Book Reviews, October 1954, October 1954

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“Amateur Racing Driver,” by T. P. Cholmondeley Tapper. 161 pp.,5 1/2 in. by 8 3/4 in. (Foulis, 7. Milford Lone, W.C.2. ) 15s.)

This is quite one of the best motor-racing books to have been published for a long time. It tells the Story of Cholmondeley Tapper’s entry into motor racing with a Type 37 G.P. Bugatti and of his exploits at Brooklands, Donington and later at Continental circuits, and of his rates in the ex-Howe 3-litre Maserati.

The Writing is clear, frank and direct, although, because Tapper writes for the general reader as well as for the motor-racing fanatic, a suggestion that Monkhouse’s “Grand Prix Racing” and the Bugatti biography have been copied in places is evident.

This is a story of pre-war motor racing, before commercialism, as Tapper says, took held of the Sport. It is refreshing to read again of those inspiring days from a driver’s angle, and the story, simply but sincerely told, is enhanced by good photographs, many of them seen for the first time. Moreover, this book is commendably free from errors, although was not John Bolster’s brother’s initial R., not C.? Nor was a 1 1/2-litre lap record of 142.425 m.p,h. set up by Malaguti at Berne in 1934; fastest lap was by Kessler’s Maserati, at around 90 m.p.h. Also, Hutchison gets his name rendered as “Hutchinson” for the nth time! — W. B.

“The Dangerous Skies;” by Air-Commodore A. E. Clouston. 187 pp., 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 in. (Cassell and Co., 37/38, St. Andrew’s Hill, Queen Victoria Street, E.C.4; ) 13s. 6d.
In reviewing “Reach for the Sky” in Motor Sport last month I remarked that one day someone should write a book about his flying experiences of the period 1919-1939. When I realised that Air-Commodore A. E. Clouston, D.F.C., A.F.C. and bar, had done just that, or at all events had, in “The Dangerous Skies,” written of his test-flying, record-breaking and war-time flying primarily of the 1933-1943 era, I reversed the usual procedure of book-reviewing and asked his publishers to let me have the book for review.

Those who, like myself, regret the dearth of flying books of the between-war years will find “The Dangerous Skies” extremely stimulating and very much to their liking, even though the period covered is the later ‘thirties.

The author takes us with him on his early test flights from Farnborough, that Hampshire experimental airfield which is, or should be, to aviation enthusiasts what Brooklands is, or was, to the motoring enthusiasts. He describes his narrow escapes, humorous moments and great achievements in simple yet technical terms. His accounts of his successes and failures in the field of air-racing and record-breaking (his England-New Zealand-England record with the Comet still stands) are enthralling and go very typical of the golden age of private flying as to cause one to think not altogether kindly of the Jet Age.

Over and above this flying nostalgia — a chapter is even devoted to the Flying Fleas Clouston flew — such stories as how Clouston was offered, quite seriously, a million pounds to bomb HitIer from the air before ever World War II began, and of how in the course of test-flying he flew into suspended wire cables to perfect the war-time balloon barrage, or of how, from a Spitfire 10,000 feet up he inadvertently sank by radio a boatload of V.I.P.s in 60 feet of water, are epics of story-telling.

There is practically no reference to motoring in this book and the only racing-driver we encounter is the late Chris Staniland. But the author refers to many different aircraft of the times — D.H. Moth, Parasol, Gloster Gladiator, Airspeed Courier, Cierva autogyro, Hafner rotoplane, experimental Miles, H.P. Heyford, Avro Lancaster, Northrap, Miles Hawk, Fairey P40, Aeronca, Clouston Midget, Desoutter, D.H. Queen Bee, Wasp, Westland Whirlwind, Super marine Spitfire, D.B.7, Beaufighter, Vickers Wellington, Liberator — they are all there, with many of the great personalities whose names are linked automatically with these aircraft.

If you are an aviation enthusiast, this book about test-flying as it was before the war, when a pilot required bravery and experience of flying rather than science degrees to get him through, written by a man who was very experienced, 100 per cent. fit, and 100 per cent. a test-pilot, will please you as much as any book you have read.

Cassell and Company are to be congratulated on publishing it and a small nonsense of proof-reading which endows the recordbreaking Comet now with two engines, now with only one, and misspells Segrave three times on one page, can be excused. The photographs are well chosen. Let us hope this publishing house will be able to persuade other pilots of the between-wars period to tell their stories. Clouston sets them an extremely high example, both in achievement and the recounting of it. — W. B.

