Book Reviews, May 1964, May 1964

“Autocar Road Tests—Spring 1964.” 150 pp. 11 5/8 in. x 8¾ in. Soft covers. (Iliffe Books Limited, Dorset House, Stamford Street, London, S.E.1. 8s. 4d.)

The latest of Autocar’s road-test books, this one contains 25 reports in the new five-page style adopted by that journal, ranging from the Renault 4L estate car and the Wolseley Hornet Mk. II to the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III. Interesting new cars of which road-test reports are published include the Austin 1100, B.M.W. 1800, Bond Equipe GT, Ford Cortina-Lotus, Vauxhall Viva, Triumph 2000 and Rover 2000.

Enthusiasts will be happy to discover coverage of such cars as the Alfa Romeo 2600 saloon and Giulia TI, Ford Falcon Sprint, Lancia Flavia 1800, Maserati 3500 GTI Sebring and M.G. Midget.

The top-scorers in the tabulated data table that concludes an absorbingly useful book of facts, figures and pictures are the Maserati with 16.0 sec. for the s.s. ¼-mile and 137 m.p.h. maximum speed, the Ford Falcon with 30-50-m.p.h. top-gear acceleration in 6.2 sec., and the Renault 4L and Wolseley Hornet Mk. II tying with 35.3 overall m.p.g.—W. B.


“Challenger—Mickey Thompson’s Own Story of His Life of Speed,” by Mickey Thompson, with Griffith Borgeson. 237 pp. 9¼ in. x 6 3/8 in. (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, U.S.A. 4.95 dollars.)

This book, written in American human-tale fashion, often unnecessarily laboured, could be ignored were the subject not Mickey Thompson, who so nearly had the Land Speed Record in his grasp. The book goes all the way, from childhood, through hot-rod adolescence, to Thompson’s drives in the Carrera Pan-American road races and on to the construction of “Challenger I,” via lots of dragsters. This monster, Thompson tells us, was powered by four Pontiac V8s, because he didn’t trust the bottom-end of Chrysler engines at racing loads.

After working at the New York Times office Thompson built this thing—with Cadillac transmission and his own overdrive, repeated four times. Firestone having refused tyres, Goodyear made them. It was, says Thompson, a highly experimental, all-American car to go faster than Thompson had ever driven before, if not to break the L.S.R. “Tackling a rich-man’s field at working-man’s level”—which is presumably how Thompson would have described Parry Thomas if he had ever heard of him. Incidentally, someone should tell him that the man he had to beat—the late John Cobb—was never knighted.

On a test run before the Press the Challenger spun but was steered to a standstill, Thompson explains, by God. The closing chapters of the book, describing Thompson’s attempts on the L.S.R., are the most interesting, although there is also much that is well worth reading about dragster records, Indianapolis, etc., and some good pictures. He is extremely frank about his emotions, the feelings of his wife Judy, and his attempt to alarm Donald Campbell before his runs in Bluebird that ended in the crash. The story is over-dramatised, but the facts emerge.

Some day Thompson, robbed of the record because “a three-dollar driveshaft let go,” may well better Cobb’s time. This book will then be in big demand.

It is just the thing to stick in your pocket before going to Allard’s sling-shot sprints here, later this year. But Americans sure are queer in their ways, if you can believe that Mickey had to hand-cuff his bride to him during his wedding ceremony to guard her from sky-larking pals who afterwards did their best to ruin his honeymoon, and the number of times people burst into floods of tears before he guns-up “Challenger.”—W. B.


“Motoring Holidays in The Rhineland and Black Forest,” by Alison Lascelles. 172 pp. 7½ in. x 5 in. (Arthur Barker Ltd., 20, New Bond Street, London, W.1. 16s.)

Having thoroughly enjoyed Alison Lascelles’ earlier books on motoring holidays in France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland, and Austria and Bavaria, I expected before reading this one that it would be worthwhile. It is. Written refreshingly differently from most guide books, flippant in places, this series deals with routes, things a motoring traveller should know about entering the countries concerned, hotels, food, wine, motoring peculiarities, currency and so on.

The information is concise but up to date, and the author’s views very. entertaining. One can almost feel the author’s family wince at a reference to “titled twerps ” in British boardrooms, and one is not surprised at passing reference to Aston Martin and the late Peter Collins in an accurate mention of the Nürburgring. The German “economic miracle” is debunked, wines discussed in intimate detail, even the cost of postage in Germany explained. A truly enjoyable little book, nicely illustrated, essentially useful.—W. B.


Esquire’s American Autos and Their Makers,” by David J. Wilkie. 190 pp., 13 1/8 in. x 10 1/8 in. (Frederick Muller Ltd., 110, Fleet Street, E.C.4. 95s.)

