Book Reviews, November 1979, November 1979

“The Quality Of Work & The Quality Of Art — A Study On Bugatti” by E. HaIlums. 11 1/2″ x 8″. 84 pp. (Mithra Press Ltd., 15 Ridgmount Street, London WC1E 7AH. £16. 50).

Everyone who wishes to take an informed interest in the current Exhibition of Bugatti Art (cars as well as sculpture and furniture) at the Arts Council will want to read this artistically produced, high-quality book, which aims to knit it all together. There even seem to be some “new” pictures of Bugatti cars in races and elsewhere, and the other aspects of Bugatti art are naturally well described and depicted. I am not of an artistic temperament, which is probably why I am less apt than some to see the alleged close association between the early cubist furniture of Carlo Bugatti and the mechanical masterpieces of Ettore Bugatti. But for those who want to bask in an appreciation of all forms of Bugatti art this book is a beautifully-produced introduction. It abounds in properly-produced illustrations, some in colour, and the contents take in such Bugatti aspects as patronage, tutors and Eminences Grises, the concept of per sang, an epilogue about Jean Bugatti who was killed in a Bugatti, as well as a map and plan of the Bugatti factory. Other chapters are full of artistic concept. The pictures include a full page one of some of Carlo Bugatti’s cubist furniture (very ugly, to my mind) and parts of Bugatti engines, such as a water-pump in bronze from a Type 27 and an advance-and-retard lever from a Type 30 (but was the Type 30 ever a truly Grande Sport?), which are certainly artistic.

There are pictures of Bugattis in races, such as Caliri’s GP in the 1926 Targa Florio and his Brescia at La Turbie, and scenes from the 1922 IoM 1,500 c.c. race, and even a chain of family signatures, starting with Carlo’s. There is a comparison, which sets the tone of the book, between the “banana”-tappets of the Brescia Bugatti engine and the pillars supporting the nave of the Duomo in Milan, which should give plenty of scope for artists to suggest that Ettore had the latter in mind when planning this engine and engineers to perhaps think it might have been lack of complicated machine-tools that compelled Ettore to think up a simple way of prodding two close-set vertical valves and use square sections for another engine aspects! The book comes in a durable jacket and a cardboard container. W.B.

“La Lancia” by Wim Oude Weernink. 303 pp. 10″ x 7 1/2″ (Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 28 Devonshire Road, London W4 2HD.. £19.95).

It has been said that Lancia never made a bad car, at all events until recent times, and it is a make that has a very loyal but not loud following, here as in other parts of Europe. Although we have published a good deal of Lancia model-by-model history at various times in Motor Sport, a full-scale book-size account of these fine cars has been long overdue. Now Weerninck, the Dutch motoring writer who has owned several Lancias and who won the Dutch KNAC Press prize for his study of Spyker, has filled the void. He has produced a complete history of Lancia from the days of Vincenzo Lancia to the present-day Fiat-backed Beta, Gamma and Delta models. Thus the book is absolutely up-to-date.

The author has divided his work into 16 chapters, covering the early Lancias, following an introduction to Vincenzo himself, and then describing the fabulous Lambda, which he calls a “technical masterpiece”, through the luxury and practicability of the Dilambda, Astura, Artena and Augusta models, down through the Aurelias and Appias (each of which gets a chapter to itself), and the sports-racing D20 and D25 cars, to the racing Lancias and then to chapters about the Flaminia, Flavia/Fulvia, the Stratos, and so to the moderns. This isn’t all, because Lancia trucks and ‘buses are covered in the final chapter. Appendices cover production figures for all these models, car specifications, maintenance and tune-up data and they also provide specifications of the Lancia commercial-vehicles from 1912 to 1968. What is more, Weernink has called upon Adrian Cimarosi, Sports Editor of Automobile Revue, to round-off his book with a list of Lancia competition successes — Motor Sport readers, being used to small type, should be able to cope — with a magnifying-glass!

The type in the body of the book is larger, so clear and readable, and the book abounds in illustrations of every kind, several on almost every page, which should hold Lancia fans spellbound, in spite of rather dull reproduction. Not a bad feat for a person who admits to knowing nothing about his Lancia Appia except that it was Italian when he bought it in 1969! I rate this book, with its attractive dust-jacket of admittedly posed colour pictures, a very important addition to one-make literature, and a fascinating record of, as the author puts it, 70 years of excellence. — W.B.

“Targa Florio” by David Owen. 232pp. 10″ x 6½” (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £7.95).

