Book Reviews, May 1984, May 1984

“The Automotive Art of Bertone”

by Rod de la Rive Box & Richard Crump. 166 pp. 10 1/4 in x 8 1/4. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 711. £14.95).

Those who follow the development of motor-car styling or who collect coachbuilder’s histories will find this picture presentation of the work of the great Italian house of Bertone well worth adding to their bookcases. The Dutch and British authors have collected together fine black and white photographs of a wide range of Bertone bodywork, from which the trends of this Italian styling are apparent. In the course of studying this, some fascinating reminders of past great cars are unleashed. The book starts with Bertone bodywork on Fiat 501, Ceirano, Lancia, later Fiat models, and on Lancias from Trikappa to Lambda, etc, with a reminder that Fiat went to Bertone for the sports two-seater bodies of their sports /racing 501S. The book then, after a 4 3/4-page introduction to the Bertones, shows examples of their coachwork divided into the periods 1940s-1960s, the 1960s the 1970s, and the 1980s concluding with Bartone’s more off-beat designs, like Lancia commercial vehicles, Fiat and Saviem vans, even an Innocenti Lui scooter of 1967 and a Bertone crash-helmet, while the final picture is of a Bertoni-styled Lamborghini Espada alongside a 1970 Crestliner Clipper 37 motor-cruiser, from this same house.

The pages contain pictures of many delectable cars from the past, including a Bentley, captioned as a Mk. VII(!), a Dodge coupe, Fiat V8 Spider Corsa used by Nuccio Bertone himself, many other delectable bodies on Alfa Romeo and Lancia, the prototype BMW 2800 Spicup, the Iso Spider, the Jaguar XJS Ascot and so on. Incidentally, Haynes again waste much high-grade paper, and paper is an essential commodity that may well run out before fossil-fuels!— W.B.

“Tool Box On The Wing — My Life in the Air Force”

by Geoffrey Ellis. 253 pp, 8 1/2 in x 5 1/2 in. (Airlife Publishing Ltd, 7 St John’s Hill, Shrewsbury, SY1 1JE. £9.95).

This book brings a new dimension to reminiscences of life in the flying Services, because it is written by a person who was mainly concerned with aircraft maintenance, although later becoming an Air Gunner (never a pilot, although not for want of trying) and ending up with the rank of Wing Commander, serving in the New Zealand Air Force.

There is perhaps less in the book about toolbox operations and aeroplane recovery than one might have expected, but some extremely rare maintenance items, crashes, forced landings and fraught moments in the air emerge. There are long accounts of life in the Air Force from the time when Ellis joined as an aircraft apprentice, posted to Cranwell, in 1923, to his very active years at Kenley, in 1926/27, Northolt, Worthydown and then in the Middle East and New Zealand, until he returned to this country, went to Australia, and then served for 14 years in Civil Aviation.

Such a wide range of Service aviation cannot fail to be of intense interest to aviation buffs. It was the earlier part of the book which especially interested me, with references to aeroplanes I liked to see and read about in my young days, although I am rather surprised to see the Gamecock (my favourite) quoted as made by the Gloucester, instead of the Gloster Company. There is a splendid account of the author as a boy being taken by his father on their Royal Enfield combination from Kilmington, Devon, to London to sit for his RAF entrance examination, he on the pillion, his mother in the sidecar, but otherwise, apart from a few references to racing motorcycles he occasionally worked on for his RAF superiors and the Model-A Ford used by a Wing-Commander in Juba when there was trouble with a Fairey IIIF seaplane, cars are not referred to. But for descriptions of life as it was in the RAF along the years, but especially in the 1920s, this is a book not to be missed.

At Kenley the author was working on No. 24 Squadron’s DH9As and Bristol Fighters, on the latter of which he was given his first flight, replaced later by Westland Wapitis, for Royal useage. The author’s association with Royal flights, what happened to Air Commodore Dowding’s hat Ellis was asked to look after during a flight, and how reading The Aeroplane had helped him to pass the exams, makes interesting reading. Later he describes flying and working on Vickers Virginias, etc.

I was particularly interested in the references to life at Kenley, which I remember as entirely unfenced in those days, with notices telling carters to be seated as they drove their vehicles along the road crossing or adjacent to the landing area — does anyone else recall this?

Another good one on Airlife’s list, although the photographs only just do justice to the text. — W.B.

“Flying Displays” by David Ogilvy. 159 pp 9¾ in x 7 in (Airlife Publishing Ltd, 7 St. John’s Hill, Shrewsbury, SY1 1JE. £10.95).

