Book Reviews, March 1986, March 1986

Motor Racing Publications, Unit 6, The Pilton Estate, 46, Pitlake, Croydon, CRO 3RY, have acquired the rights to a three-part volume on F1 Ferraris by Editoriate Domus in Italy, each of which is available from MRP, for £8.95. The first book covers all the F1 Ferraris from 1984 to 1963, in 80 pages containing some 80 colour and b&w pictures


The 750 MC Year Book for 1986 is now available, containing, as usual, full details of all the racing and trials formulae catered for by this go-ahead Club and much more besides. Anyone associated with Formulae F4, F.Vee, F1300, the 750 Formula, Kit-Cars, Road-going Sports Cars, Mod Sports Cars or the A7 Formula cannot afford to miss this very informative 102-page, Bulletin-size publication. Apply to David Bradley. c/o the 750 MC. —W B

The Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation has issued the seventh of its eagerly-awaited books in its Rolls-Royce Historical Series namely “Hives — The Quiet Tiger”, by Alec Harvey-Bailey. It tells of Lord Hives great contribution to Rolls-Royce development, particularly his work on the R-R Merlin aero-engines. After Sir Henry Royce himself, Hives is thought by many to have been the greatest, the most important. R-R personality, and as the author knew him well this little book is not only an important historical document but a treat for those avid to obtain every piece of R-R information. It costs £4, postfree, from the R-R EC or the R-R Foundation —W.B.

“Circuit” (90 minute video) available from Consolidated Promotions. 56 Ennismore Gardens. London 5W7. £24.95

The CanAm series has during its chequered history provided some very intense racing, and this video film concentrates on the last four races of the 1981 season. Some rather overblown text on the cassette sleeve might lead one to imagine this is another “Le Mans”, an actual fictional film, but it is in fact a straightforward piece of documentary which includes interviews with Teo Fabi, Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal, Paul Newman, and other drivers and managers. The tone of some of these, though, is decidedly amateurish, in contrast with the very dramatic race sequences which boast some of the best race-editing I have seen.

The effect is enhanced by using one of the regular CanAm commentators to give a new voiceover with a Tannoy twang — it sounds gimmicky but works well. His excitement, though, cannot cover the fact that 90 minutes is too long for four races, however well filmed. Nor will the viewer learn anything of the machinery — cars are only identified by sponsor or driver, not by make or engine. Exciting, then but intermittently. —GC

The Croydon Airport Society is as enthusiastic about the history of the now-defunct Croydon Airport, in its time the equivalent of today’s Heathrow, as is the Brooklands Society about the old Weybridge Motor Course, and it has been fortunate indeed in having the keen support of the London Borough of Sutton Libraries and Art Services which has published a number of excellent books on the subject. Of these, we have reviewed the first three in a series. “The First Croydon Airport — 1915 to 1928”. “Croydon Airport: The Great Days, 1928 to 1939”, and “Croydon Airport and the Battle of Britain, 1939 to 1940” and we look forward to a fourth book telling wartime and post-war activities there, including, we hope, references to charter flights, including those of MOTOR SPORT to Continental Grands Prix. These books should be read by all aviation enthusiasts.

There has also been a little book of paintings of aeroplanes that were seen at Croydon, which we have also reviewed, and now come two more fascinating books. One is a little art-paper soft-cover 63-page publication of cartoons of Croydon Personalities by Charles C. Dickson, with his reminiscences of looking at and flying in such machines from schooldays, when the aeroplane level-crossing existed at Plough Lane, Waddon, and the other is a larger-format book of pictures of historical Croydon happenings. called “The First, the Fastest, and the Famous — A cavalcade of Croydon Airport events and celebrities” by Douglas Cluett. It has very big photographic reproductions (big pictures so often improve old prints) of such occasions, and Lindbergh is seen on the tarmac with an appropriate car, in the form of a Franklin air-cooled saloon. Both books are available from the aforesaid source. for £2.95 and £2.50, respectively.


We have commented from time to time on the sparsity of cars in the more remote parts of Wales in the 1920s, so it is interesting to read of the Police and others using them quite extensively in 1920-22 in connection with a murder in Hayon-Wye, in “Exhumation of a Murder”, by Robin Odell (Harrap, 1975). Admittedly Hay is a border-town, partly in Wales, partly in England, and the cars came largely from Hereford and Gloucester, but the area was then sufficiently remote and rural for this to be significant, in the days before Police cars were in general use. The classic case of Major Armstrong who poisoned his wife and tried to do the same to a fellow solicitor, is set at a period when the courtroom in Hay was without electric lighting, so that, as dusk fell on the murder hearing, oil-lamps and candles had to be lit. Yet the book tells of cars arriving at Cussop churchyard, at the Hay courtroom (from where the mysterious witness ‘Madame X’ was driven away in a large motorcar with drawn blinds), to the Hereford Assizes at the Shire Hall, and from Worcester etc, some used at night by investigating detectives. There is a reference to the car that brought Armstrong from Worcester Gaol to Hay via Hereford being held up by a puncture, so frequent an occurrence in vintage days, but making up time after the wheel had been changed.

The makes of these cars are not given, except for mention of the Rolls-Royce, pretty obviously a 40/50 hp tourer, in which Sir Henry Curtis Bennett, KC, who defended Armstrong unsuccessfully, arrived at Hereford Assizes and which was the great Advocate’s own car. However, someone may just recall what make of chassis it was that Humphrey Webb, the Hay undertaker who also had a garage there, used both as a hearse and a taxi, by having two different bodies for it. It was used early in 1922 to take Hay residents to and from the trial in Hereford, an out-and-back tourney of about 50 miles, the ironic thing being that it had probably been used also for Mrs Armstrong’s funeral….

For those interested in trying to identify early vehicles, there are four photographs in this book, which those who can find it in lending libraries (ISBN 0245 524002) may care to study. One shows Mr (later Lord) Justice Darling, the Judge before whom the case was heard, arriving at the Shire Hall, Hereford, in an open American tourer with a local Reg No, driven by a lady cousin, the Judge sitting in front, with the hood down, although it was a cold winter and the car possessed a rear screen. Is it a Studebaker? Armstrong is seen in the car which took him to the last day of the trial and away afterwards, to his eventual execution in Gloucester prison: it is a pre-1914 fixed-head landaulette and could be a Sunbeam or an Austin. The jury and a policeman are seen in another picture also arriving at Hereford Assizes, in a delightfully period charabanc with pneumatic tyres on detachable rims, a single gas headlamp, oil sidelamps, and lining on the bonnet. A GMC perhaps?


We seem to remember hearing that the World-famous composer, Sir Edward Elgar, was keen on motoring and an article in the Birmingham Post informs us that he was not a good driver, so that Harold Tolley, now aged 82, who was working in a Worcester garage, used to act as chauffeur and driving instructor. Sir Edward, then in his mid-80s, had a Lea Francis sports-car in 1922, but a crash into a gate-post on his first solo drive put a stop to him driving himself. The car is described as having “unusual controls, including an exterior gear-shift”, which does not seem to suit a Lea-Francis, but perhaps a right-hand change was intended, the date seemed a little early. Sir Edward’s chauffeur remembers being given tickets for a concert at the Corn Market in Worcester when Dame Clara Butt was singing Land of Hope and Glory….