Book reviews, May 1989, May 1989
Sunbeam Racing Cars 1910-1930 by Anthony S Heal. 384pp. 93/4″ x 101/2″. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £49.95).
Anthony Heal is the expert on Sunbeam racing cars, having studied the subject for fifty years and raced three notable examples in vintage events, so his long-awaited history could well be the motoring book of the year.
It describes all the racing Sunbeams and their successes and failures in track and road races in much detail, supported by a matchless collection of 502 photographs and diagrams, many of full-page size, splendidly reproduced on the best gold-blocked art paper. Having studied motoring history for as long as the author, I have naturally seen quite a number of them previously, but the enlargement and presentation here do them fresh justice and the new ones are an additional joy. Each is meticulously captioned — stories in themselves — with almost every person depicted named.
Dedicated to John Wyer, the book is divided into chapters on the early racing cars, the side-valve cars, racing in America, the “decline and fall of Ernest Henry”, Brooklands and sprint events, “the Italian connection” (in which Heal defends the 1923 French Grand Prix-winning Sunbeam against sneers that it was just a “green Fiat”), the 4-litre V12s, the sports 3-litre, the 1927 and 1930 Land Speed Record cars (plus a 15-page report by Harry Wilding on the Silver Bullet’s attempt), the Tiger, Tigress and Cub, Campbell’s rebuilds (one by T&T’s, the other by Robin Jackson), and the racing exploits of eighteen private owners. This last chapter is particularly interesting, and includes GJ Jackson’s sand racing activities; but although RT Spencer’s Brooklands win with his 1914 GP Sunbeam gets in, JS Spencer’s later victory with one of the 2-litre 1922 cars is omitted.
As ever, Heal prefers to write a factual history, so those expecting to find mysteries solved — such as how Coatalen was able to obtain and copy a 1913 Coupe de l’Auto Peugeot at his Wolverhampton house (Motor Sport, November 1977), under what contract Ernest Henry worked for STD, or why Sunbeam withdrew from Indianapolis in 1919— will be disappointed. Which is far from saying that no fascinating fresh facts emerge!
A full racing history of this ambitious Wolverhampton company is backed by appendices of specifications and results (like those Heal provided for Cassell’s 1954 Motoring Entente), power-curves, and my contribution of Brooklands lap-speeds and results to 1932. Printing errors are virtually non-existent, apart from one amusingly turning the 1000hp LSR car into a three-wheeler, HF Locke-King’s initial rendered as J, and “Peugot” appearing twice — which is hairsplitting, over what will become the standard work on its subject, a monument to Sunbeam from a writer who has run a 1926 twin-cam 3-litre for 44 years.
The foreword is by Herve Coatalen (son of Louis, the famous Sunbeam chief engineer and managing director), and the book comes in a slip-case with a dust-cover painting of Segrave passing the stricken Fiat in 1923, to achieve the first British win in the French Grand Prix, done specially by Phil May. And just to worry Nigel Lawson a bit more, a hundred signed leather-bound editions are available — for £250 each. WB
Holden — The Official Racing History. 367pp. 11″ x 81/4. (Chevron Publishing Group. Distributed in the UK by Menoshire Limited, 49 Churchfield Road, Acton, London W3 6AY. £19.95).
Although of limited interest in this country, Holden is the Australian equivalent of Vauxhall, but “down under” the parent company was more sympathetic to any sporting aspirations.
This marvellous book, beautifully produced as only the Australians seem to know how, is a fine tribute to the 40 years Hoidens have been competing. The text is informative and factual and interspersed with well-printed photographs and period adverts, most of which are in colour. At the back therein a comprehensive list of Holden competition successes between 1953 and 1988. This is a specialised book with only a limited market in this country but whether you are interested in saloon racing or just want to see just how well a book can be produced, be sure to pick up a copy. WPK
Readers might be interested to know that that indispensible reference annual The FIA Yearbook is available from Menoshire Limited, 49 Churchfield Road, Acton, London W3 6AY. Priced at £25.95, “the yellow book”, as it is commonly known, is the Bible of the sport. WPK
Rolls-Royce Cars and Bentley from 1931 — The Complete History by Halwart Schrader. 304pp. 105/8″ X 91/2″. (Dirk Nishen Publishing, 19 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2PT. £74.95).
Halwart Schrader is the owner of one of the best motoring bookshops in Germany as well as being editor of a classic car magazine, and so expectations of this glossy book were high despite doubts about it being “The Complete History.”
