Book Reviews, October 1969, October 1969

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“Why Finish Last?”, by Andrew Cowen. 129 pp. 8 in. x 5 in (Queen Anne Press Ltd., 49, Poland Street, London, W.1. 21s.)

Nick Britten got his account of preparing for and driving in the London-Sydney Marathon off to a quick start. But since publication of his book another has come off the presses—and one which commands attention, because it is by the winner of the event, not a competitor who retired before Sydney was reached. I have seen his book dismissed as hastily written and insufficiently edited, but to me it seems a wry interesting, honest and exciting story of what it was like to drive the winning Hillman for Rootes in this unique competition, and sufficiently detailed to hold one’s interest. Moreover, this is a straightforward account, in no way dramatised, perhaps because Cowen isn’t a journalist, although he was apparently assisted by one.

Cowen covers his early interest in sporting motoring, when as a young farmer farming in the Border country, he developed a craving for fast cars, along with Jim Clark, and began to take part in rallies. He describes all this with the expected nonchalance of the rally addict, and it is significant that all these events were in Rootes cars, apart from a couple of Fords and the works Rovers. He used his own Mk. I and Mk. II Sunbeam Rapiers before factory support and then “works” drives came his way. There is enough about expenses incurred and route following from pace notes, etc., to make this chapter meet with the approval of beginners.

The preparation for the Marathon makes very interesting reading—items like insisting on overdrive on all four gears, which gave no trouble at all, and how the Marathon car was thoroughly tested, even to being rolled onto its roof, and why Weber carburetters were used—and so on. It is nice to think that the Holbay HS120 engine in the successful Marathon Hillman was a rub off from the current production Sunbeam Rapier.

No doubt about it, it’s all there, the recce, the event itself and the many factors involved. The thing cost Rootes £27,000 instead of the estimated £25,000, but Cowen says they have “estimated they will gain millions in orders from this win”. I hope he is right. Certainly his book is a splendid advertisement for the Hunter. It is also excellent and essential reading for all rally people. He pays tribute to his fellow adventurers, Colin Malkin and Brian Coyle, Marcus Chambers as Competition Manager, with his secretary Ann Barnes, and the service boys, and gives in generous detail information about how the car was prepared for its ordeal. Cowen also pays tribute to some of the personnel responsible for his popular if somewhat unexpected victory—Rootes’ test driver Bern, and Unett, the chief mechanic. Gerry Spencer, Des O’Dell of service support, Peter Burgess, Derek Hughes and Jack Walton, the chassis-men, Dick Guy, who built up the Holbay-Rootes engine, Brian Wileman, who was responsible for the Hunter’s transmission, Arthur Bird, the electrician, and Ron Breakwell, tinsmith to the winning Hillman.

You must read “Why Finish Last ?”. That’s two books on the Marathon. Now I am wondering when Innes Ireland’s book on the same subject, which I saw advertised on the side of the Mercedes-Benz he drove, is coming out and what it can tell us that the others haven’t.—W. B.

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“Carburation: Volume IV”, by Charles H. Fisher, C.Eng., F.I.Mech.E., M.S.A.E., 311 pp. 8 7/10 in. x 5 3/5 in. (Chapman & Hall Ltd., 11, New Fetter Lane, London, E.C.4. 65s.)

Charles Fisher is well known as a formidable carburation expert and his previous volumes on the subject of giving an i.c. engine its diet have been well received. This new volume deals with advances in carburetter design and testing, covers supercharging and fuel injection and has a very opportune chapter on how the Californian air pollution laws can be dealt with. Turbo-supercharging is not neglected and the final chapter of this well-illustrated work consists of descriptions of many modern carburetters, from Zenith downdraught models IV and IVT to the Amal model GP-2 racing carburetter, many diagrams being used to supplement the text.—W. B.

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“Waterloo Iron Works”, by L. T. C. Rolt. 240 pp. 8 2/5 in. x 5 4/5 in. (David & Charles Ltd., South Devon House, Newton Abbot, Devon. 45s.)

A number of professionally published books about industrial undertakings has appeared in recent times, apart from those issued by the companies concerned. Such a book is “Waterloo Iron Works”, the long story of Taskers of Andover. No better author could have been found to tackle a difficult history to unravel than Tom Rolt; he writes of the country works where first agricultural machinery, then steam vehicles, and finally the famous Tasker trailers were made from 1809 to the present day, with sympathy, understanding, and never a trace of exaggeration.

The story is a fascinating one, more particularly that part of it which deals with Tasker traction engines and steam wagons. The adventures which befell the very first of these engines, Hero, on its way to the Southampton Show in 1869 are splendid reading and the famous “Little Giants” are well documented. Rolt includes plenty of detail, telling us, for instance, that Taskers’ first car was a maroon Humber tourer bought secondhand in 1909, succeeded by a Napier landattlette and, “in more stringent times”, by a Model-T Ford. It is interesting, too, that Taskers tried to enter the i.c.-engine field of commercial vehicles with their 15.9 h.p. Dorman-engined LVL of 1925, but it never made the grade.

Apart from mechanical matters, from these early vehicles and the war-time “Queen Mary” R.A.F. trailers, the book is fascinating on the subject of the riot which damaged the Andover factory in 1830, for which sentences of death were passed, commuted to transportation for life.—W. B.

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“Justin de Goutiere—Pilot.” 206 pp. 8 7/10 in x 5 3/5 in (G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., Henley-on-Thames, Oxon. 36s.)

First published in British Columbia in 1968 as “The Pathless Way”, this book, dictated by the author while he was dying of creeping paralysis and could no longer use a pen (he did not live to see his book published), is the story of flying above the rough coast of British Colombia. It is an adventure story with a difference, the account of pilot more dedicated to flying even than most of his kind, who flew 7,000 hours and 1.3-million miles with B.C. Air Lines in 6½ years from joining them in 1960. He describes the hazards of flying over this terrain in the varying weather encountered there, in mainly float aircraft, such as Sea Bees, Beavers, Grumman Goose, etc., with especial appreciation of the D.H. Twin Otter. It is the self-portrait of a brave man, from a publisher who used to specialise in motoring books and recently, like many others, has turned more towards aviation books. This one fills a gap in such literature and should please students of specialised aviation real-life.—W. B.

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