British Cars at Le Mans

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by Dominique Pascal. 146 pp. 11 1/4″ x 8″ GT Foulis & Co, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ. £14.95

The French motoring journalist Pascal had produced two earlier books about the Le Mans 24-hour race, Porsche at Le Mans and Ferrari at Le Mans. The idea of doing another, on the many British cars which have appeared there, successfully or otherwise, seemed an excellent one, although a task involving vast research. Pascal seemed to have pulled it off very well indeed, and we found this both a fine browsing book and an informative one, the latter because each picture of 326 British cars that ventured to Le Mans is captioned with what befell them, their racing numbers entrants and drivers, and how they were placed if they finished the race. It all seemed very good indeed, as we enjoyed the large opening pictures of the Bentleys which initially did so impressively at the Sarthe and, delving deeper, discovered that even the two Lotus 23s of Colin Chapman, one with Ford-Cosworth 105E 997cc and the other with a 750cc engine, which were after the Index of Performance Award but which the officials refused to let compete, on the grounds, Pascal says, of improving French hopes in this category, are included.

Then the blow came! We got to the section on the 1935 Le Mans race and although the lead-in told of how a Lagonda won at record speed that year, there was no picture of the car! In amazement, I closed the book. Others will find the many studies of most of the other British marques great stuff, crash, pictures and retirements, as well as those of successes, being depicted. Drivers of Lagondas will be excused if they tear the book apart and drive their 4 1/2-litres over the remains!

If you buy The Turbo Decade by Behram Kapadia, don’t expect a technical appraisal or analysis of the turbo era, you will be disappointed, for it isn’t anything of the kind. If you buy the book and expect to see plenty of colour pictures, all taken at British circuits incidentally, then you will not — in fact, it’s rather like looking at any enthusiast’s selection of photos taken at British Grands Prix over the years, except that these have been printed in a book.

Priced at £14.95, this 160 page volume is the sort of book Auntie Mary will give little Johnnie for Christmas, and which you can expect to see in the Bargain Boxes in the summer. WPK

Well now we know, and it has been the lot of the City Editor of the Sacramento Bee, an American daily newspaper, to enlighten us: the Ford Cortina has finally been accepted into the ranks of vintage cars. If you don’t believe me, you can turn to page 142 of Vintage Racing British Sports Cars and scrutinize the specifications of a “Vintage Racing Cortina”. Want something different, well why not go for a “Vintage Racing Mini-Cooper” or a “Vintage Racing MGB”, or, if you want something with class, a “Vintage Racing Aston Martin DB5 and DB6”.

Yes sir, here is a book on Vintage Racing British Sports Cars, published by Robert Bentley, yet not once does its namesake, one of the most pre-eminent vintage marques, get a look-in.

Mind you we should know, shouldn’t we, that when foreigners talk about “Veteran”, “Vintage”, “Post Vintage Thoroughbred”, “Classic”, they don’t know their Armstrong Siddeley from a Frazer Nash, so why be surprised when a book on Vintage Racing British Sports Cars is nothing of the kind.

But let’s be positive about it. It has 194 pages of useful information, such as a glossary of terms. Did you know, for example, that a grid is the starting order of cars entered in a race, or that a fuel cell is a rubber bladder encased in a metal shell that replaced the gas tank? If not, read on. In the second chapter on “Getting Started” we are warned that not all clubs are the same, and that not all cars are eligible for racing. Fascinating stuff.

The chapter on the individual marques are in fact quite good, especially on race preparation, and the black and white pictures are not bad either, but the rest is pure nonsense.

As far as I know, the book is not yet available in Britain, but if you have a passionate desire to get hold of a copy, you can write to Robert Bentley Inc, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138-9712, USA who, I am sure, will be glad to quote you a price. The foreword, by the way, is by Stirling Moss. Sadly.

On the other hand, if you are prepared to fork out quite a lot of money for a properly researched book by an American author on some American racing cars and buy it from a British publisher (G T Foulis & Co) then I can highly recommend a fabulous book called Corvette Grand Sport — A Photographic Race Log of the Magnificent Chevrolet Corvette Factory Specials 1962-1967 by Lowell C Paddock and Dave Friedman.

I must confess it was not a subject that immediately appealed to me, but once I picked the book up, I quickly became absorbed in a subject I knew very little about. Firstly the pictures were fascinating. They were so well laid out that each and every one told a story, and each was was complemented by a lengthy and informative caption. This in turn led to my reading the text to find out more about what was happening.

Okay, so the story is only about a handful of racing prototype Corvettes that escaped captivity and had no right to race at all, but their story is dramatic and interesting.

It was in 1962 that Zora Arkus-Duntov, godfather of the Corvette, began top secret work on a Corvette racer to take on the best of the European and Anglo-American cars, particularly the Cobras. 125 was the number that was originally planned to be built, but as soon as the top brass got wind of the project, it was a question of downing tools immediately or get out. Fortunately five had already been made and escaped into private hands where, with the conivance of the Chevrolet insiders, they were campaigned for three glorious seasons, beating on occasions the much respected Cobras. That they were powerful, ill-handling monsters comes through loud and clear with the innumerable quotes from drivers who raced them including AJ Foyt, Roger Penske and many other top names.

Unfortunately for us, we never had the opportunity of seeing the cars in Britain, so the next best thing is to read about them. There are 290 black and white photographs from the Grand Sport’s inception, through all its races and modifications, to the time they had become too outdated in the late Sixties. The Corvette Grand Sport is a must for all Corvette fans, but I would venture to say that it is also for those who appreciate a good story in a well presented book.

Latest in the well-respected PSL ‘Enthusiast’s Companion’ series is Ray Hutton’s coverage of the Nissan 300ZX, with new full colour illustrations. It is sold at £11.95. Both these books have purchase and maintainance hints and competition data. WB.

Car owners troubled about corrosion of their cars may have studied previous books about this worrying malady, hoping to discover how to stem its advance. Now comes a deeply technical work Motor Vehicle Corrosion Prediction On Vehicles (1950-present Day) by Hugh McArthur, Ph.D. (Cantab), MICT, published by Expert Books, Woodhouse Eaves, Nr Loughborough, Leics, LE12 8SD at £7.95. It is a very scientific discourse which I do not pretend to understand fully, telling of how the flow and constituency of road water effects body corrosion, how to answer the retort ‘Sorry Sir, it’s stone-chipping’ when claiming under a corrosion warranty, the difference between scab, metal perforation, etc, and generally what starts corrosion. It is hoped the book will be available at MoT testing stations and it could be useful to defending Council.

Of limited general appeal, Post-war Standard Cars is a 94-page book from Classic Support Services at £9.95.

Daily Express sports writer, Christopher Hilton, has told us about Honda’s Championship-level F1 racing achievements. He has now done the same about Honda’s motorcycle racing successes, over the past 30 years, in a high class 200 page 10″ x 7 1/4″ book with magnificent action pictures, a centrespread of sharp colour plates and descriptions of what it is like to lap the TT course at full bore. Wayne Gardner has done the Foreword and two-wheeler exponents will welcome Honda Conquerers of the Track. It is a Patrick Stephens/Thorsons book, priced at £15.99. WB

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