Book Reviews, March 1981, March 1981

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“Alpine — The Classic Sunbeam” by Chris McGovern. 256 pp. 9 3/4″ x 7″. (Century Books Ltd., 15, Pont Street, London, SW1X 5EH. £9.95).

With so many of the great and lesser makes of car now covered by one-make histories, authors have for some time been turning to one-model or sirnilarly-specialised books. “Alpine — The Classic Sunbeam” is such a book to be welcomed by those who like every facet of motoring history filled but even more so by those still running such cars, because this type of Rootes Sunbeam has by no means left the roads. In fact, the author, a Police Officer, founded the Sunbeam Alpine CC in 1977, a year after he had acquired a Sunbeam Alpine of his own, and this remains a flourishing and active organisation.

This Alpine study can be said to be all embracing, because apart from the historical chapters it gives information about tuning such cars and details how to convert an Alpine for motor racing. In addition, the Club scene is described in the World-wide sense, with secretaries’ addresses, membership numbers etc., and the book carries Appendices about Alpine road-test reports from the various motor journals, some of these being by Jack Brabham and some reproduced in full, identification of cars by engine and chassis numbers, tabulated performance figures, production figures (69,251 Alpines built between 1959 and 1968, not including CKDs), technical specifications and body dimensions, weights and capacities. From which it will be gathered that McGovern has done his homework.

The body of the book is equally meaty. It covers the prototype, development and production Sunbeam Alpines in detail, and the competition ventures are by no means overlooked, this aspect being supported by tables of how Alpines performed in the Alpine Trials, at Le Mans, and at Sebring. A chapter is devoted to the Alpine’s designer, Kenneth Howes, after a brief introduction of the Rootes empire, and there are (rather sepia) pictures on almost every page, even of the room-heater and baby-carriage designed by Howes before he turned to cars. A very welcome one-model history. — W.B.

“Healey — The Specials” by Geoffrey Healey. 205 pp. 9 3/4″ x 7″ (Gentry Books Ltd., 16, Pont Street, London, SW1X 5E11. £9.95)

Having enjoyed so much of Geoffrey Healey’s earlier books about the Big Healeys and the Austin-Healey Sprites and MG Midgets I am very glad he has now written of the many special versions of the Healey that saw the light of day and, more, often made a distinct impact in the competition field. That the book is written by the son of the famous designer and competition driver, Donald Healey, gives this book, as it did the other two volumes, the stamp of authenticity.

Some of the former material is repeated but in general this book is about the first of the breed, the Nash Healey Specials, the first 20 post-Motor Shovv cars, and then into the realms of the special test cars, the record-breaking Healeys, how 200 m.p.h. was attained, and cars such as the Healey 100S, SR and XR 37. I was always very fascinated by the streamlined record-breaking Healeys that carried on the long tradition of beating the stop-watch (or electrical-timer) in classic record bids. Here in Geoffrey’s intimate book it is all recalled, that glorious past, and more revealed, even unto specifications and line-drawings of the special Healeys, and there is an Appendix giving the engine and chassis numbers of some of the Warwick-built special cars.

This book, then, covers a very important part of the post-WW2 motoring scene and is full of interest, and not only to Healey buffs. It is well illustrated and I came upon only one scantily-clad female with these cars, “Miss Britain” in swim-suit with an Austin Healey 100, whereas rather more ex-publicity pictures of girls and cars appear in the above-reviewed book about Sunbeam Alpines, which may imply something or other. . . . Healey’s book has pictures of him learning about this motoring game with a Ruby Austin 7 and a 3-litre Bentley he purchased for £28 and there are plenty of good shots of Healey Silverstones. — W.B.

“Seaplanes — Felixstowe” by Gordon Kinsey. 228 pp. 9 1/4″ x 7″. (Terence Dalton Ltd., Lavenham. Suffolk. £7 95).