” V16 — The Story of the B.R.M. Engine.” 25 pp– 10 1/4 in. by 7 1/2 in. (Motor Racing Publications, Ltd., ) 7s. 6d.
This booklet contains, as a novelty feature, a series of lift-up drawings of the B.R.M. engine whereby with each successive lift more and more of the innermost secrets of this complicated VI6 racing power-unit are revealed. This may or may not cheer up those who have so frequently had to tear it apart on the eve of important races!

The remainder of the book consists of a message from Alfred Owen, C.B.E., a statement about, and history of, the B.R.M. project by A. F. Rivers Fletcher, A.M.I.Prod.E., A.M.I.B.E., and reprints from the Motor articles by Laurence Pomeroy, F.R.S.A., M.S.A.E., on the technical aspects of the B.R.M., together with some photographs and advertising matter. The book may be thought expensive and perhaps not altogether called-for at a time when the B.R.M., and the Owen Organisation’s F1 Maserati are acting more as “guinea-pigs” for the expectantly awaited F1 B.R.M. cars than as entries holding a high place in motor-racing. One might have expected a full technical discourse on the development of this temperamental V16 engine and a full account of the races in which the cars participated.

The fact remains that this book offers in concise form the main details of the B.R.M. project and technicalities and, coming at a time when these ill-fated cars are, we hope, about to be replaced by new F1 machines, may well constitute a memorial to a gallant but mis-guided attempt to place Britain first in the hard field of International Grand Prix motor-racing. — W. B.

“Teach Yourself Motor-Boating,” by Dudley Noble and A. J. Shimmin. 167 pp., 4 1/2 in. by 7 1/4 in. (English Universities Press, Ltd., St. Paul’s House, Warwick Square, E.C. 4, 6s.)

This is a really comprehensive little manual, very nicely produced although, with Dudley Noble as one of the authors, we are astonished not to see a single “lovely” occupying any of the boats illustrated!

Seriously, whether you are contemplating buying or making a motor-boat (in which case the Marine Section of the Earls Court Motor Show will clinch the desire), merely wish to understand motorboat jargon, or have a motor-boat and crave data on operating it, on coastwise and inland waterways and Regulations at Sea, etc., this is the book. It represents very good value indeed at 6s. — W. B.

“Silver Spoon — The Memoirs of Lord Grantley.” Edited by Mary and Alan Wood. 239 pp. (Hutchinson and Co., Ltd., Stratford Place, W.1. 18s.)

This is another instance in which we asked for a review copy instead of waiting for it to come to us. The reason was that in obituary notices relating to the late Lord Grantley he was referred to as a “famous racing motorist.” This puzzled us and we hoped his autobiography would make the matter clear.

It does not altogether do so, for although he devoted half a chapter of his very readable book to motoring and refers to long-distance record-breaking at Montlhèry as partner to Jack Dunfee, his facts go rather astray, nor do his publishers seem very sure about them, dismissing this part of Lord Grantley’s career as “breaking motor speedway records.”

It seems he did so as Richard Norton, driving with Dunfee in 24-hour record attempts, which, he states, could bring in £2,000-£2,500 or as much as £4,000-£5,000 for short-distance records, which helps to explain how Parry Thomas made a business of record breaking from 1922 to 1927.

References to a special, short-chassis 8-litre Sunbeam made for Dunfee by Coatalen are puzzling, unless they refer to the 8-litre Bentley, nor is it correct that Brooklands “had no facilities” for 24-hour records; local Weybridge inhabitants put a ban on night driving there.

Lord Grantley describes his many cars, from his 9-h.p. two-cylinder de Dion coupé, bought from Wm. Morris, in which in 1913 he averaged 17 1/2 m.p.h. on a long Continental tour, his pre-1914 white 40/50 Rolls-Royce, to subsequent Studebaker, Rover, Hotchkiss, Lancia, 100-h.p. Minerva, a special 3-litre Sunbeam, and Bentley cars. He tells of beating the Blue Train with Clive Dunfee in his 4 1/2-litre Bentley, averaging 53 m.p.h. from Cannes to Calais, and later of crashing it in England, and of finding a big Delage ideal for the potholes of Yugoslavia in 1926. Alas, he refers to another Bentley as a 6-litre and although Segrave’s name is spelt correctly, Coatalen’s isn’t; what a pity publishers do not consult experts in specialised subjects when preparing books of this kind! Otherwise, “Silver Spoon” is a first-class book, fascinatingly depicting a departed age and full of amusing stories and character studies.

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We have remarked previously on the excellence of the Michelin road map of Great Britain (14 miles = 1in.). It is now available in book-page form, more easily usable while within the car. The price is 6s., from 81, Fulham Road, S.W.3. Incidentally, it occurs to us that it is very decent of tyre manufacturers like Michelin and Dunlop to supply us with maps which obviate unnecessary detours and “lost” mileage, as without them we should all consume that much more rubber!

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