Book reviews

"Renault — The Cars and the Charisma" by J. Dewar McLintock. 184 pp. 9 3/8" x 5 5/8" (Patrick Stephens Ltd., Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8EL. £9.95)

There have, as we outlined not long ago, been several excellent books relating to the history of the great and significant Regie Renault. However, these are either largely out-of-print or very expensive, or both. So there is room for a less ambitious but wide-ranging history of the French manufacturer and this J. Dewar McLintock has now provided, taking his story from the 1898 origins to the present. In 181 pages, plus an Index. In this he has been encouraged and assisted by having been until recently Editor of the British Renault house-journal Auto World. Most of the earlier pictures are "old chestnuts", including the end-papers, of which the front spread is the classic one showing three of those greatly-respected and well-engineered Renault landaulettes outside the administrative offices of Renault Frères in the Rue du Point du Jour at Billancourt in 1906, the rear end-papers showing Jean Ragnotti drifting a modern Renault 5 Turbo on packed snow. 

The contents run right up to the Renault 9 "Car of the Year". The chapters cover competition work in racing and rallying, with pictures of present-day Renault successes and a fine one of the "works" straight-eight Renault Nervastella with which Quatresous and Lahaye won the 1935 Monte Carlo Rally, but I couldn't find the "valuable technical appendices" referred to in the publishers' hand-out. However, some production statistics and notes on future developments are given. — W.B.

A fine aircraft selection from Jane's 

Jane's Publishing Co. Ltd., 238 City Road, London EC1V 2PU has been revising its lists, we understand, and definitely the latest books from this source of aviation information must whet the appetite of most aeronautical enthusiasts. First there are the handy, comprehensive reference books, for example, "Jane's Pocket Book of Light Aircraft", a 263-page £5.95 landscape directory that runs from AAMSA A9 to Zlin Z 50 L, thus being truly cosmopolitan, with full-page photograph, subsidiary picture and specification of each of the hundreds of modern small aeroplanes covered, with dates of when each made its maiden flight. Or you may fancy yourself as an aeroplane spotter, in which case them is "Jane's World Aircraft Recognition Handbook" in a new edition, soft-covered, with 3-view silhouette, photograph, dimensions and description of simply masses of modern aeroplanes, with a note of those you might mistake them for. Nor is that all, because there is copious constructional information and designation and registration tables, etc. Even tests are included and the data runs to amphibians, helicopters, etc. Wonderful value at £6.50.

Companion to these reference works is "Jane's World Sailplanes and Motor Gliders" by Andrew Coates, for those who think in terms of the restful delights of motorless flight or enthuse over the smaller powered machines. Again a new revised edition, this is a full-scale hard-cover 207-page, 5" x 7", book full of data and pictures, modestly priced at £8.95. Of especial interest to aviation historians is "A Most Secret Place — Boscombe Down 1939-45" by Brian Johnson and Terry Hefferman. Here is revealed in 193, 9½" x 6¼" pages, with fine photographs on glossy paper in the centre, what happened at this experimental station on Salisbury Plain during the war. It is really high adventure, yet much of it is reported in authentic official A & AEE Reports. We have had to wait 30 years for release of this once-secret information but now you can probe into how the civilian scientists and test-pilots, living dangerously, solved such riddles as the mysterious loss of early Halifax bombers, cured "rogue" Lancasters, why the Martin-Baker MB5 fighter never saw production, read of handling trials of great American aircraft and the funnier stories of things like the Brodie suspension, etc. An absorbing book for "true believers", priced at £9.95. — W.B. 

"Ordnance Survey Road Atlas of Great Britain", 208 pp., Newnes Books, Feltham, Middx. £7.95.

This is the first road atlas to be derived from the Ordnance Survey, and must therefore be reckoned to be the most accurate available. It shows a great deal of topographical information. and is marked with National Grid references, which means easy transfer onto large-scale OS maps. However, we were disappointed with the legibility, firstly because of the sombre colourings of roads and contours which we fear will be difficult to distinguish in poor light, and secondly because some of these colours are printed out of register. It is to be hoped that our review copy is not representative, because this is a serious flaw in an otherwise desirable, if bulky, atlas. Main maps are at four miles to the inch, with subsidiary route-and-town maps, an index street map of London, and a large Index. — G.C. 

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New from the AA is the "Big Road Atlas Europe", a large-format book which extends its coverage to such countries as Scandinavia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. As well as the admirably legible road maps, there are town plans, including two pages devoted to Paris, information on more than sixty mountain passes, weather maps, route planning guides, and a 19-page index. This really is an excellent production and wail worth the price of £4.50. From the same source comes the "AA Illustrated Touring Atlas of Britain". Based on the current AA Road Atlas, each map page faces a gazetteer page describing towns and places of interest, and illustrated with colour photos. Although a little bulky for the glove-compartment, this well-produced book would be a useful aid to leisurely touring. The price is £8.95. 

