Reviews, May 1995
Brooklands – A Pictorial History, by G N Georgano. Dalton Watson Fine Books, Loughborough. £12.99
Brooklands Track continues to exert so much interest and fascintion that any book about it is bound to be appreciated. So I am glad that this little picture album that was first published by Beaulieu Books in 1978 has been re-issued by Dalton Watson. Not only is it a marvellous introduction to anyone who was unfortunate enough never to have known the Track between 1907 and 1939 but it will rekindle hordes of happy memories for those who did. It is all there the motor and motorcycle racing, the flying, the building of this first-ever motor course, the topography, the officials, the crowds, the famous and not-so-famous cars that raced there… Reproduction of the 230 pictures is not as sharp as in the art-paper original but they are clear enough to be equally evocative.
Less good is the fact that no corrections have been made, so that we still find a BAC named as an Eric-Campbell, the Bugatti “Black Bess” ascribed to Peter Hampton whereas before his death it had been acquired by David Heimann who still owns it, etc. But it is excellent that this nostalgic book is available again. It forms a fine introduction to Grenville’s full 362-page (299 illustrations) “History of Brooklands”. The only additions to Dalton Watson’s new 112-page work are pages on the Brooklands Society and 2½ pages on the Brook lands Museum.
The Works Big Healeys, by Peter Browning. Haynes, £19.99
All the punch and excitement of the big rally Austin-Healey 100-Six and 3000s is marvellously captured in this 224-page history of their international competition history by BMC’s competition manager from 1967 to 1970. Who better, especially as Browning was General Secretary of the Austin-Healey Club from 1960.
His recall of the events of those days is wonderfully presented not only in the text but of 47 of the drivers who coped with these cars Pat Moss, Ann Wisdom, John Gott, Tony Ambrose, Peter Riley, etc and in 212 illustrations, which include all 30 Abingdon prepared cars. But it goes much further: the book contains details of 114 rally entries by the works Big Healeys, full competition listing of chassis, engine and Reg Nos of these cars, the results attained and – note – details of owners past and present. To say that no Healey follower should be without is not trite – it is absolutely true.
Damon Hill From Zero To Hero, by Alan Henry. Haynes, £9.99
Congratulations to Haynes-PSL on bringing Alan Henry’s live account of Damon Hill’s life and racing career, on two wheels as well as four, which appeared last year, right up to date. This 192-page paperback now includes the dramatic 1994 season.
Works Wonders, by Marcus Chambers. MRP £16.99.
The cult of classic rallies and repros of former great International fixtures has focussed interest in what these rallies were like in the Fifties and Sixties. So this detailed look-back at those in which the BMC, Rootes and Chrysler (UK) teams took part in much greater intent than is absolutely necessary in today’s reproductions must be of general interest. Especially when recounted by Marcus Chambers, “the poor-man’s Neubauer”, who managed these highly-competitive competition departments in the days when the Monte Carlo, Tulip, Acropolis, Alpine, Leige, Rome-Leige, and RAC were of the upmost importance. Not forgetting forays in the Le-Mans 24-hour race, some record bids, the Sebring races, etc.
In this book, a follow-up to his highly entertaining and informative book “Seven Year Twitch”, each major event with which Chambers was associated has a separate chapter, which makes for easy reference, in addition to those on races, record attempts, the Marathon finale, rallying with the Tigers and struggling with the Imps, etc. Then there are five Appendices, on policy, briefing notes, timing notes, spares lists and BMC successes, 1955-1961. Add 30 pages of clustered pictures, a Foreword by Stuart Turner, another “British Neubauer”, a charming Preface by Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom and an Appreciation of John Gott, who died in his Healey in 1972, and you will see what a fund of absorbing material for rally followers Marcus’s latest book represents.
How to Power-Tune AlfaRomeo Twin-Cam Engines (£9.99) and How to Give Your MGB V-8 Power (£12.99), Veloce Publishing.
I’m not one to get my hands dirty, but both of these books gave me a surge of confidence that the job would actually be possible. Roger Williams describes every pitfall and how to avoid it when doubling the cylinders in your B. with diagrams and templates galore. The attention to detail extends down to switches and badges, plus lists of parts to seek. If you want more cams and fewer pots, Jim Kartalamakis seems to know Alfa twin-cams inside out, from 1300 to 2-litre, together with all the substitution tweaks which work on the earlier ones. Both are clearly illustrated and include supplier addresses.
