Book Reviews, May 1959, May 1959
“Nuvolari” by Count Giovanni Lurani with the collaboration of Luigi Marinatto. Translated by John Eason Gibson. 233 pp., 8-3/4 in. by 5-1/2 in. (Cassell & Co., Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 21s.).
We have waited for a long time for a worthwhile biography of the greatest of all racing drivers—Tazio Nuvolari. Alas, we are still waiting.
The present account of the great driver’s life, by Count “Johnnie” Lurani, is excellent as far as it goes but it does not go anything like far enough. This is a popular history of the Italian champion but few gaps are filled in and some of Nuvolari’s greatest races are glossed over.
Certainly we learn a few fresh facts, particularly about the great little man’s childhood and early career and of how he died, but what is not supplied is a comprehensive story of Nuvolari’s racing career, with explanations, where possible, of matters which have been, and remain, obscure. We are told that towards the end of his racing career Nuvolari spoke frequently of writing his autobiography, for which purpose he retained many records and clippings. Is it too much to hope that one day some painstaking historian will persuade Carolina Nuvolari to release these and, preferably co-operating with contemporary technicians at the Alfa Romeo and Auto-Union factories, will write a detailed account of Tazio’s career? In saying this we do not think we are being unfair to Lurani, who has written an interesting, absorbing “popular” biography. But he does ignore detail — for instance, of the occasion when Nuvolari drove an M.G. Magnette to victory in the 1933 T.T., when his careful preparation, fantastic driving technique and skilled pit-work left plenty of contemporary material well worth inclusion, how much space is devoted to this race? Why, after a page devoted to an account of how Nuvolari came to London by train and was given a free shirt by a Piccadilly shirtmaker, the race gets just four lines, as follows: “Nuvolari won in spite of the complications caused by the event being run to a confusing handicap. His quiet modesty endeared him to the people as much as his obvious audacity impressed them.” Adequate?
Naturally, others of Nuvolari’s famous victories are mentioned, like that over the entire German teams at the Nürburgring in 1935 with a P3 but we are told nothing new such as whether he had a more powerful car than the other team drivers, what r.p.m. he attained, and so forth. When Dr. Porsche requested Nuvolari to try an Auto-Union it took Tazio some time to master the big rear-engined car and he suggested various improvements but again these are glossed over and his remarks on the handling problems and technical short-comings of the I937/38 Auto-Union are left out. We are told that Tazio’s crash at Pau in 1938, during practice, with the Alfa-Corse eight-cylinder Alfa Romeo, caused by the car catching fire, resulted in Nuvoiari stating that the fault should never have developed; he was incensed with the Alfa directors and declared he would never drive for them again. But did the tank seams open up, a fuel line come adrift or the suspension foul the tank? We are left wondering…. Moreover, the very first occasion on which Nuvolari tried an Auto-Union isn’t mentioned. In other words, insufficient research was done before writing what could have been the greatest ever motor-racing biography.
Nor do the pictures compensate. Most of them are dear old chestnuts; not in one of them is the wiry little Italian who won over 50 major races seen receiving the chequered flag. The dust jacket is singularly uninspiring.
Altogether, in this instance, we advise saving the guinea, keeping it in the hope that one day a biography that really does justice to the greatest of all Grand Prix drivers will be published. — -W. B.
The Autocar Road Tests — Spring 1959 80 pp. 11-5/8 in. by 8-3/8 in. (Iliffe & Sons Lid„ Dorset House, Stamford Street, London. S.E.1. 6s.).
The Autocar road-test reports have again been published in interim pending annual form. This year’s spring collection covers cars as varied as the new Austin A40 and Daimler Majestic, the B.M.W.600 and Princess IV. Exceedingly useful fully-illustrated data is found between the soft covers of this book, which represents outstanding value. — W.B.
The Motor Reference Year Book — 1959. 285 pp, 7 in. by 4-1/2 in. (Temple Press Ltd., Bowling Green Lane, London, 6s.)
No-one was more disappointed than this reviewer when The Motor Year Book ceased publication in 1957. This little soft-cover reference book is its successor, which contains every conceivable piece of motoring information which anyone is likely to require, including a very liberal dose of racing and sporting data. But this packed, closely-printed, unillustrated reference work somehow makes loss of the former beautifully-presented Year Book all the sadder.
A little 3s. book by Egon Ronay about eating places in and around London is well worth consulting if you intend to eat in the Capital, and even if you don’t it makes absorbing reading. Just the job if you intend to explore London on summer Sundays or when you are compelled to go there for the Motor Show, this book, in 80 pages, includes the expensive, the exotic, the café and even Lyons’ Corner Houses. Get it from Egon Roney Ltd., Queens House, Leicester Place, London. W.C.2. It covers the Home Counties, too.
To supplement their excellent road maps, National Benzole have introduced a Planning Map of Great Britain, 16 miles to the inch, costing 1s. Road signs, steep hills and ferries are included. It would be better, for those planning journeys in the middle of England, if the two sides of the map overlapped, but, in general, here is a useful, inexpensive overall map of Great Britain. Get it from your N.B. petrol station.