Once you have found your way to a pleasant spot using your new atlas, the AA can help you explore further. For £2.95, "Stately Homes, Museums, Castles and Gardens in Britain 1983" will provide all necessary information on location, opening hours, facilities and charges of these attractions.

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To go with the RAC's 1983 Guide and Handbook, which contains the traditional listings of hotels, garages and all the other useful little facts which make day-to-day motoring easier, the Club has also published its new revised "Continental Motoring guide". Apart from hotel listings, there is information on the law in European countries, documents required, medical hints, and breakdown information. It is a convenient size and while it does not include any road maps (much better to buy full-size versions), it has plans of the major ports, so at least you can escape from the docks. Members can obtain it for £2.50, others must add £1 to that. 

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While you are doing all this touring with your new maps and guides, you will undoubtedly require refreshment. The AA can suggest 1,000 places to "Eat Out for around £5", in their £2.95 book of that name which describes the menus and surroundings of restaurants all over Britain. (This one is going to stay in my car permanently.) Should you be concerned with eating patriotically, the English Tourist Board offer "English Food and Drink 1983", a tempting little 95p guide which not only details over 500 places participating in the Taste of England promotion, but also includes regional recipes and the name of the local brews. Also from the ETB is a similar pocket-sized booklet called "Stop for Tea", concentrating on establishments offering traditional afternoon teas, and selling at 75p. 

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A rather superficial little book, "Ford Military Vehicles" by L. Geary, has come from Ian Henry Publications Ltd., of 38 Parkstone Avenue, Hornchurch, Essex, RM11 3LW, as an addition to its Transport Series. It will, however, please those who like anything Ford, and it opens with plenty of Model-T pictures, of the "Tin Lizzie" in Scout-car, ambulance and Staff-car form in the WWI years. The Scout-cars appear to be operating in a desert but I do not think they can be part of the Light Car Patrols referred to on page 517 as having had little or nothing written about them, because those shown are black-radiator cars, dating them later than the LCP Fords of 1916. The book, of 75 pages, goes on to deal with Ford's military vehicles of WWII, with output statistics and further photographs, and ends with post-war Army Fords. Civilian conversions and Russian activities on the part of the Ford Motor Company are included. Some of the illustrations have obviously been lifted from Ford handbooks. The little volume sells for £2.25. — W.B.

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I have never liked those manifestations of the American Wild West, the Street Hot-Rods especially when these involve vandalising historic cars or are flame-painted. Those who can stomach such things will find 120 varieties photographed by Andrew Morland at Thruxton and in the USA and very nicely colour reproduced in Osprey's book of pre-1948 "Streed-Rods", which sells for £5.95. — W.B. 

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A non-motoring book which deserves to be mentioned because it portrays social history, during part of which the motor-car grew up, includes some transport items, and is so very beautifully produced, and is about a much-appreciated product, is "Schweppes — The First 200 Years". I suspect that the price of this magnificently produced book of 160 11" x 8¼" pages and many very fine colour plates, written for Cadbury Schweppes p.l.c. by Douglas A. Simmonds of that Company, may have been subsidised, which at £8.95 seems extremely modest. If so, so much the better, for the would-be readers benefit. Whether or not you are interested in the history of mineral waters, this beautiful treatment of the story of Jacob Schweppe, the jeweller who began in 1780 to develop a system of making artificial mineral waters, his move to London, and what happened afterwards, will be hard to resist, to those who enjoy "Schhh — you know who. . . ." 

A great many of Schweppes' famous advertisement layouts are included, many in colour, such as those clever "Schweppograms", their cartoon ads., those Comdr. Edward Whitehead layouts and many more. Those working on automobile and other advertising campaigns should find this of much interest. The "County of Schweppshire", and "Schwepping Forest" and like county ploys and other classic advertising layouts are reproduced in full colour, and of these plates the one of the fellow and girl in the "jig-saw" picture nicely captures the spirit of the present, as others do of the past. Some of the females in the ads. are quite "daring" for the period. 

