasn’t come off.
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The National Traction Engine Club issues a well-produced and illustrated journal, “Steaming,” which is available to non-members for 3s. 9d. a copy, postage paid, or free to members (annual subscription 15s.). Many readers will no doubt wish to associate themselves with this worthy cause. Details from J. Crawley, Field House, Turvey, Beds.
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S. Smith & Sons (England) Ltd. have published a really splendid book, “World of Meaning,” describing the spheres of human endeavour in which their well-known instruments and equipment exert their influence. The book is delightfully produced, with lavish coloured drawings, and deals with flying, farming, motor and motorcycle racing, railway operation, seafaring and sea-fishing, industry, the home, exploration, sport, etc. It is a book that any boy and his father should be delighted to possess – ask for your copy, mentioning Motor Sport, from S. Smith & Sons (England) Ltd., Crieklewood, London, N.W.2.
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Victor Britain, the car-hire people with the Edwardian Renault, have issued the 5th edition of their “Dine and Drive thro’ Britain,” it useful good-food guide. If you like to know on your map where you may eat well, send 6d, in stamps anti say you are a Motor Sport reader, to Victor Britain, 12a, Berkeley Street, London, W.I.
Cars in Books
What a splendid (and amusing) picture R. H. Pearson paints of an English country home in Edwardian days and the nineteen-twenties in “Baynton House” (Putnam, 195). He does not, unfortunately, tell us the makes of the three cars kept in the garages by his father – unfortunate, because the amateur engineering which his father carried out in the house and grounds not only form a fascinating part of the book but suggest that this delightful gentleman would have had decided opinions about which crs to favour. [But I took the liberty of asking him: they included a circa 1910 Singer 12/14, a Mors. a model-T bought for the children to play with up and down the drive, Austin 12 and 20, Austin Seven and Ford V8, while the author ran an M.G. Midget, his brother a Lagenda Rapier. E.D.]. We are told that he seldom discarded a car, which is why a 1020 Essex was able to assist with surf-riding adventures on the lake some years after its heyday, by providing a tow, a job later taken over by the engine of a 1914/18 lorry which before this had been converted in a caravan. [The good work is continued today by an Automower engine! – E.D.]. Other cars do not figure prominently, although what more appropriate car than an Austin (Twelve or Twenty ?) to roll up the drive of Baynton House, bringing with it friends unwelcome to the Pearson children, one day in the ‘twenties? And finally, with crushing taxation, the cars at Baynton House, which was saved only by turning it into a watercress farm, are reduced to a Morris Eight and a Vanguard.
In “Why I’m Not A Millionaire,” by Nancy Spain [which I hesitate to couple with Mr. Pearson’s splendid book, which, by the way is still obtainable, together with his later “A Seal Flies By” (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1959) describing the seal pups he takes to the Bayton House lake on Aqualung diving expeditions – E.D.], we read of Miss Spain’s £20 fabric Austin Seven, later replaced by an M.G. Midget (seemingly with a four-seater body), her sister’s Ford Ten, an enormous Cadillac, Winifred Atwell’s white Jaguar, etc. There is also mention of the red 1932 M.G. J2 owned by Joan Werner Laurie, production manager of Hatchards, although the thought of moving house in such a car, as Miss Spain says she did, bed included, stretches the imagination. According to “Why I’m Not A Millionaire”, this Miss Laurie “has an absurd hankering for grand vintage cars like M.G.s and Aston Martins and Rolls-Royce drophead coupés, whereas I would be perfectly happy driving a Ford Anglia.” We also read that Noel Coward had a Rolls-Royce named “Fluff “. The cars one meets in books!