Like an earlier aviation book by this author, this one was inspired to a great extent by observation of seaplanes and flying boats in the vicinity of his youthful aerial baptism. The result is a book packed with excellent pictures and supporting text, on fine art paper, detailing the evolution of the Felixstowe Air Station — otherwise known as “Seaplanes — Felixstowe” — from its commission in 1913 to its closure in 1963. This is a book no aviation historian or lover of pioneer flying can afford to miss. There are many personal accounts intermingled with the unfolding of this specialised story, and innumerable fine pictures of aircraft, personnel, and equipment associated with such a Station, including some of Schneider Trophy racing seaplanes. The Appendices list all the Station Commanders from 1913 to 1962, and, over 13 pages, the many and diverse aircraft associated with this Station, with machine numbers, typical entries from pilots’ Log-Books, test and war flight-plans. Formations associated with Felixstowe Air Station, and cargoes in tonnes handled through the Port of Felixstowe are also included and the book’s end-papers map the Spider’s Web of that coast in 1917. So here is a feast for those concerned with marine aircraft. The Foreword is by the great Harald Penrose, OBE. — W.B.

“Wings Across the World — An Illustrated History of British Airways”. by Harald Penrose, 304 pp. 10 1/2″ x7 3/4″ (Cassell Ltd., 35 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4SG. £9.95)

This is a very appealing book for all who want a full reference to how Transport Aviation developed in this country, set between two covers, having the ring of authenticity, and beautifully produced. The title may suggest this is a history only of British Airways but in fact Penrose covers all the airlines, existing and defunct, that operated out of the British Isles from 1918-1919 onwards. Thus the pioneer Croydon Continental runs, the Empire routes, and todavys global flights are all there, described by a man who knew many of those who were airline pilots and officials, and knew too what flying all the different types of aeroplanes and flying boats along the span of the years implied. He leavens the account with anecdotes and brings in relevant factors such as the first crossing of the Atlantic, Hillman’s ambitious air-line, Cobham’s exploratory expeditions, etc.

So this is a history for every aviation follower to enjoy and learn from, and it must be highly recommended to librarians of public and University libraries. The illustrations are particularly well done, with excellent photographic coverage, the pictures very nicely reproduced although some have appeared previously, colour maps and other insets of historic material and plans of some of the early transport machines in colour, against graduated measurement scales. Penrose, who has previously given us a comprehensive, five-volume history of Aviation in Britain and written other delightful books about his flying days, uses again quotes from the inimitable C.G. Grey, famous and out-spoken Editor pre-war of The Aeroplane, in his text. Altogether a most enjoyable account of commercial aviation in this count, described in chapters that cover grouped periods thereof, with annual sub-headings, running the story from the first canvas and wire biplanes to the Jet Age and on into the future of supersonic travel. I thoroughly recommend this latest work by knowledgable and indefatigable Mr. Penrose even though its publishers cruelly made him reduce the length of his original manuscript and errors in captions are to be found. — W.B.

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Anyone who wants a coffee-table book all about aspects and periods of aviation, illustrated with a wealth of dramaatic colour pictures, can invest in the “Octopus Colour Encyclopaedia of Aircraft” by Nigel and Nicola Macknight, with the Foreword by Sheila Scott, OBE. This is popular stuff, lavishly presented in 224 9″ x 12″ pages, taking in transport machines of all ages, bombers, fighters along the years, air racing, and all kinds of flying machines, with a peep into how the Boeing 747 is manufactured. For the younger aviation fans this is good value at £5.95. The publishers are Octopus Books Ltd., 59 Grosvenor Street, London, W1. — W.B.

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If the Marshall Harris & Baldwin “Kaleidoscope of Motor Coaches Between the Wars”, reviewed last December, was strongly recommmended for its fine pictures constituting a strong and lasting dose of nostalgia, the same can be said of this publisher’s “London Buses Between the Wars” by George Robbins and Alan Thomas. It does for the London ‘bus what the other book did for the motor coach and chara-a-banc. It is a 12″ x 8 1/2″-page book of sheer pleasure for those with motor transport interests and all who know the old London streets and country routes. Cars and commercial vehicles can be spotted in many of the pictures, some of which come from the pages of the old “Old Motor”, and accidents are not excluded, so that, among others, you see an SS1 (called “an early Jaguar”) hit by an STL bus at Willesden on Route-8. Highly recommended, and modestly priced at £6.95. — W.B.

