Book Reviews, May 1966, May 1966
“Great Mysteries of the Air,” by Ralph Barker. 211 pp. 8 in. x 5 3/8 in. (Chatto & Windus, 40 William IV Street, London, W.C.2. 25s.)
Having criticised books like Robert Daly’s “The Cruel Sport” because they harp on motor racing’s dangers and fatal accidents, I should condemn this book about record-breaking, Civil and Service, aeroplanes which failed to return. But the author writes unsensationally, has done sufficient meticulous research, and offers his accounts as a series of mysteries, only partially solved, that I have to admit that this is a fascinating book, with enough appropriate pictures, which I found difficult to put down. The 14 chapters are concerned with Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in Lockheed Elektra in the Pacific in 1937, the loss of the Liberator B24 “Lady Be Good” in the Sahara during the war, the failure of Princess Ludwig-Loewenstein to cross the Atlantic from east to west in a Fokker VIIa in 1927, the remarkable end of the Imperial Airways Argosy “City of Liverpool” over Belgium in 1933, the shooting down in the Bay of Biscay by Junkers 88s of the DC3 in which Leslie Howard was flying home in 1943, the loss of Avro Tudor “Star Tiger”in the Atlantic in 1948, the fatal Atlantic attempt by Ray Hinchcliffe and Elsie Mackay in dramatic circumstances in their Stinson Detroiter in 1928, the crash of a K.L.M. Constellation at Prestwick in 1948, how Alfred Loewenstein fell from his Fokker VII over the Channel in 1928, how Glenn Miller vanished into the fog on a flight to Paris in a Norseman VC-64A during the last war, Corrigan’s unintentional Atlantic crossing in a 165 h.p. Curtis-Robin in 1938, the death of H.R.H. the Duke of Kent in the Sunderland calamity in Scotland during World War Two, how a B.E.A. Viking was thought (at first) to have had its tail nearly severed by lightning on a cross Channel flight in 1950 and Bill Lancaster’s last flight in an Avro Avian which ended in the Sahara in 1932. Yes, a fascinating book, technically meticulous if we ignore a printer’s error giving the Stinson more than one engine, although I cannot understand how Corrigan was able to hold out against fumes with petrol swilling about the floor of his Curtis-Robin, and wonder why the air-hostess in the aforesaid Viking, who recovered from her injuries in eight months, did not recall which passenger was the last to use the toilet, beside which she was sitting, before the explosion. But another book on the same subject would, in spite of the macabre theme, I must admit, be welcome. But I doubt if it would sell particularly well at airport bookshops!—W.B.
“The Mercedes-Benz Companion,” by Kenneth Ullyett. 176 pp. 8 1/2 in. x 5 1/2 in. (Stanley Paul & Co., 178-202, Gt. Portland Street, London, W.1. 25s.)
Ullyett has written “Companion” books on Jaguar, M.G.. Porsche and VW, and Triumph. They are a combination of history, specification and servicing data and not as superficial as might be expected. Indeed, although the author relies a great deal on quotes from the motoring Press, he takes pains to achieve accuracy. Rather than repeat the dreary stuff about Daimler and Benz again, he goes to considerable lengths to sort out the correct origin of the name Mercedes and of the three-pointed star. Apart from this it goes into purely technical matters such as how a D-B 4-speed automatic gearbox differs from those designed in Detroit, the niceties of D-B power steering with diagrams, how the 190SL engine is works serviced, and concludes with specification tables for pre-war Mercedes from the Type 170V and 170H to the 540K and post-war models in more detail from the 180 to the 600.—W.B.
“Motoring on Welsh Byways,” by Christopher Trent. 178 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. (G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 25s.)
This is the author’s fourth book in a series which had already covered English, Scottish and Irish byways. It provides the adventurous motorist with a lazy way of discovering interesting, if not wildly exciting, back routes without recourse to an Ordnance map and, in addition, gives some idea of what is interesting en route. We tried a couple of the suggested runs from the chapter “From the Severn Valley to the Brecon Beacons” and found them pleasing, aided by the traffic-free byways that abound in mid-Wales. One of them started from a town where we bought Esso for the Fiat at a remote one-man wayside garage which the proprietor opened in 1928, although he had started motoring in 1919 in a model-T Ford. Among his collection of horse-brasses stood a Monte Carlo Rally plaque. When we expressed surprise at seeing it there he said “Oh, my daughter competed in it last year”—but then Wales is that sort of country. . . .—W.B.
