Book Reviews, November 1975, November 1975

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“Vanwall—The Story of Tony Vandervell and his Racing Cars” by Denis Jenkinson and Cyril Posthumus. 176 pp. 91 in. x 6i int (PSL, Barr Hill, Cinnbridge. £4.95). The release of this long-awaited book about the late Tony Vandervell of the famous Thinwall-bearing Company and his successful on slaught on “the red cars” in Fl racing between 1954 and 1958 marks the book publishing event of the year, in motoring circles. The chronicling of the great and successful Vanwall endeavour, which was directed with such ruthless, individual enthusiasm by millionaire-industrialist Tony Vandervell, was long overdue. And to put it into perspec tive, I quote from this book: “There were ten races in the Championship series in 1958, and Mr. Vandervell’s cars ran in nine of them, won six, and also achieved a second place,

two third places, and three fastest laps”.

For those with short memories, that will point to the influence of Vanwall racing on British prestige and uplift at that time. I well remember my excitement when, with other Britishers in the Press-box at Reims, I stood up as Vanwall led all those “red jobs” and my elation when, almost alone in a grandstand at Monza which was rapidly emptying of disconsolate Italians, I saw Brooks cross the line in the winning Vanwall at the Italian GP. So it is important that this great period in British racing should be properly set down for posterity. That is what Jenkinson and Posthumus have done, in such a fashion that I could not readily stop reading them, no matter how late the hour or what calls there were in other directions.

For it is all there in the most commendable detail, like a Blight, without quite the intensity of a Talbot-tome. The engineering behind the Vanwalls and the Thinwall Specials that led them is described in minute detail— material specifications, results of all the painstaking research done by VP Products and outside suppliers, technical aspects of each car, even down to valve-timing .diagrams, With numerous cut-away drawings, and so on. The incredible number of disappointments Vandervell had to face, culminating in the death of Stuart Lewis-Evans that made him fold up the entire project, are dealt with from the inside, dispassionately and without journalistic drama, obviously by someone who knew exactly what was going on and what Vandervell was trying to achieve, enhanced by recent study of all the VP racing documents and correspondence. The loveable character of Tony Vanderwell, the man behind it all, the oft-times grumpy “guy’nor”, conies over well throughout the book. Posthumus has contributed early historical chapters and Jenkinson, who lap-scored for av. Yorke’s Vanwall team in 1958 (some11,,e4v also contriving to write MOTOR PORT’s GP reports!), has done the race !1,istnry and the technical story. The result is .Lne most exciting and interesting motor-racmg book I have read for a very long time. I

do not propose to dissect it, because all who are proud of British endeavour and who loved that great era of European motor racing arc going to read it anyway. So I will content myself by saying that the many pictures, if small, could not have been better chosen, that it is all there—power curves, cut-away drawings, tabulated lists of Vanwall raceresults, .suppliers, drivers, etc., references to the transporters, hotels, travel arrangements, fuel-mixes used and so on—and that Stirling Moss, who was the driver who most aided Vanwall, winning seven races for them, backed up and partnered in one of them by Tony Brooks, has written a thoughtful Foreword.

Apart from its importance in telling of the Vanwall endeavour, other little-remembered Vandervell ventures, such as his excursion into F3 and the Italian chassis and parts he bought, are included, as is the venturing onto public roads of the Thinwall, even in Stoke Poges! An unusual assessment of damage to the cars in racing accidents -is possible, because Tony Vandervell insured them and had claims met to the nearest penny! On every other page you seem to learn something you had forgotten, or never knew, about Vanwall—did you know there was a lapel badge,. for instance, Or associate the Vandy car with the Vandervells?

If I have any criticism at all, it is that race information seems to tail off over the last full season, as if the writer was at last tiring at what must have been a strenuous writing feat. Otherwise, “Vanwall” cannot be faulted, the only errors I noted being a single printing mistake and the Wolseley Moth described as a 11-litre car, whereas it took records in the under 1i-litre Light Car Class, being of 1,260 c.c. But that is hair-splitting.

This is a great contribution to serious motor-racing history, yet I think it can be recommended as essential reading by those new to the game—the girl-friend, young son, etc.—who wish to understand what motor racing is all about.—W.B.