Daimler & Benz: The Complete History Dennis Adler
The oldest car manufacturer in existence by definition has more history than any other, and in this highly illustrated landscape-format book Denis Adler tries to fit all 120 years of it in. It’s a complex tale, as the two German inventors and entrepreneurs begin their experiments as rivals trying to circumnavigate the Otto patents, their two names becoming conjoined only years later in the aftermath of World War One.
Adler makes clear the part Emil Jellinek played in pushing the Daimler company with demands for more powerful engines (plus ca change…) leading to the four-cylinder Phoenix, and sadly to an early motor racing fatality when test driver Wilhelm Bauer crashed his Phoenix during the Nice-La Turbie hillclimb in 1900. But if the ‘racing improves the breed’ mantra is harder to sustain nowadays, back then it was proved by the car Daimler brought to La Turbie the following year the first Mercedes, low, stable and powerful which eclipsed the other offerings. Racing continued to be a crucial part of self-promotion for both firms, and there are plenty of pre-WWI race photos here for fans of the era, as well as the later glory years.
In among a very thorough history of the firms’ products, the motorsport activities are reasonably well reported, including the rallies Mercedes engaged in, successfully, as almost always. There’s even a picture of a McLaren-Mercedes. But I would happily have traded some of the brochure shots which dominate the latter parts of the book for larger historical pictures. Indeed, while the early history is informative, the latter part of the book, the last three decades, reads more like a PR exercise. However, it finishes on a high note, with an interesting gallery of advertising posters.
It is clearly an American book, with details of the firm’s doings in the US but only the barest mentions of the British Daimler firm; Adler thus misses the irony that Gottlieb Daimler’s name was rapidly supplanted on his own cars but continued for years elsewhere. Photo quality is variable some display those orange top-tints which were so trendy a few years back and the design is untidy, with overlaps and even cut-outs over other images. And there’s one picture upside-down but that’s happened in MS occasionally… A lot of history for £20. GC
Harper-Collins US, £19.99. ISBN: 0060890266
Inside Ferrari Maurice Hamilton
Better reinforce your coffee tables as this thumping 288-page hardback is a bit on the hefty side. As the title suggests, this is essentially a fly-on-the-wall look at the Ferrari GP team, with 300 or so images by Jon Nicholson. There’s stuff you won’t have seen before photographs of everything, including the factory, debriefing sessions, closed-door tests, race build-ups and the the obligatory champagne spraying. Hamilton’s overviews to each chapter are succinct and captions move the story along. RH
Mitchell Beazley, £25. ISBN: 184533270
Ford GT, then and now Adrian Streather
The 40th anniversary of Ford’s Le Mans-conquering great was always bound to prompt a rash of cash-ins but this 240-page hardback isn’t a bad effort. Backed up by a decent picture selection, it does a commendable job of relating the stories behind the legend, and not just with the obvious anecdotes. If there is a criticism, it’s that repro is poor in places and having ads cheapens it a bit. Some of the replicas featured here are fun, though: we were fascinated/appalled by the BMW V12-powered GT4ONZ. RH
Veloce, £40. ISBN: 1845840522
Benetton F1: A story Pino Allievi
The Benetton F1 team occupies an important but curious position in F1 history. It was largely responsible for introducing the commercial sophistication prevalent today. This book is an official record of Benetton’s 19-year involvement in F1, initially as sponsor and then entrant. There are abundant colour photographs and interviews with those involved, including drivers. These largely follow the company line this is after all a celebration rather than an objective history. IM
Sidra, £34. ISBN: 8876246037
Les ronds rouge arrivent Jean-Marc Chaillet
We would not normally run memoirs of a PR guru, except that this particular one master-minded the launch of the Elf petrol brand and its intimate tie-up with Matra. That event, and this book, are relevant to us because the oil company’s funds allowed Matra to challenge the world in Formula One and sportscar racing, while Elf’s highly effective PR operation made great mileage out of the resultant successes. What I hadn’t appreciated until reading this was the constant, intense use that Elf made of racing via its striking graphics and sharp ad campaigns, even down to a presence in children’s comics. Panels on the great Matras add depth to an eye-catching work. French only. GC
Editions du Palmier, €32. ISBN: 2914920601
Winged sports cars & enduring innovation James Wimpffen
Sports car racing in the period from 1962 until 1971 was often more thrilling than F1. It was also complex and heterogeneous, encompassing road-going GTs and, by the end of the era, uncompromising prototypes faster than their GP contemporaries. The array of events constituting the various permutations of championship series included local hillclimbs and classic endurance races. The commercial rewards of success, especially at Le Mans, were not lost on the major manufacturers, most notably Ford, but they withdrew from the scene once their objectives had been met.
Well-known privateer entrants such as NART and Maranello Concessionaires fought it out when the works teams were sparse, but nonetheless, the category’s reliance on the vicissitudes of the car-builders resulted in instability. This book is a photographic sibling to Time and Two Seats and is the second of five proposed volumes offering a visual record of the category up until the ’90s. Wimpffen is a diligent historian and the hundreds of pictures have been judiciously selected from an array of sources. The captions with each image are intelligently written and occasionally witty and contribute to a magnificent portrayal of the colour and diversity of sports car racing’s golden age that is as good to read as it is to look at. IM
David Bull, £89.99. ISBN: 1893618781