Book reviews, May 1972, May 1972

“Motormania”, by W. A. McKenzie. 248 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. Cassell & Co. Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, WC2 45J. £3.00.)

The reminiscences of those who have been associated with motoring, especially competition motoring, over a long span of years are usually irresistible. W. A. McKenzie was known to be writing his memoirs, of the times during which he was a newspaper motoring correspondent, from 1925, when he filled that role on the now defunct Westminster Gazette, down the years in which, from 1950 to 1965, he was Motoring Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. That is a considerable span of time and the author is thus able to portray the vast changes which have taken place since he bought his first car, a used 10.4-h.p. Citroën tourer bought in 1925 for £100—McKenzie recalls that it was only capable of 38 m.p.h., compared to a friend’s Swift, which cruised at 48 m.p.h. He is also able to provide on-the-spot accounts of most of the great motoring and aviation events which he reported on, from 1925 to the present day, commencing with Land Speed Record bids by Campbell, Parry Thomas and Segrave, the R101 disaster, racing at Brooklands and Le Mans, etc., and rallies and Continental road races, including the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally in which McKenzie competed with a very fine straight-eight Daimler but lost the Grand Prix d’ Honneur to Sammy Davis’ Wolseley, although the author obviously thinks there was a fiddle. He went with Mavrogordato in a Morris Eight through the 1939 Monte Carlo Rally, with Dudley Noble on his Balkan adventure in a Humber, took a Sunbeam-Talbot on the 1952 Monte Carlo, as well as doing the Alpine Trial in an XK120 Jaguar, Hillman Minx, Riley Nine, 1 1/2-litre Riley, 2 1/2-litre Riley and Ford Zephyr.

All this makes for interesting reading but I found the detail lacking, perhaps because McKenzie had a great number of experiences to describe in one book. There are also a few items which do not ring true, such as details of Thomas’ burial, the colour of Birkin’s lap-record blower Bentley single-seater being recorded as green when it was red, or blue, according to period, a Bristol F2B being confused with the later Bulldog on page 79, Segrave being quoted as receiving his Knighthood for his 200-m.p.h. LSR, whereas this honour was bestowed after he had achieved 231 m.p.h. with the Golden Arrow in 1929, an ERA being given a synchromesh gearbox when preselector is intended, etc. On the whole, however, this is a nostalgic glimpse of the past, not omitting references to flying adventures. But it could do with more pictures.—W. B.

“The Leyland Papers”, by Graham Turner. 216 pp. 8 3/4. in. x 5 1/2 in. (Eyre & Spottiswoode Ltd., 11, New Fetter Lane, London, EC4. £2.75)

Having established his reputation as an investigator and fearless writer with his book “The Car Makers”, Graham Turner has-done it again with this very frank look at how Leyland Motors took over all but the smallest of the British motor manufacturers. This is also a close, cruel and critical analysis of BL’s own mistakes, and it shows up in an unpleasant light the intrigue, Skulduggery and ruthlessness of big business dealing in the Motor Industry. How Mr. Turner was able to gain access to all the office minutes and Company documents which enabled him to give us this enthralling insight into the vast BMC and Leyland take-over bids I cannot tell you, nor can I understand why Lord Stokes permitted this book, which is not exactly complimentary to the motor tycoons, to be published.

I commend this as compelling reading matter for all those concerned with the financial and investment side of the Motor Industry but will refrain from writing a lengthy review because the book came to us very late, in spite of numerous requests, and then with some vital pages missing.—W. B.

“Wheels”, by Arthur Hailey. 422 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 1/2in. (Michael Joseph Ltd., 52, Bedford Square, London, WC1. £2.25)

This is a long novel by the celebrated Arthur Hailey, author of the similar books about the hotel industry and an international airport, both of which I enjoyed—I was too squeamish to read his novel about a great hospital. Hailey’s novels are not only compelling but they take apart the American concerns with which they deal. In this latest book Hailey uncovers the motor manufacturers, in a book ugly and disturbing in comparison with his descriptions of a fictional airport and hotel.

