Book reviews, May 1963, May 1963

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“‘Autocar’ Road Tests, Spring 1963.” 146 pp., 11 1/5 in. x 8 1/10 in., soft covers. (Iliffe Books Ltd., Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E.1. 7s. 6d.)

It is, I suppose, a sign of the times that this welcome grouping together between (soft) covers of recent road-test reports published in Autocar is somewhat less dignified than formerly, on account of advertisement pages being intermingled with the text and an inferior paper having been adopted. However, the interest and value of the twenty-five test reports remains unsurpassed, ranging as they do from Riley Elf and Volkswagen 1200 de luxe to Jaguar Mk. 10 and Pontiac Parisienne.

Cars of especial interest include Alvis TD.21 3-litre, Austin Healey 3000, M.G. 1100, M.G.-B 1800, Morris 1100, Triumph Spitfire 4, Triumph Vitesse and Volvo P.1800. From the tabulated figures that now precede the fully-illustrated test reports it is seen that the fastest of the 25 cars tested was the Jaguar Mk. 10 (119 m.p.h.), the most accelerative over a s.s. 1/4-mile the Austin Healey 3000 (17.8 sec.), and the most economical the Renault R.8 which returned 33.7 m.p.g. overall. These test-reports are an essential in any motoring reference library, public or private, that is considered to be comprehensive. Long may they continue to issue from the Iliffe Press.—W. B.

“Mini Racing,” by Christabel Carlisle. 58 pp., 7 3/5 in. x 4 4/5 in., soft covers. (George G. Harrop & Co., Ltd., 182, High Holborn, London, W.C.1. 5s.)

Christabel Carlisle, one of the phenomena of modern motor racing and a very welcome addition to its ranks, admits that she scarcely knows a carburetter from a warming-pan, a coil from a cats-whisker, so it might be considered a gross impertinence on her part to have embarked on a book in this “Out Door” series explaining to beginners what Club racing is all about and how to compete, preferably at the wheel of a B.M.C. Mini.

Yet, so honest is our Christabel, that this little soft cover book with its line-drawing illustrations, colour cover, and step-by-step instructions on how to take up saloon-car racing, is eminently readable. This certainly isn’t a case of the blind leading the blind (into having a blind!), for having explained how little she knows of mechanical matters, Miss Carlisle writes a useful work, with many entertaining asides that make it worthwhile for the experienced as well as the novice to spend a dollar on “Mini Racing.”

Why, the girl even devotes a chapter to explaining the technique of racing a Mini—”A Mini is good at travelling in all directions, the sideways movement being favoured by many drivers as a method of slowing down for a corner instead of braking. I really do not understand why more Mini drivers have not got permanent stiff necks as these little cars rarely seem to travel in a straight line for any length of time, and frequently one can be seen somersaulting either violently or gracefully. What a sensible idea it would be if Issigonis could only design a reversible Mini with wheels on the roof!”

I disagree with Christabel Carlisle on two points—over her use of the word “frequently” in the foregoing sentence, and that Piero Taruffi’s book is “undoubtedly the best on racing.” Otherwise I lapped up all she had to tell me with relish. At 23, Miss Carlisle is not only very fast in a Mini, but as a writer she displays a fine sense of humour. This is an excellent and refreshing live-bobs’ worth!—W. B.

“Floyd Clymer’s 1962 Indianapolis Yearbook.” 191 pp., 10 7/10 in. x 8 1/5 in., soft covers. (Floyd Clymer Publications, 222, North Virgil Avenue, Los Angeles 4, California. 3 dollars.)

On the eve of what promises to be an exceptionally interesting Indianapolis 500-mile race comes the very comprehensive Clymer coverage of last year’s race. Clymer Publications have been issuing their Indianapolis Yearbooks since 1947, having published a very big Indianapolis History in 1945 and a supplement to this in 1946.

Students of motor-racing history will want all these and fortunately most of the back numbers are available. The 1962 Yearbook contains over 500 pictures and is 32 pages larger than before.

It gives a fantastic amount of data about a fantastic race. History, personalities, the Speedway Racing Car Museum, the drivers, all the entries, technical facts including an erudite discourse on the unbeatable Meyer-Drake engine by Roger Huntingdon, a chapter on Fuels For The 500 by R. J. McMahan of Mobiloil, a day-by-day survey of practice and qualification, a minute-by-minute account of last year’s 140-m.p.h. “500,” details of all 33 placemen with a big picture of each car, lists of finishers, record-holders, prize money distribution, etc.—it is all within the covers of this comprehensive book, which, like Indianapolis itself, is fabulously larger-than-reality. Try Autobooks of Brighton for a copy.—W. B.

Cars in books

There was less reference to interesting vehicles than I had expected in “The Circus Has No Home” by Rupert Croft-Cooke (Falcon Press, 1941), although from it one learns that Rosaire’s Circus became mechanised by towing its open trailer and living-wagon behind a Fordson tractor (called in the book a Ford tractor). That was in 1920 when, it is explained, you could still find villages in Yorkshire and Cornwall and Wales that had scarcely changed since Queen Victoria’s time. There is also mention of an old Rex motorcycle owned by one of the sons—”It was an old thing which would sometimes go and sometimes not, and had to be hoisted up on one of the wagons to get up the hills.” But the only other vehicle named by make is in passing reference to a Tillings, one of the twenty vehicles the circus had by 1934, although, even then, “the Count,” who owned it, preferred to drive from tober to tober on the box of a horse-drawn monkey-wagon.

In “A Bundle of Sensations” by Goronwy Rees (Chattis & Windus, 1960) there is a fascinating chapter on Germany as she approached Hitlerism, and I find myself wondering whether “the ancient open Adler” of Baron Frank von Reichendorf which met the author at Breslau for the drive to the baronial home at Boguslavitz, its owner standing up to shoot at wild cats on the way, and in which, later, Rees was driven “wildly and dangerously” (and to the detriment of more wild cats) a hundred miles to the estate of Graf Felix, still lies abandoned somewhere or whether it vanished along with the Baron’s estate railway and his endless vistas of Silesian cornfields?

There is one curious thing in this book; Rees refers to the Baron’s name as the same as “a famous German air-ace of the Great War.” Surely he has confused Reichendorf with Richthofen? Subsequently the book tells of the hard life led by “a splendid new Humber” in which the Political Adviser was driven rapidly through Germany in 1945.—W. B.