Book reviews, March 1985, March 1985

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Most of the motor racing annuals are now safely gathered in and there are some welcome additions to the perennial favourites. The problem with trying to review “Autocourse” (ed Maurice Hamilton, publ Hazelton Publications, 3 Richmond Hill, Richmond, Surrey, TV/11 6RE, 266 pp, 9½ x 13 in, £15.95) and “Automobile Year” (ed Ian Norris, publ Editions 24 Heures, distrib Patrick Stephens Ltd, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8EL, 248 pp, 9½ x 12½ in, £19.95) is that each sets its own standards of excellence in writing, photography and general presentation. No edition of either book is less than superb but, every so often, some editions stand out as being slightly above par.

Both books this year seem to me to be in that category. It’s a marginal difference but “Autocourse” achieves it with a perceptive interview of Bernie Ecclestone by Alan Henry and a lucid, fascinating, piece by Brian Hart on the problems of balancing all the variables and achieving the best package with a contemporary turbocharged GP car. “Automobile Year”, in turn, has a succinct article on the saving of Chrysler and, though its F1 coverage is brief by comparison with “Autocourse”, it has the saving grace of being written by Peter Windsor.

After two years’ publication, “Automobile Sport” (ed Ian Bamsey, publ Tenorhart Ltd, Highfield Park, Highfield Road, Yeovil, Somerset, BA21 4JR, 191 pp, 9½ x 12½ in, £14.95) failed to appear last Year after the collapse of its associated monthly magazine. Editor, Ian Ramsey has revived the annual and, to ensure continuity has included results for 1983. “Automobile Sport” covers more areas of racing than its rivals and, with fewer pages, achieves less depth. On the other hand it is extremely readable and employs a number of respected writers. Although it contains less pages than the two established annuals, none are taken over by advertisements. The quality of the paper and, hence, photographic reproduction is not very high this Year but I have the feeling that, in years to come I shall be glad to have the early editions of the run.

“Two Till The End” (FOCA in conjunction with Duke Marketing Ltd, PO Box 46, 32 Finch Road, Douglas, Isle of Man, 90 rums, VHS or Betamax, £34.95) is a digest of the 1984 F1 season using the best footage of the year’s television coverage. Cramming 16 races into 90 minutes means there is hardly any depth but the video is given cohesion and style by a witty script, written and narrated by Clive James who reveals himself to be more than an averagely perceptive observer of the F1 scene. I found the events portrayed too fresh in the memory to really excite me but am sure I’ll be delighted to play it again and again in the future. It’s like a wine which is drinkable now but will improve with time.

“The Hillclimb and Sprint Yearbook” (ed Robin Boucher, publ The Cheddar Valley Motor Company, Averys Garage, Mark, Highbridge, Somerset, TA9 4NF, 228 pp, 5¾ x 8¼ in, £3.75 (incl p&p)) is the best value for money I’ve come across in a long time. It’s a paperback printed on good quality paper with lots of photographs, and contains everything one could possibly wish to know about the 1984 hillclimb and sprint season. There are round by round accounts of the major championships, profiles of drivers, reviews of the sport in the regions, everything. This is a first class effort which will be welcome to everyone with an interest in the climbing and sprint scene.

The “RAC British Motor Sport Yearbook” (RACMSA, 31 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QH, 244 pp, 5¾ x 8¼ in, £9.50) is required reading for those actively involved in the sport but armchair enthusiasts, too, should have a recent copy for reference. It’s like one of those handbooks published by the AA or RAC, you don’t really need to buy one every year for the information contained therein does not change very much from year to year, but a fairly recent edition often comes in useful.

“Motor Sports Extra” (ed Jack Davidson, Chambers House, 70 Skene Street, Aberdeen, AB1 1QE, 80 pp, 6 x 8½ in, £3.50) is sub-titled “A History and Review of the Scottish Hillclimb Championship, 1970-1984″. It is a well produced and presented paperback with photographs and profiles of leading exponents together with 101 sets of fully detailed results. M.L.

“Mercedes — The Book of the Car” by Tony Stuart-Jones. 96 pp, 12¾ in x 9½ in (Ebury Press, 72 Broadwick Street, London WIV 2BP. £4.95). If you like colour pictures, then this book will please you, for there are some on almost every page. It begins naturally enough with the pioneering development work which led to the foundation of what is now a major industrial giant, and offers a fairly thorough description of the variety of models which have led to today’s Mercedes cars. The inter-war years are the most interesting section of the book, as of the company in many ways, and there is a rundown of the competition successes of the marque when German prestige was at stake.

The latter chapters, though, illustrate how conservative the Stuttgart firm became in the ’60s and ’70s, with a great many large pictures of remarkably similar cars looking more like a Mercedes brochure than anything else. There is also surprisingly little about the 190, even allowing for its relative novelty. Overall, then, not a historian’s volume, but a good value all-rounder. — G.C.

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Brooklands Books, who publish those volumes of road-test reports and other articles from past magazines on a one-make basis, have issued two new titles, “Road & Track on Rolls-Royce & Bentley, 1950/65” and “Road & Track on Rolls-Royce & Bentley, 1966/84“, which provide a nostalgic hotchpotch of reading for followers of these cars — I see that the first book includes a “Saga of the Winged-B” which I had forgotten I had written, and which mention as it brings in the vintage models (the book dating referring to magazine dates not age of cars), as does Doug Nye’s piece on the Barnato “Blue Train” 6½-litre Bentley, the recent sale of which for £246,000 the Bentley DC calls “Madness which evokes a great sadness, especially as it means that this fine Bentley will leave these shores and likely be unseen on any road again. They call it madness of a special kind, having nothing to do with mental health, little to do with motoring, but a lot to do with financial investment, so that the buyers were possibly pleased, the sellers probably ecstatic, the auctioneers undoubtedly pleased.” The car’s owner when Doug wrote it up was the BDC President!

Back to these new Brooklands Books, they are available for £6.50 each from “Bookstop”, Seven Hills Road, Cobham, Surrey, or at £5.95 each from specialist bookshops. — W.B.

The latest editions of two of the most used reference books in this office have made their appearance; first, the IVECO Motoring Press Guide which lists all the publishers, magazines and journalists involved in the motoring field world-wide, which is available from the IVECO UK headquarters at Winsford in Cheshire, and secondly the 1985 FIA Yearbook of Automobile Sport. As before, this essential guide to all aspects of international motor sport is divided into sections of different colours to ease reference, with a breakdown of the structure of the FIA and its constituent organisations, complete lists of graded drivers, the various appendices governing eligibility of vehicles, safety requirements, Championship regulations, organising clubs, manufacturers, the press and the all-important (but of course not infallible!) 1985 competition calendar. Although only A5 size, the yearbook is nearly two inches thick, which goes some way to justifying the price of 190 French Francs. It should be obtainable from the specialists such as Motor Books, St. Martin’s Court, London or Connoisseur Carbooks, 28 Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London, or from larger main bookshops. G.C.