He follows his usual theme, of a blue-eyed hero in difficulties, this one a product development engineer with GM, whose sex-starved second wife resorts to shoplifting, of the toughness of work in the factories, as Foreman, Assistant Plant Manager or worker, of the colour problem and the influence of the Mafia as these affect the Motor Industry of America, of unscrupulous dealers and the high stakes of motor racing—he leaves very little out, although the PR aspect might have been covered more fully. But a Hailey novel is irresistible, even if you may not have the stamina to enjoy it to the bitter-sweet end.—W.B.

“Automobile Year-1971/72.” Edited by Douglas Armstrong. 248 pp. 12 3/4 in. x 9 3/4 in. (PSL Ltd., 9, Ely Place, London, EC1N 6SQ. £5.00.)

The 19th edition of this glossy annual from Switzerland is now with us. It covers in text, copious black-and-white illustrations and excellent colour the World Championship Fl races of 1971, written up by Douglas Armstrong, who also contributes a Day-by-Day résumé of last year in the motoring world, has a statistical analysis of the 1971 racing season by Jacques Ickx, and deals, as usual, with last year’s new cars and contains two feature articles, one on the coachwork of the house of Labourdette, the other on “Cars for Connoisseurs” by Ami Guichard, the publisher of “Automobile Year”, which he lists as the Mercedes-Benz 350SL, the Monteverdi HAI, the Citroën SM and the Fiat 130 coupé. There is also a useful tabulated list of the outcome of the more important 1971 races and rallies.—W. B.

“Mechanical Technology for Higher Engineering Technicians”,

by Peter Black. 344 pp. 10 in. x 7 in. (Perganion Press, Headington Hill Hall, Oxford. £6.50.)

Out of the run of motor sporting books we have received a serious engineering text book for the student aiming at achieving the new Higher National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering, or for that matter anyone interested in a sound basic knowledge of engineering principles, which is something many people in motor racing could do with. This weighty tome deals with everything from front torsion and bending to heat transfer and vibration, is very clearly laid out and has numerous test examples at the end of each chapter. The author, Peter Black, is Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the Mid-Essex Technical College at Chelmsford, but apart from that he is an avid reader of Motor Sport of long standing, an Alvis enthusiast to the extent of owning at least six, and is currently rebuilding a 1928 Amilcar. In short, one of us.— D. S. J.

“The Mercedes-Benz Racing Cars”, by Karl Ludvigsen. 260 pp. 11 in. x 8 1/2 in. (Bond/Parkhurst Books, Newport Beach, California. 25 dollars.)

A very great deal has been published about the long history of Benz and Daimler, which in 1926 merged as Daimler-Benz, and the very successful and impressive racing and competition history of these two companies.

Consequently, when a copy of the well-known American journalist’s work “The Mercedes-Benz Racing Cars” finally came into my hands after delays occasioned by the American dock strikes, I glanced at it quickly and tended to scepticism, because almost all the excellent illustrations I had seen previously, these corning mainly from the Daimler-Benz archives, and I thought this could be a repetitive history of that already written by S. C. H. Davis, George Monkhouse, Scott Moncrieff, Kenneth Ullyett and others.

Further study revealed this to be an all-embracing and .entirely fascinating complete account of Mercedes-Benz in motor racing, with chapters on the pioneer days, the GB and GP, the Blitzen Benz, the single o.h.c. Mercedes racing cars, the supercharged cars front Stuttgart, the Benz Tropfenwagen, Porsche’s ill-fated straight-eight, the sports Mercedes-Benz from K to SSKL, the great Grand Prix cars of 1934 onwards, the record cars, right on through 300SL and the post-war racing Mercedes.

