Book Reviews, October 1958, October 1958

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“Men and Machines” by C. H. Wilson and W. J. Reader. 187 pp. 10 in. by 6.25 in. (Weiderfield and Nicholson, 7, Cork Street, London, W.1. 35s.)

This nicely-produced book tells the story of D. Napier and Son and thereby constitutes a valuable addition to the histories of motorcar manufacturers which have appeared in various forms since the war, and before.

In this book the joint authors tell of the early days of Napier printing and weighing machinery manufacture. The later part of the book covers the car and zero-engine productions of the company and, while few fresh technical revelations appear, there are a few valuable additions to knowledge, notably production figures for Napier cars, the relationship between S. F. Edge and the Napier Company and the way in which the famous Napier ” Lion “aeroplane engine constituted the company’s mainstay for several years, the 1,000-h.p. ” Cub ” proving by no means successful and the company nearly leaving experimental work on air-cooled engines too late.

It is significant how even such a well-established concern as Napier found it difficult to decide on the type of engine which should follow the successful ” Lion,” an engine which found favour in Land Speed Record cars and racing boats as well as in the air.

” Men and Machines,” while hardly a technical history of Napier, puts this famous concern into very clear perspective. The book is well illustrated and has worthwhile appendices listing land and water records established with the aid of Napier engines.—W. B.

” Lotus,” by Ian Smith. 144 pp. 10 in. by 7.75 in. (Motor Racing Publications, Ltd., 62, Doughty Street, London, W.C.1. 21s.)

This is one of the more worthwhile amongst recent books about motoring and motor cars, for the simple reason that Ian Smith puts plenty of ” meat ” into it and, while not including every possible detail by way of ” padding. ” does make this not only an absorbing but a complete account of the first ten years of the Lotus.

Here is the story of Colin Chapman’s phenomenal rise to fame, from humble beginning with Austin Seven Specials to the production of many marks of Lotus, each one exceedingly successful, to the end of the year 1957. Plenty of technical data is included, so that this book, and its generous supply of interesting illustrations, will remain the standard work of reference relating to Chapman’s scientific and rapid motor cars.

More than that, Ian Smith, himself a Lotus owner, tells a tale which the enthusiast will be reluctant to put down. From many small but significant incidents in this story it is possible to appreciate fully the real genius of Colin Chapman after he had turned his back on motor trading from the pavements of Warren Street and really got going on sports-car design. This book is concerned with Lotus cars and Chapman’s part in B.R.M. and Vanwall improvements is but briefly touched upon. Yet, in the Lotus endeavours alone, you see sheer brilliance, strategy and a very great deal of sheer slogging hard work which have culminated in the Lotus story being one of the great one-man success stories of the present age—allowing some of the credit to go to a hard-working Miss Hazel Williams, now Mrs. Chapman, in the early days.

For example, who but Colin could have obtained a 4.55-to-1 Austin back axle by the ingenious means described on page 13, or thought up items like folding front wings (to clear obstacles) that were a feature of Mike Lawson’s Lotus Mk. 4 trials car. There was also the clever alteration of an Austin Seven block to four-port induction, which puzzled so many competitors in 750 Formula racing in 1951 and which Colin asked us to keep secret when we called to inspect his Lotus Mk. 3 at the time !

Again, wasn’t it sheer genius that when Colin wanted to power the Lotus Mk. 6 with a Ford Consul engine which the Ford Motor Company wouldn’t supply he bought a part front one dealer here, another part from another dealer there, until all the parts necessary to assemble a complete Consul engine had been acquired—thereby stealing a march on Sydney Allard, who also wanted a Consul engine for a ” special,” but had to go without although he is a Ford Main Agent !

There is the splendid story of Hazel going faster than Colin at Tarrant Rushton because she kept her foot down, as instructed, all the way up the course, which Colin found subsequently it was imprudent to do. And of Colin presenting a car which had no engine under its bonnet to the scrutineers at Le. Mans !

This book is full of pleasing anecdotes like these, which punctuate technical development matter and descriptions of the Lotus models from Mark 1 to the Eleven and Elite. Indeed, if any criticism is justified it is that more details could well have been included of some of Chapman’s greater epics, such as the Friday night to Monday morning excursion to race a Mark 8 in the Eifelrennen at Nurburgring or his races at Brands Hatch and Crystal Palace on the same afternoon, in the same Lotus!

The closing chapters are devoted to Ian Smith’s personal experience with a Mark 6–called ” Manana,” Spanish for ” everything happens tomorrow,” like the supply of some parts for Ian’s car!—over 6,000 miles and 16 competitions and his drive from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in a Lotus Eleven, with Tim Martin, at 51.06 m.p.h. and 38.52 m.p.g.

Altogether this is a splendid book about an almost unbelievable individual and his—literally tremendous—achievements. Recently Chapman has been rather less successful, with the Elite not yet in production, the Lotus Fifteen unreliable in races and the latest single’ seater not yet a race-winning proposition. Critics believe he has ” bitten off more than he can chew.” Be that as it may, the first ten years of Lotus were glorious ones and by reading Ian Smith’s timely book Chapman’s achievements can be appreciated and much entertaining reading enjoyed. I rate this as an interesting, if not exactly ethical, motor-racing book.—W. B.

” Speed and a Microphone,” by Robin Richards. 217 pp. 8.5 in. by 5.5 in. (William Kimber and Co. Ltd., 46, Wilton Place, London, S.W.1 21s.)

This book, by the well-known B.B.C. motor-race commentator, does two jobs well, it introduces the ” man-in-the-street,” whoever he may be, to motoring sport, so that he is likely to become a” man-in-the-grandstand,” and it gives us an interesting insight into the technique and problems of sound and T.V. motor-race broadcasting. Richards recalls some of the events in which he has performed as a competitor, driving H.R.G., Allard, Standard Vanguard, Healey, etc., and includes plenty of anecdotes relating to well-known personalities. He deals with driving and design, circuits and organisation, rally routes and schedules, apart from microphones. He leaves very little out, in fact.

A good introduction to the game and easy to read. I take a good view of ” Speed and a Microphone.” It concludes with a somewhat feeble ” Glossary of Terms.”—W. B.