Books about particular races, which I suppose I pioneered with Grenville’s JCC 200-Mile Race book many years ago, have a special place in motoring archives and although we have been provided with many along the years, the list is still far from complete. David Owen has now enlarged on a theme developed by W. F. Bradley a long time ago, after being lent a copy of this book about the Targa Florio. The outcome has been a complete account by him of this famous race, from 1906 to the last of these epic, arduous contests that was run off in 1973. Although the text suggests much use of contemporary Press reports, with some permissible padding about other races, here is a useful record and enthralling story of this race, with a list of results, and a selection of high-quality colour-plates of scenes from the 1966, 1971 and 1972 Targa Florios.

Many of the earlier black-and-white photographs used for this book have been seen before, but this is excusable now that “new” motor racing photographs are ever more difficult to locate. Anyway, the front “end-paper” depicting the sheer enthusiasm on the part of the spectators for Vaccarella as his Ferrari passes through Campofelice during the 1970 Targa Florio more than whets the appetite for what follows, as does a nostalgic picture of Moss and Collins on their way to winning the 1955 Targa Florio in a 300SLR Mercedes-Benz. The author has made up additional pictorial coverage with his colour side-views of some of the Targo Florio cars but I cannot believe that the Type 35B Bugatti used by Materassi to win in 1927 was a single-seater.

Maps of the different circuits are provided and the book must be sound, because. Stirling Moss, who has assured us in advertisements for Underseal that he refuses to endorse inferior products, has contributed a Foreword. — W. B.

“Lucky All My Life — The Biography of Harry Weslake” by Jeff Clew. 176pp. 9 1/4″ x 6 3/4″. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset B422 7JJ. £6.95).

This is another very welcome book, by the industrious Jeff Clew, who manages to interview motoring and motorcycling celebrities and pack a great deal of fascinating detail into the biographies that result. Harry Weslake died before his biography was published, so it makes a fitting epitaph to a quite remarkable character. Harry Weslake was the top tuner of internal-combustion engines, of a great many different makes and types, and he was thus both a motoring and a motorcycling celebrity. Jeff Clew has revealed Harry’s life story as it was told to him by the great man himself, so another essential piece of history and human-interest story, has been preserved for posterity.

In recent years Weslake was known for his Speedway engines but the book covers it all — his early life, the Brooklands era, and Harry’s pioneering study of air-flow through valve ports, leading to the formation of Weslake & Taylor Limited, his war-time work, and the great part played by this remarkable man in post-war motor racing. The engines tuned and conceived at the Rye factory are all here, and one is immediately reminded of the part played by Weslake in the improving of such racing power-units as the V8 BRM, the Gurney-Weslake Eagle, the John Surtees Chevrolet conversion, the push-rod Chrysler Indianapolis power unit, the 3-litre Gulf Mirage engine, and many, many more. What of a Rolls-Royce boat engine with eight d d Zenith carburetters, or a modified AEC diesel ‘bus engine, or a turbo-charged Ford V6? These are but a few of the great variety of engines that had the Harry Weslake magic instilled into them.

Because of his close association with racing, many of the greatest riders and drivers of motorcycles and cars figure in this book, and the pictures therein. One photograph, of “Weslake Racing” transporter, makes the point. Harry’s down-to-earth humour comes over well and because he was a person who believed in calling a spade a spade and not a shovel, Jeff Clew was able to obtain those intimate anecdotes and inside stories that add so much to the reader’s enjoyment in this long and painstaking history. I am prepared to stand by the warm enthusiasm for the man and the book, as expressed in the Foreword by Motor Sport’s Continental Correspondent, Denis Jenkinson, and to share his enthusiasm for the fact that a remarkable story is now available to us. — W.B.

“Motoring in the 20’s and 30’s” by A. B. Demaus. 120pp 10″ x 7 1/4″ (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4 Fitzhardinge Street, London W1N 0AH. £5.95)

This was a good idea, by an author of integrity, possibly intended for general consumption, but interesting to the dedicated motoring enthusiast who likes to look at pictures of roads and towns and wayside scenes, as they were before the war. I say it was a good idea, because it has scarcely come off. This is because the publisher has reproduced Demaus’ photographs so that everything seems to be happening in the twilight, if not in the middle of the night! This is a pity, because while there are many old favorites among this collection of pictures that are held together by brief chapters about period motorcycling, cyclecars and baby-cars, going for a spin, motoring almost for the masses, sport, public transport, garages and traffic and accidents, some of them would have been very nice to look at if they had been more clearly reproduced.

