Book reviews, May 2004, May 2004

Kieft Racing Cars — The Brigend Story

By Peter Tutthill No ISBN Published by Peter Tutthill (Tel: 01208 812358)

At Goodwood on Whit Monday 1951, a Kieft rocketed around the outside of the predominant Coopers at the first corner and simply disappeared. It helped that its driver was a young Stirling Moss, but even he, a racer in constant search of a technological edge, has stated that this car marked the biggest advance he experienced throughout his entire career.

Naturally enough, Moss’s spell with Cyril Kieft’s marque provides a sizeable chunk of this self-published volume. But the real joy of it is the oddities: a chapter on the Welsh GP, Kieft’s road car that was basically a two-seater 500 (!) and the F2 version of the rear-engined design fitted with Archie Butterworth’s flat-four.

A few paras and a spell-check (there but for the grace of God…) wouldn’t have gone amiss. But great fun. PF

Seventies Championship Revolution

By Dick Wallen Published by Dick Wallen Productions, $75

If you’ve anything more than a passing interest in the US oval racing scene, then this is a must buy. Not for the text, because it is not much more than a race-by-race record of the USAC

National Championship through the 1970s, and a lightweight one at that — but for the photographs.

There are pictures of just about every marque which took part in the final years of the USAC championship before it withered and died in the face of opposition from the new CART series. You’ll probably remember Watson, Lightning and Wildcat, but how about Mongoose, Colt and King? They are all here in this book. The full results section is a useful reference, too. GW

Michelin — Pioneers of Motor Racing By Simon Rosenkran

This book tells me how little I’ve looked at London’s Michelin Building, even though I’m often in it. I even own a painting of it by Bob Freeman, yet I have only glanced at its most famous feature, the tiles. Every face of the wonderful 1911 edifice displays panels of coloured tiles by artist Ernest Montaut illustrating Michelin tyres helping pioneer heroes to various victories.

This quality publication illustrates all 34 panels in close-up, and it is a revelation. The detail is astonishing — not only are the motorcycles and racing cars accurately depicted, but faces are recognisable, and even dust, water and brass-work are all convincingly rendered.

Short outlines of the building, the artist and J Gordon Bennett introduce the plates, and each has a short text describing the event Fascinating. GC

The Healey Story

By Geoffrey Healey ISBN 85429 949 I Published by Haynes, £19.99

It was modest of the Late Geoffrey Healey’s wife and daughters not to add their name to this book: Healey died shortly after completing the first draught, and they put a lot of effort into finishing it.

This re-issue offers the whole story from the inside. Geoffrey was involved with his father Donald’s new sportscar company very early on and describes in detail the development of the marque and the competition successes which made its name. It built an astonishing number of special versions, for everything from the Mille Miglia to the salt flats in Bonneville, and Geoffrey entered numerous events, sometimes with his father, so his tales reveal the background stresses which weren’t obvious at the time.

Running right up to the Jensen-Healey and the company’s demise, the book is packed with information. I didn’t know of the planned Healey Fiesta, nor had I seen the scary photos of what a train did to Donald’s Triumph Dolomite. GC

The Jack Brabham Story

By Sir Jack Brabham OBE, with Doug Nye ISBN 1 86205 651 Published by Pavilion, £30

At last!! More than 30 years after hanging up his crash helmet, Sir Jack Brabham has got round to writing his autobiography. And it was well worth the wait — the work, produced in conjunction with Doug Nye, offers the definitive record of Blackjack’s career as a driver and constructor.

The book is much more than a blow-by-blow record of the three-time world champion’s 23 years as a racing driver, though. Both informative and very readable, it is packed full of previously unpublished anecdotes and photographs from Brabham’s personal archives, from his early days racing midget cars on dirt tracks in his native Australia right through to his final years in Formula One.

You probably didn’t know that Brabham walked to the grid of the 1966 Dutch Grand Prix with a cane and wearing a false beard. The joke was a riposte to press comments labelling him “the old man of motor racing”, as was the completion of a grand prix hat trick that afternoon. And the eventful tale of his trip to the 1957 Syracuse Grand Prix takes some believing.

There’s some fine studio photography of some of the great cars he drove, including the 1959 Cooper-Climax T51 and the Brabham-Repco BT25 that raced at Indianapolis. A nice touch, too, is the pictures of some of the trophies Brabham picked up through his career.

An appendix of results might have been a worthwhile addition, but that’s not really the point of the book. This is a real-life tale of a gritty Australian who conquered Formula One as a driver and a car builder. GW