This is really an extremely important book for anyone who is likely to organise or take part in a flying display or air-show, written by someone who has had ample experience of the problems, pitfalls, and one may say also the rewards, of such activities. It should be essential reading for those folk. They will not find it in any way tough going, because David Ogilvy (who at one time wrote ‘Private Flying Notes’ and conducted air-tests of light aeroplanes for MOTOR SPORT) takes the reader step by step through the procedures he recommends, from the preliminary ground organisation, the early stages of display procedures, how to progress as the big day comes near, to what the day itself is likely to bring. There are plenty of safety tips of all kinds, and a chapter on actually flying in a display, of which, again, the author has had experience. He recalls the 125 cc BSA Bantam two-stroke motorcycle he owned when an RAF pilot in 1950, on which he rode about to various aerodromes, which led to offers of machines to test, race (first with a 1935 Miles Falcon) – and fly in displays.

So this is a book to be disregarded at their peril by those involved in the very complex job of running air displays. But it is also likely to be welcomed by aviation historians, for its useful survey of these activities from the very earliest times. Naturally, in this book Ogilvy has not been able to give a full history of such displays, but what he tells us is very interesting, and some of the photographs are superb, especially that depicting someone’s box-kite flying very low, below roof-top height, along a road in an unidentified town, with masses of people looking on…. Of the SBAC Farnborough Shows Ogilvy recalls, as I do, the fly-past by the Brabazon, with ground-to-air commentary, and the sometimes pungent comments by C. G. Grey of The Aeroplane about lesser Air Shows. The Hospital Displays are included, but not the story of The Aeroplane earning itself a libel action, I believe, for remarking of one such that as the proposed field was likely to prove so dangerous the only good thing was that there would be a hospital close at hand! One also remembers the surprise of MOTOR SPORT’s photographer when, in bad weather, although most of the aircraft appeared in the 1957 Farnborough Air Show, the all-weather Javelins were grounded!

Altogether a most timely book – or perhaps I should say a belated book, after studying the list of accidents at British air displays since 1970 given in one of the Appendices. All this reminds me that displays were held in Wales at a small field not far from where I am writing this review and that from here charter flights were advertised as late as 1933 in an Avro 504K at 1/- (5p) a mile, or 9d if there were two passengers, which the machine must have been converted to take, or for 1/3d a mile in a 275 hp R-R- Falcon-engined Bristol, which must have been a Bristol Fighter surely, still in use as late as this. Universal Air Services operated these tours or charter flights from the 25-acre field with a take-off run of 550 yards, and joy-rides at 5/- (25p) a time. The field had a hangar that was hired out for 5/- per 24 hours, the landing fee being 2/6d (12½p). A photograph shows this field able to contain the Daily Sketch pa van during a display, and many aeroplanes, with a twin-engined Airspeed Ferry and a DH Moth (or Avian?) in the foreground.


Dr John Playford of the University of Adelaide has sent in a rather unusual reference to a racing driver, that appears in ‘Walking The Flinders Ranges’ by C. Warren Bonython (Rigby of Adelaide, 1971). The driver this relates to is Kaye Don, and the story about him was told to the author by a walking companion who had emigrated from Britain, a schoolmaster, Ken Peake-Jones. He remembered being asked by his father to help Don down the steps of their office, as he had a crushed foot. The accident that caused the injury to Don is said to have happened when he was driving a Vauxhall 30/98 up the Great North Road when another 30/98 emerged from a side lane. Don slowed slightly to pass behind it, when he saw, too late, yet another 30/98 about to cross his path, so he accelerated hard, hoping to pass between these other two Vauxhalls. What he had not noticed was that one was towing the other, and the result was the three Vauxhalls slamming together, and Kaye Don’s crushed foot.

In ‘The Scent of Roses’ by Mary O’Hara (Michael Joseph, 1980), who after 12 years in a Benedictine monastery became a famous singer, there is a photograph of what I think is a Morris Eight saloon with her mother at the wheel, and in the TV programme ‘Songs of Praise’ last March a Morris Eight van was shown, belonging to a Tewkesbury dairy company in the 1930s, both of which may well have caught the eagle eye of Harry Edwards, historian to the Morris Register.

While one would not expect to find a motoring reference in ‘Prisoners of Honour – The Dreyfus Affair’ by David L. Lewis (Cassell, 1973) – incidentally, in this book ‘My Two Lives’ racing driver Rene Dreyfus says there were family connections with the unfortunate Army Officer – it is recounted that in 1886 Mademoiselle Anne La Marquise de Nettancourt-Vaubecourt remarked of Venice that she disliked it “because one doesn’t hear carriages.” One understands what she means…!