Nevertheless, there are some fun-things in this small offering. I like the Beardmore taxi and Rolls-Royce which are creeping up on the motor-coaches, on the way to the Derby in 1931, and the cars in the 1918 Worcester Armistice Parade. Others show vintage cars inside and outside provincial garages, a bowler-hatted owner vacuum-cleaning the hood of what looks like a Singer Senior, and the sort of cars you might have hired in Crouch End in 1925. There are also rare pictures of E. R. Hall’s supercharged Arrol-Aster at Shelsley Walsh and the magnificent Horch coupe in which Hans Stuck drove to that venue in 1936 when he competed there with an Auto-Union. The spirit of pre-war motoring would have been so nicely conveyed by these pictures had Batsford managed to do better with them. As it is, the book must be rated an expensive luxury. But those who look through it may be able to help the author identify some of the cars whose makes do not appear in the captions — like the low-built tourer at the bottom of page 37, which I think might have been a Vandy. The dust-jacket has come off better than the book, with colour plates of a Swift Ten and a Rolls-Royce taken from publicity photographs. Try again, Mr. Batsford. — W.B.

“The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow” by John Bolster, “The Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer” by Mel Nichols, “The Mercedes-Benz Roadsters” by L. J. K. Setright. All 134/35pp. 8 1/2″ x 7″ (Osprey Publishing Limited, 12-14, Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP. £4.95 each)

These are high-grade one-model books in a new series by Osprey, an answer as it were to Motor Racing Publications’ and other publishers’ one-make model books. While not replacing the need for full histories of great makes and companies, these books give the reader plenty of information and picture-coverage about particular models. Each author in the three books in this series listed above writes as one would expect, and each presents a worthwhile study of his chosen subject, in rather a catalogue style. The pictures, with colour sections, are well worth having.

John Bolster sets out to answer the sort of questions most enthusiasts never dare to ask about the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and its ancillary versions, according to the publisher, whatever that may mean. He does look analytically at the car, while never wavering from his belief in the Rolls-Royce as the World’s Best. The book is really a very complete description of the Shadow I and II and of the Corniche, Camargue, Wraith II and Bentley-T which derive from it, with information on the modifications applied since the first Shadow I appeared. This detailed data makes the book another essential addition to the massive amount of Rolls-Royce information already published. That apart, Bolster is not as critical as might have been expected, or as the late Anthony Bird was when revising his standard Batsford R-R history to include the then-new Shadow. However, Bolster does cast a slight aspersion on the V12 engine, for use with automatic transmission, as having less low-speed-torque and a higher fuel-thirst than a V8, an accusation which the Jaguar engineers might wish to answer. Otherwise, this is just another excellent R-R reference works, complete even to a break-down of production figures for individual styles of modern R-R models, and a book backed by excellent illustrations.

Mel Nichols’ study of the Series 365 and 512-Series Boxer Ferraris is just as appealing if you are a Ferrari fanatic and in this case it is the 12-cylinder engine that is glorified. Leonard Setright does just as well for Osprey as the other two authors, if not quite so well for Mercedes-Benz, inasmuch as he has allowed himself to be quite outspoken about some of the non-virtues of the earlier models of the 230, 250, 280, 350, 450SL and 450SLC roadsters than were his brief. He also used his knowledge of how modern tyre-techniques have assisted the road-clinging of modern fast cars, and included other Setrightian technicalities in the building of his material about these individual Mercedes-Benz models. These are very good books indeed, which should be on the bookshelves of those who own or covet the cars with which they deal. Production data and specifications figure in all three books. It looks like a series with a future, yet so often promising book-series of this kind have faded away before covering a fraction of the cars it was intended they should. Better luck to the Osprey venture! -W.B.

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One of the great treats among coffee-table-type volumes is “Photo Formula 1 — The Best of Automobile Year, 1953-1978″. As the title implies, the publishers of the luxury annual Automobile Year have picked out the best of the F1 motor racing pictures from their files. The result is an extravaganza of nostalgic top-quality photography of motor racing as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, magnificently produced. The work of 45 established motor-racing photographers was used, to fill this 160pp. 12″ x 9″ book with 110 black and white and 56 colour shots, for your enjoyment and appreciation. If, that is, you have £17.50 available. The book is handled here by Patrick Stephens Ltd., Bar Hill, Cambridge CB3 8EL.