The National Trust, that most deserving of organisations, has issued a 134-page 3s. 6d. book of its properties, indexed under counties, giving full details of what they comprise, with many attractive illustrations. Complementary with this extremely useful guide is a smaller 30-page booklet giving details of the 1966 opening arrangements and charges. Both are available from the National Trust, 42, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, S.W.1. Incidentally, a collection of horse-drawn vehicles is to be started in the stables of Arlington Court, N. Devon, and the Trust states “… there is no reason why at least some of these vehicles should not go on working, for the carriage drives round the Court to. . . would provide idyllic drives on a summer’s day”—which is a sentiment with which most veteran and vintage car enthusiasts would concur.
“Holiday Caravanning,” by C. George Bainbridge (176 pp., 8 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in.), published by David & Charles Ltd., South Devon House, Railway Station, Newton Abbot, at 21s., will provide a great deal of useful information to those holidaying in this manner.
That extremely useful reference work “Who’s Who in the Motor & Commercial Vehicle Industries,” published by George Newnes for Temple Press Books, has gone into its tenth (1966) edition. It costs 45s.
Cars in books
I should have known better! Having, after waiting six months, obtained from the library Gavin Maxwell’s “The House of Elrig,” a book very much sought after since Longman’s published it last year, I thought that here was a book in which cars were unlikely to figure. As I have said, I should have known better, especially after Maxwell’s reference to a fast drive in a road-equipped racing car (apparently a Maserati) which eventually threw a rod, already referred to in this column.
Anyway, in the end I found 18 references to cars or motorcycles in this splendid book, all of them exceedingly interesting. The first concerns Maxwell’s mother’s 1914 Ford “with brass radiator and lamps,” kept at Elrig and chauffeur-driven, which apparently wasn’t capable of exceeding 30 m.p.h. There is mention of a schoolboy’s awed reference to a fellow scholar who drove a Darracq at home (this in 1920) and I am indebted to Maxwell for drawing to my notice the expression, used by Cyril Connolly in “Enemies of Promise,” in describing how boys were prepared for Eton by a certain preparatory school, of “hotting them up like Alfa Romeos for the Brooklands of Life.” Although I question whether Alfa Romeos were ever particularly hotted up for racing at the Track, this makes one more instance of Brooklands being mentioned in a non-motoring book, to which can be added a line in one of Ian Hay’s plays (can anyone remember any others ?). To revert to “The House of Elrig”, there is more than one reference to the Willys-Knight 2-seater, finished in two shades of brown, which the headmistress of this preparatory school drove dashingly about Eastbourne (this in 1925). While there Maxwell knew the 14-year-old “son of a famous motor racing driver,” and one of the masters owned “two successive cars …; both were 2-seater M.G.s, the first bull-nosed and the second square-nosed; both were of highly-polished aluminium with red mudguards and red leather upholstery, and both had a name (`Myra’ and ‘Myra II’) painted in gold letters along the side on the bonnet.” Of these names Maxwell clearly did not approve, while the mascot he mentions “a naked woman, in the art of diving, with her plump polished buttocks thrust well back towards the driver,” brings back a memory of those mascots of the vintage era.
It is fascinating to learn that, from this school at Eastbourne, Maxwell and his mother returned to Elrig in far-off Galloway first in the model-T Ford aforementioned, later in a bull-nosed Morris cabriolet, then in vintage Studebakers. These were chauffeur-driven, it being usual, as I well remember, for chauffeurs to drive open touring cars at that time, so that to their other duties were added the unwelcome task of raising and lowering hoods, side curtains and folding rear screens in bad weather. Maxwell seems to have been confused by his parents’ choice of vintage Studebakers, which he recalls old, but one chauffeur at Elrig found such a car useful for nightly courting, inventing a tale of a ghost car to try and disguise his nocturnal comings and goings in his employer’s touring car. Those journeys home from school in the ‘twenties, the author tells us, were three-day affairs.