On the transport front, there is a very early Thornycroft steam-waggon used by the Company, and a line up of three of their Swiss-built Berna 4-ton platform-lorries of 1915, and another of five solid-tyred, centre-pivot-steered steam-waggons, of which two are probably Fodens, the others Aveling & Porter (no makes are quoted), along with the horse-drawn drays and carts. Black-radiator Model-T Ford and Rolls-Royce figure in two of the full-page colow-plate ads., vehicles in some of the cartoons, and there is Schweppes' advertising to be seen on pre-war London 'buses. Another fleet-scene is that of a single-horse car, a trailer, a small Thornycroft lorry, what I think is an old Leyland lorry, four unlikely round-radiator De Dion Bouton solid-tyred trucks, and a black-radiator Model-T Ford truck, all on CA registrations, these vehicles having been Photographed in 1925. 

This desirable volume of nostalgia is published by Springwood Books of London. — W.B.

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While on the topic of a non-motoring book it seems permissible to refer to another transport subject, namely that PSL of Bar Hill, Cambridge, has entered the field of railway literature. Their first two titles in this connection are "British Locomotives of the 20th Century" by O. S. Nock (04.95), and the PSL Field Guide to "Railways of the Western Region" by Godfrey Body (£9.95). Both are the start of a series, as the first is Vol. 1, about the years 1900-1930 and the latter is the first coverage of different regions, and is like those "Action Stations" guides to old airfields, from the same publisher.

Although only a very lukewarm railway buff, I found the "Western Region" book held my interest, because it describes and illustrates so many railway stations familiar to motorists, either when they meet trains there or as passing scenery on a road journey. The pictures include shots of cars, mostly comparatively modern, outside such stations — rather fascinating, with the rail enthusiast not much liking the changeover, perhaps, whereas the keen car-driver maybe can hardly wait — and as the history and architecture is covered, of the interesting Windsor and Eton Central for instance, and many tiny branch-line stations as well, I think this might interest more than a few tourists. — W.B. 

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This is the age of brief quick-reference works to given makes and models of the more recent cars, valuable to owners and a check for historians. In this category some of the better known are the "Super Profiles" of the Haynes Publishing Group of Yeovil, which set out to cover popular-historics under such headings as History & Evolution, Specification, Chassis Nos. etc., road-test reprints from Motor and Autocar, concluding with a Photo Gallery, some of the pictures in colour. The three latest, very welcome titles in the series, each costing £4.95, are "Jaguar D-Type & XKSS" by Andrew Whyte, "Ford GT40” by John Allen and "Austin-Healey 'Frogeye' Sprite" by Lindsay Peter. Whyte's Profile includes the famous Brockband road-impressions of an XKSS from Punch. — W.B. 

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We have mentioned the MRP "Collector's Guides" as they have appeared. Two more titles have now been released, "The VW Beetle" by Jonathan Wood and "The Sporting Fords: Volume 3 — Capris (including RS2600, RS3100 and Turbo)" by Jeremy Walton, both priced at £8.95 and published of course from 56 Fitzjohn's Avenue, Croydon. There has been prolific coverage of the now-dating Beetle, but Wood's is certainly comprehensive, covering the war years in sequence with his other chapters and giving buying hints and full statistical data, while who but Jeremy could be chosen to cover Capris of the hotter sort? Very nicely produced and illustrated, these two books contain almost all most fans for these makes will want to know. — W.B.

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The latest Frederick Warne "New Observer's Book of Automobiles" has been compiled by Stuart Bladon, late of Autocar, who clearly knows most of the cars he covers in this little soft-cover 192-page £1.95 guide. The publisher's address is 40 Bedford Square, London, WC1 SHE. — W.B. 

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A little book of verse by Jane Belfour, about learning to fly, is going the rounds of the flying clubs and can be obtained for £1.50 from Davies & Sons, Knaphill, Woking, Surrey. The author learned on a Tiger Moth and flew Austers, Chipmunk, Tripacer, Cessna 150 and Super Cub. — W.B. 

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Another new Renault history has come to hand, in the form of the French work about this make in the "Toute l'Histoire" series, a little book available from Albion Scott Ltd. for £2.95. This is No. 6 in the series of convenient pocket-histories of popular makes of the cars, and is by Pierre Dumont. English titles cost £2.50. — W.B. 

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Many years ago Tim Nicholson produced a guide to the World's motor museums but such guides become quickly dated, so perhaps a fresh start is overdue. It comes in the guise of William Stobbs' illustrated "Motor Museums Of Europe", a well-illustrated book, with colour plates, running to 190 11" x 7½" pages, published by Arthur Barker Ltd., 91 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7TA, at £12.95. The difficulty is that museums come and go and more especially that their contents change fairly frequently, so lists of cars therein at the time of compilation are likely to be out of date by publication day. The jacket front-cover shows the 300 h.p. Fiat "Mephistopheles", in the Fiat Museum in Turin, still with its later tail and improvised driver's seat. — W.B.