The Lanchester Legacy 1895-1931, by C S Clark. Coventry University Enterprises Ltd. Priory Street, Coventry. £28.00 post-free.
Lanchester history has not been exactly neglected, because back in 1965 Anthony Bird and Francis Hutton-Stott had a very adequate and interesting account of these cars, the Company, and the Lanchester brothers, and I remember in 1962 writing a long appreciation of a biography. This is exactly what Lanchester-owner Chris Clark has provided. His first volume is about the veteran and vintage periods, when Lanchesters broke so much new ground in the pioneer era and made such advanced, and notably “different”, cars. Clark is now working on the second volume, for 1932 to 1955.
Whereas the Bird book was of smaller format and 240 pages, Clark has used 279 A4-size pages to make the best use of fine colour plates of these great British luxury cars and his text benefits from an intimate knowledge of them. Obviously some repetition is inevitable, but on the whole the information is refreshingly different and notably informative. It cheerfully includes the classic remark by King George V to Frank Lanchester, when the King was shown a garish body style on the 40 hp chassis at the 1919 Show, and that equally classic explanation of why, at one time, Lanchester thought the new 21 hp chassis required 4WB when the bigger 40 hp car was satisfactory with back-wheel brakes only…
But that is to divert from the book’s real objective, which is to record the history of a remarkable Company and the technicalities and development of its Rolls-Royce-challenging cars. Certainly the author, who uses his immaculate Lanchesters for wedding-hire, puts in much quoted praise of these vehicles. But he does not omit the more important and very interesting mechanical and test details etc. To this end there are 24 chapters, running from “The Victorian Years” to “The End of the Road”, with separate ones for each model in between — starting with the 5hp Stanhope Phaeton and finishing with the desirable eightcylinder 30 hp Lanchester. The racing and record-breaking Lanchesters, from Hann’s enclosed “Hoieh-Wayaryeh-Gointoo” to the Rapson Forty, much of it culled from my Brooklands History, but again with new facts are not without interest; but one of the drivers was J G, not J P Parry Thomas. The armoured Lanchesters are there, the 50 full-page colour prints are excellent and the 400 other illustrations include engine pictures, extracts from catalogues and advertisements, etc, and there are “new” illustrations of the many wooden cyclecars in which Dr Fred Lanchester dabbled. The great number of pictures new to the book embellish the important text, which is enhanced by reproductions of old letters, diagrams etc. The Foreword is by Nick Scheele of Jaguar Cars, the Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University contributes a complimentary piece about the author and an Appendix gives details of surviving Lanchesters. The Index could be more comprehensive. It is a valuable and important contribution to automotive history, yet the writer is modest enough to ask for any new information or amendments to be sent to him via the publisher — a modesty not all authors possess!
Pick Of Stamford, by Michael Key. Paul Watkins Publishing, 18 Adelaide Street, Stamford, Lincs £14.95.
Here is a well-written book (53 pages plus many more from catalogue reproductions) about John Henry Pick, who produced his first car in 1899, and his business career. The aforesaid catalogue reproductions are rare in themselves, like the car, and provide 38 of the many scarce and interesting pictures in this fascinating history, one less now for our “Forgotten Makes” series!
Bicycles and other Pick products are included, there is a report from a 1923 copy of The Motor of a sports Pick on the road, rare pictures include those of factory interiors, a New Pick 2-seater that has survived in New Zealand, while a nice touch is a colour cover-picture of the only surviving 1901 voiturette of this make, shown taking part in the Brighton Run. It is matched on the back cover by the last of the line, a 1924 Pick saloon. The author’s association with Stamford Museum has ensured authenticity; although not a book that lines-up with full-scale histories. I liked it.
The 750 MC 1995 Year Book is packed with information essential to those who are A7 enthusiasts or indeed of low-cost motor racing, as well as results of the Club’s 1994 events and a full fixtures list for this year, competition formulae etc. Non-members can obtain copies for £2.15 post-free, while the supply lasts, from the 750 MV Club Office, (Mile Peck), Courthouse, St Winifreds Road, Biggin Hill, Kent TN16 3HR.