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Two more very important road-transport books have been published by The Transport Publishing Co. of 22, Longmoor Road, Simmondley, Glossop, Derbyshire. One is the second volume of Alan Townsin’s very comprehensive history of Park Royal Vehicles, this 192-page 8″ x 9 1/2″ landscape volume covering the period 1942 to 1980. The other book is No.1 in a new series about British Bus Services along the years, this one by Colin Morris, edited by Alan Townsin, being the history of South-East England services from the earliest times to the 1970s, in much detail and nicely illustrated. Those suffering from ‘bus mania and all who like public transport and pictures of vehicles in use on the roads, will find this new series filling a long-felt gap. It is of the same size as the other volume, and in hard covers. The respective prices are £10 and £9.50. –  W.B.

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A Holley Carburetter Handbook, about the types 4150 and 4160 carburetters of this make, how to tune and repair them, by Mike Urich, is available from HP Books, for £1.65. For £18.00 you can acquire “Velocita & Rally ’80” in Italian, as published by Edizioni Studio Erre of Milan. We have referred previously to the Motor Museum Guides produced by Car Styling, these commencing with books in English and Japanese about the Carlo Biscaretti and Alfa Romeo Museums. These museum guides are distributed in this country by Albion Scott Ltd, 51 York Road, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 0QP, at £6.95 per volume. That useful Directory to anything anyone with a show to promote might want to hire or order is out again in 1981 form. It costs £2.00 from Brook House, Mint Street, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1HE. Books about Porsche cars continue to flood from the presses, the latest one received being a delectable study of “The Porsche 911″, by Chris Harvey, 225 10″ x 8 1/2” pages from the Oxford Illustrated Press Ltd., Shelley Close, Headington, Oxford, OX3 8HB, for £17.95, high priced like the motor-car it describes, but full of clear photographic reproductions, data and tables. — W.B.

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That essential publication for serious students of international motor sport, the FIA Yearbook, has been delayed somewhat this year by the wrangle between FISA and FOCA, but is now available, even if events are likely to make a nonsense of some of the Formula One dates listed. The format is unchanged, but the colour coding of the pages has been improved and the directory of names and addresses of useful organisations has been extended. Perhaps the most helpful improvement (certainly to anyone racing an historic car) is the inclusion (at last) of Appendices K & L to the International Sporting Code, which have hitherto only been available as loose sheets of paper. The publishers are Patrick Stephens Limited, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8EL and the price is £11.95.

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Useful for those contemplating a touring holiday in Europe on a limited budget will be the AA’s paperback handbook entitled “Guesthouses, Farmhouses & Inns in Europe”. Listing some 7,000 reasonably priced establishments in 13 countries, the book also contains the AA’s usual hints and tips about travel in foreign parts and costs £2.95.

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For those who prefer to holiday at home, or who travel frequently on business, and prefer only the best, the 1981 Michelin Hotel & Restaurant Guide for Great Britain and Ireland is a 602 page book, inside the familiar Michelin-red hard covers, crammed with useful information. This publication costs £4.75, and a careful study reveals that “the best” need not be anywhere near the most expensive. 

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Albion Scott Ltd., Bercourt House, York Road, Brentford, Middlesex, TV18 6OP distribute a very informative “Encyclopaedia of American Cars, 1940-1970”. Compiled by Richard M. Langworth and the Editors of the Consumers Guide of America, this is curiously illustrated and will be a useful guide to those confused by the wide range of later US cars, from Allstate to Willys. It sorts all this out with over 1,500 pictures and colour clusters, and covers 200 minor makes along with the better-known ones, in 416 11 1/4″ x 9 1/4″ pages, and sells for the modest price of £7.95. The same book distributors also handle a rather “catalogue”-like history of Matra Sports, “L’Epopee Matra Sports” by Robert J. Roux, with French text and colour plates, the price of which is £7.50, and a big book about the Alfa Romeo Museum published by Arese, full of beautiful colour illustrations (page-size 10 1/2″ x 12″) but with a superficial text suitable only for young boys or dilettantes. — W.B.