Book reviews, October 1964, October 1964

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“Alfa Romeo—A History,” by Peter Hull and Roy Slater. 513 pp. 8½ in. x 5¾ in. (Cassell & Co. Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 50s.)

I have been dilatory in reviewing this keenly-anticipated book only because there is so much material in it that it took a long time to read! This is another book in the Montagu Motor Book Series and contains everything that Hull and Slater have been able to discover about the marque Alfa Romeo, which as I have said, is a great deal.

The book differs in certain respects from some one-make histories. For instance, the authors make a comprehensive picture of Alfa Romeo racing successes, by describing the more important races in some detail, with references to other makes of competing cars and what happened to them, so that Alfa Romeo successes and failures are seen in proper perspective, instead of appearing to be offered with one-make bias. Then there is a praiseworthy attempt to deal with existing examples of the more important Alfa Romeo cars, which, if not entirely conclusive and somewhat muddled here and there, does give the book substance among present-day enthusiasts for the fine cars from Milan, whereas less painstaking one-make books appeal more to historians than to realists who drive the make of cars in question.

This fine book, all 1 lb. 13 oz. of it, has a Foreword by Count Lurani, and its scope is best described by listing the titles of some of its chapters. These range from ” Darracq, A.L.F.A. and Alfa Romeo-1906-1919″ and “The Edwardians,” containing much fresh material, through “Grand Prix Champions of the World1924-1925,” “The Vintage Push-Rod Cars,” “The Vintage Grand Prix Cars,” “Sports Car Supremacy-1926-1928,” to ” Jano’s Six-Cylinder Masterpieces,” “Introduction of Jano’s Eight-Cylinder 2.3-litre and a Twelve-Cylinder Racer-1931,” down to chapters covering all the later famous models-2.3-litre sports and racing cars, the monopostos, 2.6 and 2.9B monopostos, Ferrari Bi-motore, the Alfettes, etc., etc.—concluding with equally copious data, chapter by chapter, on the racing years to 1951, to a final chapter charmingly titled “A Plain Man’s Guide to Modern Alfa Romeos,” which means what it says, presumably, for most plain men are unlikely to be interested in Alfa Romeos. This is perhaps more superficial in comparison with other chapters.

As is usual in such books, there are liberal quotes from contemporary magazines, Motor Sport included, of road-test reports and figures, etc. Roy Slater, who is Secretary of the Alfa Romeo Section of the V.S.C.C., to which this book is dedicated, weighs in with erudite appendices on the Alfa Romeo badge, identification and maintenance on 1500 and 1750 chassis and engines, racing a 17/95 today, competition successes 1913-51, production models 1910-63, production figures 1910-42, 6C and 8C serial numbers and series and gear ratios, and a list of Alfa Romeo Clubs—disjointed, but of absorbing interest to enthusiasts for this marque.

Let’s hope there are sufficient of them to justify Cassell’s courageous publication of a copiously-illustrated book and to earn worthwhile royalties for the very keen joint authors. If any criticism is justified, it must be confined to the fact that in trying to cope with history, quotations and the whereabouts of cars today, the text gets a bit complex; it might have been better to segregate contemporary history from notes on cars in present-time ownership. One also feels that, all-too-little help being available from official archives (the Appendices apart), it was necessary to put in every available fact, which in places makes for somewhat haphazard presentation. One wonders why the archives or memory of people like Signor Fusi and Ing. Satta were not more fully consulted. But this is a great book, the details of current ownership Alfa Romeos being outstandingly interesting, while much useful maintenance data is included, for the 22/90 model onwards.—W. B.

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“Race Drivers,” by H. U. Wieselmann, with photographs by Benno Muller. 96 pp. 13¼ in. x 8 ¾.8 in. (Temple Press Books Ltd., 42, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 55s.)

I have felt for a long time that the publishing world was missing a great opportunity by not bringing out a book about individual racing drivers, accompanied by head-and-shoulder photographs and/or action pictures of them. This is it. The pictures are superb. The text has dated seriously since the original edition appeared in Stuttgart, so that drivers no longer with us are written up as still racing, etc. And

Katie Moss is pictured beside the portrait of Moss. But for those with money to spare, the big glossies of Fangio, Moss, Brabham, Flockhart, Salvadori, Graham Hill, McLaren, Surtees, Allison, Brooks, Ireland, Chapman, Clark, Shelby, Phil Hill, Gurney, Reventlow, Ginther, Gregory, Maglioli, Trintignant, Bonnier, Barth, Hanstein, von Trips, Herrmann, Frankenberg, Walter, Seidel, Greger, Vogel, Mairesse, Gendebien, Frere, Rodriguez, de Beaufort, Collins, Hawthorn, Ascari, Castellotti, Musso, Behra, Schell—the living and the dead—are worthy of a place in the archives. Some of the racing drivers’ wives are included, too.—W. B.

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“Destination Monte,” by Peter Harper. 160 pp. 8½ in. x 5 2/5 in. (Stanley Paul & Co., 178-202, Gt. Portland Street, London, W.I. 21s.)

“Works Team,” by Michael Frostick. 541 pp. 8½ in. x 5 3/5 in. (Cassell & Co. Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W .C.1. 25s.)

In these two books there is a wealth of Rootes Group material. Peter Harper tells of his experiences, driving for Rootes, in rallies, the Mille Miglia, at Le Mans and in production car races a racy “inside” story which includes a chapter on how he takes the Monaco, Silverstone, Oulton Park and Clermont-Ferrand circuits, another on driving technique.

Frostick’s book concerns itself with a history of the Rootes Competition Department, commencing with the S.T.D. days, and continuing with the years 1946-49, the Sunbeam Talbot 8os and 9os and the Sunbeam Rapier. This is a book about comparatively recent endeavours all too soon forgotten a book which contains a great deal of intimate technical detail about how the Rootes team cars were “hotted-up” and modified, which will be of great interest to those using such cars in today’s competition events. The appendices go into all this in commendable detail, model by model of Humber Super Snipe, Sunbeam Rapier, Sunbeam Talbot, Singer, Hillman, etc., although stopping abruptly, for some reason, at 1961.—W. B.

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Two very commendable books for those on the organising side of the sport are “How to Run a Motor Race,” produced by the British Motor Racing Marshals Club and published by Ford of Britain, who made its production possible, and a little pocketbook produced by the B.R.S.C.C., called “Marshals Handbook,” sponsored by Shell-Mex & B.P.

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For aviation enthusiasts we recommend a fascinating account by Peter Twiss, “Faster Than The Sun,” describing how he broke the World’s Air Speed Record in the Fairey Delta 2 in 1956, at 1,132.2 m.p.h. (Macdonald & Co. Ltd., 2, Portman Street, London, W.1., 30s.), and “Some of the Few,” by John P. M. Reid (Macdonald, 5s.), which recalls the Battle of Britain fighter pilots, with portraits by Cuthbert Orde.