The French Sports Car Revolution

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The French Sports Car Revolution — 1934-1939, by Anthony Blight. Haynes/Foulis, £95.00

Having written of the London Talbot in Georges Roesch and the Invincible Talbot, Blight became interested in the subsequent history and fortunes of the STD concern and its French rivals such as Delahaye, Delage, Bugatti, Gordini, Simca-Fiat and so on. Equally thorough, he commenced his research, owning one of the later Talbots and spending time in France meeting those who could aid his investigations.

He died when this monumental work was almost finished, and it was completed from his notes, overseen by his son-in-law Stephen Curtis, which delayed the book by five years. But now here it is, all 547 pages of it, a painstakingly detailed record of how the French sports car makers fared after the depression and in racing, not only in great events like Le Mans and the Mille Miglia but in other significant contests, the results in an Appendix. Anthony Blight tells of how the political, financial and social changes in Europe between 1934 and the outbreak of war affected the French sports car manufacturers. This makes the book valuable and interesting, over and above the intimate motor racing content.

In it the great drivers such as Benoist, Divo, Dreyfus, Giraud-Cabantous, Gordini, the Schells, Veyron and Wimille have their rightful place. But the opening chapters are concerned with how the changing political scene affected Bugatti, Delahaye and Talbot. Blight then covers, in his inimitable style, how Delahaye manoeuvred to cope, the Talbot decline and fall, stemmed by Tony Lago, and the subsequent fortunes of these and other makes in racing, including the arrival of the BMW, the New Delahayes, the Schells and the emergence of the new sports cars across Europe and their successes and failures in all the contests they took part in, up to the 1940 Mille Miglia. It is the detail, the fresh facts, the coverage of races which have tended to be neglected in the past, which make this book such an essential contribution to sports car history. Blight unravels this with a lawyer’s fluency and he packs no punches — his opinion of Bugattis will amuse some, anger others — and only a lawyer’s perspicacity, surely, could have seen that the commencement of this “second coming” was born out of if s appearing on a humble little Peugeot saloon! Which explains why only Blight could have tackled this complex subject so effectively, and in such a readable way. Colourplates are quite unnecessary to embellish his erudite text; good B&W photographs add all that are required.

This unique work will be limited to 1500 numbered copies, so an early order is advised. W B