Reviews, November 2014

Hidden Glory, The Story of the Crosslé Car Company
Alan Tyndall

Other volume racing car manufacturers have cultivated higher profiles – March, Lola, Van Diemen and Reynard, to name but four – but one of the UK’s most engaging cottage industries has been ravaged by one-make myopia and many famous names have either gone to the wall or else simply faded away as custom dried up. But not Crosslé.

For more than 50 years the Northern Irish company has continued to produce racing cars, many of them successful and most blessed with an elegant simplicity that means models have kept their good looks into old age. The cover shot of Martin Donnelly’s 32F is a case in point (the car is also adorned with a ‘Donnellys for Spuds’ motif, possibly the finest sponsorship slogan of all time).

Respected author and broadcaster Tyndall tracks the company’s evolution from day one, blending first-hand testimony from key personnel with engaging anecdotes and comprehensive photographic coverage from the late 1950s through to the present day.

Our review copy came with an accompanying note from Crosslé MD Paul McMorran, pointing out that the timing of the release had added poignancy, given John Crosslé’s fading health. The company founder passed away between postage and delivery, sadly, but this stands as a glorious tribute to a modest man who made wonderful racing cars.

It might not be cheap, but it is both welcome and worthwhile. SA

Published by Booklink ISBN 978-1-906886-59-2, £60

Silverstone’s First Grand Prix, 1948: The Race on the Runways
Anthony Meredith & Gordon Blackwell

This oozes charm before you’ve turned the front cover – it looks like something first published 60-odd years ago – and remains engaging thereafter.

The story of Britain’s first post-war GP has been well chronicled, but this contains all manner of detail, including descriptive prose about the mood at the press call confirming the race (at the RAC Club, Pall Mall).

And anything containing a shot of Raymond Mays sitting in his living room, next to some Gordon Crosby paintings, has to be considered a little different.

Some parts of the text feel a little padded, while others might be familiar – several bits of Motor Sport talisman Bill Boddy’s November 1948 account are quoted – but overall it is easy to digest, manageable (you don’t need an e-version to be able to read it on a train) and decent value for money. It also features some wonderfully evocative period photographs, which is always a bonus. SA

Published by Amberley ISBN 978-1-4456-1776-3, £14.99

Jaguar Lightweight E-type, The Autobiography of 4WPD
Philip Porter

Lavish is scarcely the word for this autobiography detailing the life of one single vehicle. In detail, illustration and presentation it’s of the highest quality. Not only does it tell every moment of the life of much-raced E-type 4WPD, complete with reports and photos of its every event, but it adds background material on its rivals, owners and the Jaguar company, even to a layout of the Experimental Dept. It’s hard to think of a missing fact: as well as comment from all involved since its birth, test reports, diagrams, letters and receipts are all reproduced.

Although not much remains from 1961, 4WPD is a continuous entity from BUY1 to prototype Lightweight, and few cars can have been so comprehensively recorded. This first volume of Porter’s Great Cars series is an impressive start. GC

Published by Porter Press ISBN 978-0-907085-17-8, £48

The Unobtainable,
A Story of Blue
David de Lara (book & DVD)

An unusual offering. Very graphical in format, with drawings on bright yellow and large coloured headlines, this traces the two Campbells’ record-breaking story using mostly first-hand recollections from existing sources.
It’s rich with illustrations and family photos showing Malcolm and Donald off duty as well as on. Pictures of Malcolm’s island treasure search, newspaper cuttings, book covers and posters make this fun to dip into, though it takes a while to figure out the tiny unnamed cartoon faces that identify each ‘quotee’.
Similarly, photos aren’t captioned. It’s up to the reader to connect them to nearby words, while large cartoons here and there look out of place. As there’s no authorial text to fill in the gaps this is not the complete tale, but an interesting visual adjunct, including a good DVD with record and home footage. GC
Published by Wazza Blew ISBN 978-0-9929788-0-8, £60

Champion Racing: A Little Bit of Magic
David Tremayne

“At that stage I didn’t think they’d win a raffle,” says Allan McNish of his early experiences with Champion Racing. The American sports car team came a long way between 1993 and 2008, growing from amateur GT roots to win five American Le Mans Series titles with Audi and, most significantly, conquering Le Mans in 2005. This weighty volume tells its story.

In essence, the book is a homage to team founder and patron Dave Maraj, a popular figure among his employees, and the roster of star drivers who raced for him. The author has spoken to all of them, including Hans Stuck, Thierry Boutsen, JJ Lehto – perhaps the team’s favourite – Johnny Herbert, Tom Kristensen and McNish. The warmth of affection for Champion and Porsche dealer Maraj is the defining theme throughout.

The large format and glossy paper makes the most of full-page images, although quality is lost by some being blown up too much.

The story ends abruptly with Audi’s shock decision to pull the plug on its North American racing programme in 2009. So will Champion Racing ever return to the tracks? That’s a hanging question. DS

Published by David Bull ISBN 978-1-935007-26-5, £80

Motorfilms Quarterly Volume 29 DVD

If you’re familiar with MFQ’s previous output, you’ll know what to expect with its 29th volume: obscure, sometimes quirky footage from motoring’s past. This instalment features a 1932 MG factory promo, Bugattis at Prescott in the 1930s, a film of Triumph at Le Mans in 1960 and a Bonhams film about the Ecurie Ecosse collection auctioned last year.

The footage of Le Mans is pretty special, and luckily Triumph managed to avoid the pitfalls of other PR films by showing what’s going on beyond its own cars (all of which finished – the only marque to claim the honour that year – but were not classified).

The real gem here, however, is the colour film of Prescott in the ’30s. The course was a dirt driveway when the Bugatti Owners’ Club acquired it in 1929 and we get to see the transformation into the venue we know today. It’s not just about the location, though; seeing Jean-Pierre Wimille and Raymond Mays executing perfect drifts out of the hairpin, in full colour, feels like a real privilege. ACH

Produced by Motorfilms, £19.99