Truly, the picture books are getting bigger, and more expensive. Floyd Clymer certainly started something when he started making history books out of tear-outs from old motor magazines. This one, devoted to the complex American automobile scene, is an excuse for a lot of impressive pictures, some new, but the text is Americanised and none too accurate. At the price there should not be so many errors and, except as book-case or studio decoration, we cannot recommend this latest of these weighty but not altogether worthy tomes.—W. B.


“The Maintenance and Driving of Vintage Cars,” by Richard C. Wheatley and Brian Morgan. 168 pp. 8¾ in. x 6 in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1 30s.)

No-one is going to quarrel with the knowledge of the joint authors and this latest Batsford book does clear up a lot of matters appertaining to the running of a vintage car, such as regulations applicable to such cars, maintenance, clubs, the rallies, driving tests and races, etc. open to vintage machinery, how to prepare for a “spit-and-polish” event and how best to equip motorhouse and workshop. If you lack confidence in these subjects, maybe this title will seem worth 30s.

But whereas you can read a book about building a canoe, keeping budgies or how to play chess which may set you off looking for materials, cage or chessmen, vintage cars are hardly in this category—or, if they are, I feel they shouldn’t be.

The true vintage car enthusiast, if not born to motor thus, surely does so from long experience or the close company of V.S.C.C. members and their cars. In other words, the car, not the “how-it’s-done” book, should come first. I cannot see many people rushing out to buy an old Bentley (at £500?) or an ancient Rolls-Royce for a mere £1,500 because they have happened on this explanatory manual. It is just conceivable that it will lead the more gormless vintage-car owners to a greater enjoyment of their cars, especially after digesting such erudite passages as (I quote): “Keep all joints and bearings well lubricated and adjust them so as to eliminate all lost motion and rattles. Make sure that movement of the operating lever of every control is producing the full required movement at the other end, such as movement from full advance to full retard at the distributor. Have only the minimum tension on any return springs, providing that there is sufficient tension for safety, as in the case of the accelerator in particular a heavy ‘spring makes driving very tiring.” Sounds more applicable to the heater controls of my Morris 1100. . . .

However, with used-car vendors marking up the most exorbitant prices for old cars, I suppose it behoves authors and publishers to leap onto the vintage band-wagon. Personally, I’d rather save my thirty-bob for history books.—W. B.


“Classic Cars,” by J. R. Buckley. 71 pp. 8¾ in. x 7½ in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1. 12s. 6d.)

Wot! Another one? Sausages come in many varieties and the Batsford ones are of the highest class, but whether yet another book devoted to p.v.t. and a few vintage cars, disguised by an Americanised title, is warranted, is open to question.

If you like pretty pictures this one is jolly good value for money. Col. J. R. Buckley writes an entertaining Introduction but the supporting text to the two dozen cars illustrated, which range from a 1924 30/98 Vauxhall Velox to a 1939 4.3 Alvis, provides nothing very new, although I am indebted to the author for reminding me that whereas Hispano-Suiza used a drum-brake gearbox servo to apply their road-wheel brakes in 1919, Rolls Royce preferred, and still retain, a gearbox-driven clutch for this purpose, manufactured under Renault patents. It is interesting, too, to be told that Royce objected to spoiling the handling of his 40/50 Rolls-Royce by fitting front brakes, while I am intrigued to learn that every Delage D8 S.S. covered 100 miles or more in the hour before delivery.

I am astonished to find the Riley M.P.H. classed as a Classic, and note that Maclure’s name is rendered as McClure. It is even more droll to find the S.S.100 in as a p.v.t. or Classic; before the war the V.S.C.C. couldn’t stand them! When the author says the 3-litre Sunbeam had delightful brakes and gearbox, I wonder if he intended to write “steering and gearbox”?

All well, most books contribute something to one’s store of knowledge, if only a mite, and this one, in a series that includes kittens, roses and puppies, has the merit of being inexpensive.—W. B.

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Temple Press Books, 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1, have issued the 1964 edition of “Who’s Who in the Motor and Commercial Vehicle Industries,” price 45s. The latest edition of this essential reference annual, which this year has an expanded title more accurately descriptive of its coverage, has been fully revised to incorporate all the changes which occurred in the industry during 1963. As in the past, it is both a directory of all the companies in the British Motor and Commercial Vehicles Industries and a guide to their executive personnel, including not only the parent industries but also the associated distributive trades, organisations and trade associations, clubs and societies, motoring sport and the motoring and road transport press. The biographical section gives personal information on over 1,200 of the more prominent people among the many thousands listed in the company entries, from directors and designers to racing drivers and journalists.