One of the most enjoyable forms of reading for motoring enthusiasts comes in the form of those specialist books, crammed with pictures and information, on one or more models of a given make of car. Such as ‘The Lancia Fulvia And Flavia’, by Wim H. H. Oude Weernink, which Motor Racing Publications Ltd, of 28, Devonshire Road, London, W4 2HD, have just issued in their ‘Collector’s Guide’ series. Those who, as I do, recall these two Lancia models with affection will find this 7¼ in x 9 in book of 144 pages, containing the unfolding story of the Fulvia and Flavia, followed by much tabulated data, informative and readable, although I confess to not knowing how John Blunsden finds his dedicated authors. The price is £8.95.

The “Yellow Book”

THE 1984 edition of that indispensable reference book to motor racing organisation and constitution, the well-known, indeed universally consulted, “Year Book of Automobile Sport” is now available from PSL Ltd, Barr Hill, Cambridge CB3 8EL, for £13.95 from bookshops, or by post for an additional £1.00. The 17th edition runs to 924 pages and is more informative than ever — which is saying much!!

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Automobile Quarterly Publications, Princetown, New Jersey, USA have published a very handsome book on the 75th anniversary of the founding of General Motors, the biggest car-producing organisation in the World in terms of output. This book, “GM — The First 75 Years Of Transportation Products” helps to sort out the various GM divisions and covers the complexities of Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, Oakland, GMC and Chevrolet in the formative years of the Corporation, and on, through two World Wars, to the present.

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“Automobile Year” of Lausanne have produced their “Book of Models — 3″ covering the new commercial car miniatures month by month as these were introduced from June 1982 to January 1983, and containing descriptions of famous collections and individual car models of all kinds. It is a veritable treat for modellers, especially as the expected art paper 12″ x 9″ format is used, with 250 fine colour and black and white pictures, in 128 pages of 12 3/4″ x 9 3/4”, not including a list of model cars World-wide. The British distributors are PSL Ltd. of Cambridge; the book costs £18.95.


Anyone interested in the First World War will find “From Gallipoli to the Somme, the story of C. E. W. Bean” by Dudley McCarthy, a 400-page book published by Secker & Warburg in conjunction with Leo Cooper at £15.00, very good reading. A review copy has only recently reached us but there are cars in this account of the Australian Forces in action, to which we intend to refer in detail next month.


Motor Racing Publications have just introduced a new “MRP Rally Library” of soft-cover standard-format books covering modern rally cars. We say “modern”, but the heritage of such competition cars is included and the first two books, Nos I and 2 in the series naturally, are on the Audi Quattro and the Vauxhall Chevette HS and HSR. The story of the Quattro goes back to Auto-Union times, as a picture of a 1936 C-type rear-engined GP car reminds us. The author of both books is — guess who — Graham Robson. They sell for a modest £4.95 each, with colour covers and centre-spread. Rally results conclude each book, although, of course, this will be a continuing story.


The AA has issued its 157,000-print order colour-picture “The Touring Book Of Britain,” which it describes as a comprehensive guide to the best the British Isles has to offer, contained in some 2,000 gazetteer entries from Abbot’s Bromley to Zennor. For those who still believe that motoring is as important as the motor car there are over 40 round-trip tours, and special interest towns and cities are not overlooked. London, in fact, gets an exclusive 15-page section and the book of 320 11 3/4 in x 8 in pages is completed by a 30-page eight-miles-to-the-inch atlas. The price is £13.95 from AA centres or bookshops.

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Brooklands Books, Holmerise, Seven Hills Road, Cobham, Surrey have just issued two new titles, “Road & Track on Maserati, 1937 / 83” and “Capri Muscle Cars, 1969 / 83” in its series of one-make books of reproduced magazine articles, the Capri book containing, for instance, MOTOR SPORT’s report on the Broadspeed Bullit and the Ford Capri III 3000S, but in the review copy pages had been omitted, including the first of the reproductions from our pages. The books sell at £5.50 each, or £6.00 post-free from the above address.

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The Transport Publishing Co, 128 Pikes Lane, Glossop, Derbyshire, continues its well-produced and illustrated magazine-size books about British ‘bus history with “A Wind of Change — The ‘Fifties” by Alan Townsin, a positive treat for ‘bus fanatics, which will cost them £7.00 in soft cover or £8.50 in case-bound form. Much painstaking research was involved in their compiling, 195 photographs, clearly reproduced, were used, and a useful bibliography is included. — W.B.