Superficially it is a very fine book and is well presented although let down by the poorish printing. Once you are immersed in the text, various problems soon come to the surface, for it is littered with spelling mistakes. For instance the 41/4 Bentley is consistently referred to as the 41/2 in captions. Even worse are the errors with regard to pictures. On page 225 in the chapter on 41/4s, for example, a “Bentley 41/4, Litre with a Mulliner body” is in fact a rather unattractive Mark VI Special.
This can be dismissed as a reference book of any sort, so your £74.95 would be far better off spent on books that might be less lavish but a great deal more useful. WPK
Following the demise of Enzo Ferrari, books about his inimitable motor-cars will be appearing in still greater numbers, and those already available will take on a new aura of interest and nostalgia. Two new tides are currently available from Dalton Watson.
Ferrari — Forty Years On The Road by Stanley Nowak is a stupendous compendium containing 309 black-and-white and 62 colour pictures, which by dividing up the many Ferrari types and tabulating their specifications does much to sort out a complex range of supercars. The author has owned more than a dozen Ferraris and has been helped by Rob de la Rive Box, so his book should be authentic and acceptable, especially in America. Well produced on art paper, it sells here for £39.95.
The text of Wallace A Wyss’ Ferrari 308/ 328/Mondial oozes American enthusiasm, the pages picture-crammed to make a fascinating study. This one sells here for £15.95, having first appeared in 1982. WB
One-make histories of well-known and even of lesser-known cars have long been part of the book scene, and one-model books are not unknown. In the latter category is John Lawson’s reference work on MG Y-Type Saloons and Tourers, which comes from MRP of Croydon, costs £14.95, and is described as a labour of love by an author who spent ten years researching these rather rare MGs which surfaced in 1947. He includes their competition appearances, the XPAG engine, special bodies, what a buyer should look for, and reprints of original road-tests. WB
Champion Year by Mike Hawthorn. 192pp. 81/2″ x 51/2″. Aston Publications Limited, Bourne End House, Harvest Hill, Bourne End, Bucks. SL8 5JJ. £13.95
Following the re-publication of Challenge Me The Race last year, Aston Publications has now brought out Champion Year to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Mike Hawthorn’s death.
The original manuscript was delivered to the publishers three days before he lost his life in a car crash so the book has always had that air of poignancy about it anyway. Hawthorn was a popular fellow, and although many today feel that he was not a worthy World Champion, a perusal through the text soon disabuses one of that notion. It was a busy year for him, spending most of his time driving Ferraris in Formula One and in international sports-car races and Jaguars in production saloons, but there are also interesting asides on places he visited, food and women.
The story is very much interwoven with “mon ami mate” Peter Collins who was tragically killed at the Nurburgring in 1958 and so the book is doubly interesting. Motor racing has changed dramatically since these days and this book revives many happy memories from that era. WPK
For those who missed the limited hardback edition first time round, Transport Bookman (8 South Street, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 7BG) has published Rosemeyer by Elly Beinhon Rosemeyer and Chris Nixon in softback, at £11.95. There is no need to reiterate just what a fine biography it is, so if you missed it first time around, make sure you do not miss it now. WPK
Wrhen researching for background information on various cars, the back issues of Motor Sport prove immensely valuable, but sometimes one needs a wider perspective on the subject.
Brooklands Books has for years made a mint of money by reproducing magazine articles on related subjects and producing them as books. The latest batch to have been produced include the Alfasud, Alfetta coupes, Citroen DS and ID, Fiat-Pininfarina 124 and 2000 Spider, Fiat Bertone X1/9, Honda CRX and Mercedes 190 and 300SL. Good value at £6.95 if you can put up with the poor printing. WPK
Video: Scalextric — 311 Years Of An Extraordinary Toy 25 minutes. (Wychwood Video Publishing, PO Box 44, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 7AE. £14.95 + £1.50 p&p)
Originally made for a cable television channel but now extended to take in an interview with the creator of Scalextric, Fred Francis, this is the condensed but nonetheless informative history of the slot-racing toy which became a national institution — from the clockwork metal models of the mid-Fifties to the tyre-smoking, head-lamped, electric-engined plastic speedsters of the late Eighties.
Cleverly filmed car-to-car action is interspersed with archive factory footage and shots of cars and accessories through the years, and mention is also made of the collectors’ market and competitive events which exist for the serious amateur (the British Grand Prix, a round of the European Championship, took place recently in Wood Green). And yes, there is such a thing as a Scalextric qualifying tyre, albeit home-made!
Brief but interesting to the casual enthusiast, this video is as essential to the Scalextric collector as the cars themselves. GT