Later, but still as a schoolboy, Gavin Maxwell admits to a newly acquired enthusiasm for racing cars, “for I had recently seen Sir Henry Birkin lap Brooklands at something like 140 m.p.h.”
Maxwell’s mother did eventually drive her own car, but not until she was over sixty, early in the Second World War, and Maxwell himself learned to drive it—”a black fabric Rover”— on the long drive of Albury Park and, on his 17th birthday, became his mother’s chauffeur. There is a splendid story of an accident his brother experienced when riding his big motorcycle (make not quoted) for the first time with a sidecar attached (from which one senses that Gavin Maxwell, author, traveller, and zoologist, has read the technical motor magazines), although, because he claims to be uninterested in machinery, I can forgive him for describing the open Talbot in which his brother from Sandhurst had some hilarious happenings at a Devon farmhouse as a 14/40 when patently it was a 14/45. Finally, from this happy book which I can recommend for other rewards besides it’s references to motoring, we learn of Aunt Victoria’s Morris Minor, which she learnt to drive in late middle-age. “It was very small and very toy-like, and the coachwork was of brown fabric. Her style of driving was individual. While, for example, other drivers might reverse cautiously out of a garage, head turned over the shoulder, Aunt Victoria would shoot out backwards under full throttle, staring rigidly to her front like a guardsman on parade. She anthropomorphised her car, so that it’s occasional mechanical defects appeared to her as character quirks, and when the foot-throttle jammed open she charged a steep hill with the hand-brake full on and the admiring comment ‘This little thing’s so keen I can hardly hold her back’. Spurr, my mother’s very peculiar chauffeur explained the trouble to her and rectified it, but my Aunt said, ‘it was nicer to think of it the other way’.
Not bad for one non-motoring book! The author must have lost so many much-deserved royalties by libraries refusing to order more than one copy in spite of very long waiting lists that you may think it worth spending 30s. on your own copy of “The House of Elrig”. W.B.
Bank Holiday Snetterton
The main race at the Good Friday Snetterton International, the Archie Scott-Brown Memorial Trophy Race, was for sports/racing cars of over 2,000 c.c. complying with Appendix J, Category C. Group 7. This race was run in two 25-lap heats and had the potential of being a good event.
Team McLaren had two cars for Bruce and Chris Amon, the latter’s car being the late 1965 model as used by McLaren in the American races last autumn. McLaren’s own car was a brand new model running for the first time on 13-in, wheels with the correspondingly smaller discs. Both cars were fitted with the 5-litre Oldsmobile engine. Two private owners were backing up the team cars, D. Prophet’s Mk. 2 was fitted with a 5.6-litre Chevrolet engine with upswept exhausts, while J. Coundley’s Mk. 1 was using the 4-litre Oldsmobile.
The opposition to the McLarens came from the four Lola-Chevrolet 70s. Team Surtees car was in the hands of G. Hill, while S. Taylor’s brand new car was being driven by D. Hulme. T. Sargent’s car was driven by H. Dibley and Red Rose Motors’ entry was handled by B. Redman. One of the surviving Lotus 30s was driven by J. Nicholson.
The field was made up to thirteen cars by three Ford GT40s and Piper’s re-bodied Ferrari 365 P2. These last four were a bit out of their depth against the pure racing cars. In the first practice session Hulme and Amon were only 0.2 sec. apart with Hill next a full 2 sec. behind. But in the second Session Hill and Amon bettered Hulme’s time with Hill 0.2 sec. faster than Amon. The race was using a grid-graduated scale for starting money and pole position was worth £600, while the other two front-row positions were worth £550 and £500.
With forecasters predicting rain on Good Friday the tyre suppliers were in a quandary, and it wasn’t until just before the start of the first 25-lap heat that a final decision was taken in favour of dry-weather tyres. When the thirteen cars were finally lined up the flag dropped and the race was on.
Hulme led into the first corner and he also led at the end of lap 1, with Hill and Amon close behind. Prophet was in the pits on the second lap and continued in and out until the race ended, trying to cure fuel starvation. The Lotus 30 completed three laps, then retired with fuel spraying in the driver’s eyes. Four laps later Dibley retired with no oil pressure. Hulme’s Lola was well in the lead, while Hill was just holding Amon into third place. However, on the 16th lap Amon just managed to get past Hill and, once past, he pulled away. Two laps later; Hill slowed visibly, then out on the circuit he stopped with his gearbox solid.