Denis Jenkinson has told the intimate story of the W125 GP Mercedes-Benz (Leventhal. 1970), which is so enthralling that I have read and re-read it. Ludvigsen’s book is rather like an expanded version, and consequently extremely interesting and informative, although there is a trace of American journalese in the writing of it which I could do without.

As to the accuracy of this large and so copiously illustrated book, its delayed arrival has precluded careful study of it but if the chapter on the Blitzen Benz sets the standard I shall have no cause for complaint, because in this the author goes into commendable detail and clears up the mystery surrounding these cars, and, I am gratified to see, agrees with me that the Zborowski Benz was the original, Hemery Blitzen, and that Burman’s Brooklands Benz was a replica which is now in the Mercedes-Benz Museum—although he does not dwell on its present, presumably changed, engine number!

Although the mass of pictures, some drawings, some colour plates, have been seen before, this painstaking and factual chronological study of the competition career of one of Europe’s greatest motor-car manufacturers should prove of immense interest to all racing historians and must surely become the bible of all Mercedes-Benz worshippers.

W. B.

“Grand Prix Chronology”, by S. Hirst. 240 pp. 7 2/5 in. x 4 1/2 in., soft covers. (Ian Allan, Terminal House, Shepperion, Middlesex. £ 1.60.)

This bulky paperback sets out to provide statistics of all the World Championship Fl races from 1950 to 1971. Each season is briefly described, each race has grid, results, retirements and date, distance and circuit data about it. There are circuit maps and Introductions by Stirling Moss and Raymond Mays. While the accuracy of the retirement causes still depend on the author’s sources of reference, this book, which is unillustrated and pretends to be nothing more than a reference work, will be of inestimable value to many people in the world of modern motor racing. — W. B.

”Save Money on Your Car”, by Stuart Bladon (142 pp., 7 2/5 in. x 4 1/2 in.), is a useful paperback for novice maintainers and restorers. It even has colour illustrations of how to do body repairs with glassfibre. Bladon enlivens the text with personal anecdote and Gordon Horner drawings, referring to how well a properly-maintained Vauxhall Velox coped with 80,000 miles, of a Ford Transit which sheared its oil-pump drive, a Daimler Conquest which put its fan through the radiator, of a Morris 1100 which developed ignition trouble on the M1, a Rover 3-litre 1800 which was no good for a Mobil Economy Run on its well-worn Avon tyres, and so on. This bright and informative little book is published by Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd., 3, Fitzroy Square, London. W I. for 50p, but Holt’s Products are behind it. — W. B.

“United States Military Aircraft since 1908″ by Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers is a revised version of the book published by Putnam & Co. Ltd., 9, Bow Street, London, WC2E 7AL in 1963, taking the history from 1909. It. has been revised to commence a year earlier and extended to include the aeroplanes involved in the Vietnam war. With more than 130 new pictures in a total of 600 and produced Putnam’s well-known high standards, this completed up-dated edition, running to 675 8 3/4″ x 5 3/4” art pages, sells for £6.50 in the UK. It includes a total of 150 g.a. drawings by L. E. Bradford. 45 of which are new. — W.B.

Cars in books

Nothing much this time under this heading, except that in that most interesting book “The Great Air Race”, by Arthur Swinson (Cassell, 1968) , which should have been sent to us for review when new, but wasn’t, which describes in some detail the Macpherson Robertson England to Australia Air Race of 1934, which was won by Scott and Black in a DH Comet, pursued by Parmentier and Moll in a KLM Douglas DC2, there are excellent pictures which show that the triumphant Scott and Black were driven through Melbourne in an open Vauxhall, Reg. No. 195 62S. There is another picture, also featured as a dust jacket drawing, showing Gaumont British’s Vauxhall camera-van and Paramount ‘s American wooden-wheeled camera-van (UU 9853) filming the race, the latter, with its horizontal bonnet louvres and somewhat Rover-like radiator, posing an interesting problem of make identification.