Book reviews, March 1988, March 1988

Carrera Pan-Americana “Mexico” by Adriano Cimarosti. 381pp. 111/2″ x 91/2″ (Automobilia International Publishing Group, 4 Viale Monte Santo, Milano, Italy. Available from Chater & Scott and similar specialist bookshops. £74.95).

This is something that has never been done before, the history of the short-lived but memorable “Mexican Road Race”.

Probably second only to the famed Italian Mille Miglia open-road race, the Pan-American “Mexico”, or Carrera Mexicana for short, was held for the first time in 1950, and subsequently run annually until 1954. But the worldwide reverberations from the 1955 Le Mans disaster put paid to this wild and woolly event for all time.

It ran in timed stages for nearly 2000 miles, for the whole length of Mexico from the Guatemalan border in the south to the United States border in the north, covering every type of terrain imaginable, from mountain passes to long flat plains. The fast bits were fast, even by Mille Miglia standards.

While the first event was solely for production saloons, won by an Oldsmobile 88, it almost immediately became an extension of the European Sports Car Racing scene, as witnessed by the winners — Thrall/ Chinetti (Ferrari 212) in 1951; Kling (Mercedes-Benz 300SL) in 1952; Fangio (Lancia D24) in 1953; and Maglioli (Ferrari 375) in 1954.

Adriano Cimarosti, who is the Formula One reporter and sports editor of the Swiss motoring newspaper Automobil Revue, and is one of those fortunate people who speak four languages fluently, has been a motor racing enthusiast since his school-days in the immediate post-war years. His research on the Mexican race has been prodigious, both in locating and talking to old winners and competitors, and in finding photographic coverage which was a hard task in itself.

The large format not only allows dramatic use of the more spectacular photos, but permits the text to be run in three large columns, and in three languages — Italian, English and French. If nothing else, the book is a useful language course, with the accent on motoring racing! It is a very expensive book, but it is a quality production; it is also a serious work, not a coffee-table-spectacular-work-of-art. A solid tome which weighs 6lb and needs two hands to carry it, it is very full of information and stories. DSJ

Jaguar—World Champions by Andrew Whyte. 208pp. 103/4″ x 8″. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £14.95).

Andrew Whyte, who has recently won two important awards for his writing, is the Jaguar historian par excellence. If you want to know anything at all about Jaguar or SS cars, about Sir William Lyons, Sir John Egan or for that matter Swallow Sidecars, Andrew is the authority.

Having dealt with Jaguar history and the racing of Jaguars in two vast volumes, what is left but to bring the latter story up to 1987 — the year when Jaguar won the World Sports Car Championship? Indeed, reading the blurb on the back cover, you might think Whyte is psychic and has written up TWR’s defence of the title in 1988 as well.

Certainly the book is well up to date, and says it all in pictures of praiseworthy excellence as well as in Andrew’s words of wisdom. So this is an enchanting read for those who want to leave history behind and read of today’s great sports-car racing achievements, and it is a compliment that the foreward is by Peter Falk, Porsche’s Competitions Director.

This year should see a resumption of the Porsche/Jaguar battle, with Mercedes-Benz joining in, and this new book is the best possible lead in to enjoying the contest.

Andrew Whyte makes it clear how much is owed to Tom Walkinshaw, Tony Southgate, Roger Silman and the team, who have put the great British make back on the racing map with the XRJ-8. His book is right up to date, with an XRJ-9 pictured on test at Daytona prior to its magnificent start to the season in the USA. It is all here in detail: the drivers, the cars, colour plates, many tables of results and statistics, pictures from earlier times and even of the transporters! The ten championship rounds of 1987 are covered in great detail, as are the Jaguar successes of 1982-1986, and the entire book is packed with fascinating information. WB

Overhaul and tuning books, started we believe by Kenneth Ball and taken up by John Haynes, have achieved great popularity, and Motor Racing Publications has recently come up with two such titles. Ferrari Guide to Performance, subtitled “Essential Tune-up Secrets for every Red-Blooded Ferrari Enthusiast” (forgive us for thinking that you had to be blue-blooded to afford to run a Ferrari!), is by Allen S Bishop, and Volkswagen — Water-Cooled, Front-Drive Performance Handbook, by Greg Raven, covers all models since 1974. The former is the smaller and costs £10.95, for which Ferrarists get 141 (235mm x 190mm) pages and 178 illustrations. The VW volume runs to 208 (278mm x 215mm) pages and more than 400 pictures — and remember that pictures often help enormously in DIY books— and costs £12.95. We note that MRP prefers photographs to drawings in these publications. WB

Japanese car by Marco Ruiz. (92 pp. 103/4″ x 81/2″. (Hayes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £14.95).

Now that almost all Japanese makes are available in Britain and our roads abound with them, some directory is called for to sort out complex makes and models programmes, and to help us understand the origins of these Japanese autos. Here is the book for the students’ bookcases!

The Italian author has sorted it out rather well, with more than 500 pictures (colour ones included) of the many Japanese cars — a phenomenal number of makes when you consider that it was not until after the Pacific War that automobiles really concerned that nation. Those photographs not obtained from manufacturers are the work of Amedeo Gogli. The author is not afraid, and why should he be, of showing how the Japs cribbed European designs (the 1937 Nissan Type 70 being a copy of the Graham Paige, for instance), and how Nissan built the Austin A40 from 1952, Isuzu the Hillman Minx in 1957 and Hino the Renault 4CV in 1953, paving the way to the country’s first original modern cars — the Toyota Crown of 1955 and the Datsun Bluebird of 1959.

How ugly the early Japanese cars were — Type 3 Takuri for example, and the 1923 DAT torpedo which looks like a charabanc . . . It apparently all started with that Takuri Type 3 in 1907, and the Fiat-like Mitsubishi Model-A of 1917 is claimed as the first Japanese car built in series by a big factory. The author attempts a great deal, including the country’s own Grand Prix, Japanese cars in Formula One and Formula Two, dream cars and experimental designs, the new technology (complete with engineering drawings), and then illustrated histories of Daihatsu, Honda, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi. Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota. Indeed, the book purports to be the complete history of the Japanese car, and is very much one for the bookcase. WB