The remaining laps were dull, as was the whole of the second heat. Amon led for two laps, then Hulme once more got into the lead and pulled away. McLaren slowed, then pulled into the pits with no oil pressure; Amon was signalled to slow up, to finish. and when he finally took second place it was without oil pressure. Third in the overall classification was Attwood in the GT40. which showed how the mighty were fallen. If more of these races are to be run as a spectacle for the public, then some serious consideration must go into getting a number of race-worthy cars to the finishing line not just to the starting grid.
Fortunately the two supporting races held the interest and were the “face-savers” for what would have been a very dull day. In the Les Leston Trophy four cars held close formation, swapping the lead. They were R. Pike in the Team Lotus car, P. Gethin in a Brabham-Ford, Brian Hart in the Peter Sellers’ Team Lotus-Ford, and C. Williams in a Brabham-Ford. When these four cars finally split up it was Williams and Pike who kept side by side fighting for the lead. Just before the end, they both entered Sears side by side, with Pike on the inside. Suddenly he slid, side-swiping Williams off the correct line, which caused him to spin, losing valuable time before getting going. Pike’s luck held, he held his car straight and went on to win.
The highlight of the saloon-car race was the driving of Clark in a Lotus Cortina. He clocked fastest time in practice, and from the drop of the flag gave the crowd their money’s worth with a succession of power slides. He was not able to hold Brabham in Alan Brown’s Mustang but kept up a race-long duel with Muir in the Willment Galaxie, who finally beat him by one second. Snetterton for once was a very pleasant venue, a change from some of the cold, wet meetings some people associate with the “blasted heath.”—M.J.T.
……and Bonnier was very soon in the pits taking on a large quantity of oil, only to stop in a further half hour for more, but this was of no use, and he retired. Almost at the same time the other car stopped with a broken upright, the same trouble which put them out finally at Daytona. In the smaller classes the Dino was well ahead of the Porsches. The surprise amongst the Porsches was that the privately entered Carrera 6 of Patrick and Wester was ahead of the works cars and, what is more, it stayed ahead, building up a 2-lap lead before it was put out.
Both the Holman-Moody cars were in trouble with brakes from the start. The Foyte/Bucknum automatic car was in for a change of pads and had the system bled within a short while of the start. This procedure continued for must of the race in this car, until it finally finished 12th, 36 laps behind the winner. Sutcliffe burst his engine going into the hairpin and two laps later Stewart spun violently on the oil but kept to the centre of the road until almost at a standstill, when the back of the car burst into flames. Fortunately this was soon put out by a handy extinguisher and Stewart drove back to the pits for a check and handed over to Hill.
The P2 and P3 Ferraris were switching drivers at every pit stop while Miles and Gurney in the leading Fords were doing two stints before changing. The leading sports car was the Essex Wire Corporation GT40 driven by Revson and Scott, while the 2-litre class was still firmly in the hands of the Dino. About this time came the first tragic accident. Bob McLean lost control of the Comstock GT40 at the same point as Stewart spun but instead of staying on the road the car went onto the sandy verge, rolled, hit a telegraph pole and burst into flames. By the time the fire was under control, this taking far too long, the driver was dead and Canada had lost one of its top drivers. The second Comstock car was withdrawn shortly afterwards. Gurney’s lead and the confident appearance of the pit staff had all the markings of a Ford “walk-over” in the true Mercedes style. The P3 Ferrari was still on the same lap as Gurney but could make no impression on this 2-min. lead. The Rodriguez/ Andretti car had a dented front and when darkness began to fall Rodriguez had some difficulty in seeing as his lights were very poor. At the next pit stop. Andretti took over and after only a few laps came in with the front smashed in. He was unaware that he had started a situation in which the second tragic accident at this meeting occurred. When the wheels of the P2 dropped off the road as it was passing the leading Porsche of Patrick/Wester, Andretti spun off but as he did so he touched the Porsche, putting it off into the darkness by the warehouses on the Warehouse Straight. Unfortunately, at this precise moment, some spectators in this non-spectator area were walking to one of the raised loading ramps and the Porsche plunged into them, killing four ! Back at the pits, Andretti was oblivious to this and after some panel beating he got into the car, pressed the starter, and waited for the engine to burst into life. From the exhausts, fuel vapour poured and drifted under the car, the pit marshal shouted about fuel gas and grabbed an extinguisher. One of the Italian mechanics, hearing the word “fuel” and seeing all eyes looking at the back, grabbed a bucket of water and sloshed it under the back of the car. Unfortunately, the bucket touched the ground, sending up a shower of sparks and the next moment the P2 was pouring flames from every outlet. As this was the gas burning it might have gone out, but the over-enthusiasm of the pit staff soon had the contents of three chemical extinguishers over, in and under the car, which was the end of the P2’s race. Just before the fire the Dino made an unscheduled pit stop, firmly stuck in gear. Bandini sat on the pit wall as the mechanics struggled to free it, and when this was done and after only one lap a further delay was necessary while the selection linkage was re-adjusted. The Dino had dropped from three laps ahead to three laps behind the Porsche. Still the Gurney Ford led, with the Ferrari P3 next on the same lap. Then, one lap down, came the Ford Roadster. At their last pit stop Parkes told Bondurant, as he handed over, to be very careful with the gears as they were beginning to play up. A few laps later the Ferrari failed to turn up and it was later discovered that a selector in the gearbox had broken.
This left nothing in the way of a second Ford 1, 2, 3 victory, for Hansgen was now lying third in the Holrnan-Moody 7-litre car, while behind him came the Revson/Scott GT40 leading the sports class. The M.G.-B and TR4 prototypes had both dropped out, but the standard cars were leading their classes, as were the two Sprites, although one of these was suffering from oil on the clutch, which was having to be washed off at frequent intervals. The last laps should not have been at all dramatic but they were. Six minutes from the end the drive chain to the scavenge pump in the leading Ford broke and the sump filled with oil. The car came to a halt on the circuit, not far from the timekeepers at the hairpin, and Gurney, to the excitement of the crowd, broke a standing regulation by pushing the car back to the pits. Why he should have done this is a mystery for he has been in trouble with this regulation before. At any rate, teammate Miles did two laps in the last six minutes, putting him one lap ahead of Gurney. The first provisional results showed Miles one lap ahead of second man Gurney. However, the stewards met and the car which had led most of the race was disqualified, to the disappointment of the whole team who had been so confidently happy only a quarter of an hour from the end.
The Herrmann/Buzzetta Porsche came fourth, with the Dino three laps behind and on the same lap as Voegele and Siffert. Porsche, by pure reliability, had achieved a notable position, three cars in the first eight.—M. J, T.
Speedwell 1300 TC—(cont’d)
In 600 miles of varied driving conditions, the test car returned a fuel consumption of 27.0 m.p.g., compared with the 26.8 m.p.g. of the standard version. Amazing, but quite true ! In this distance, 1 pint of oil was added.
The interior contains such refinements as a wood rim steering wheel and a polished wood dash panel. Unfortunately, the instruments (water temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure and ammeter) have been arranged with symmetry in mind rather than ease of reading from the driver’s seat. I would have preferred all four to have been clustered on the driver’s side, but the car has, after all, been designed for the general market and an asymmetric layout would look odd, perhaps, to any but the most function-minded enthusiasts. The rev.-counter is mounted in a cowl above the steering column, and remains illuminated when the other panel lights are switched off. Speedwell air horns are fitted in addition to the normal “hooter,” which is inadequate at the speeds of which the car is capable. The additional switch for the air horns is of the stalk type, incorporating the headlamp flashers, and is fitted to the right of the steering column, below the trafficator-stalk.
The Britax safety belts use anchors on the floor and pillars. Personally, I would prefer them to have been fully floor mounted, but once again I must accede to the fact that this is a car for the general market, and that belts other than those using pillar mountings would clutter up the rear leg space and cause entry and exit difficulties for rear seat passengers.
At £994 you may be forgiven for thinking that this is just another expensive Mini. On the contrary, it represents value for money and, were it not for offspring complications. I would be quite content to use one permanently.—G.P.