“Bugatti by Borgeson — The dynamics of mythology” by Griffith Borgeson. 223 pp, 10″ x 7″ (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 12-14 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9LP. £9.95).
Osprey are to be congratulated on getting this one! It is intended as a fascinating “debunking” of the “mythology” surrounding the cars of Le Patron, Ettore Bugatti, and disposing of what the author calls “The Myth”. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in Gotherington and perhaps those who regard Bugattis as the most exciting cars there are (and I include myself in that category), and would be advised to just go on enjoying their prized possessions and ignore this learned exposure of the man who was responsible for them. . .
However, after all the published material on Bugatti from Eaglesfield-and-Hampton to Hugh Conway, it is a pleasant surprise to receive another Bugatti book, even though this one sets out to be horribly honest about Bugatti and some of his products, rather as the late Michael Frostick dealt with Bentleys, although Borgeson admits that he could have done with details of Bugatti finances, which in the ease of WO Bentley were at Frostick’s disposal.
Some of this book covers old fields, such as the little Isotta-Fraschini voiturette with its advanced overhead-camshaft engine having been copied by Bugatti for his Types 10 and 13, instead of the other way round, and the Tipo S61 Fiat having probably originated from that source rather than being partly attributable to Ettore. The failure of the Bugatti U16 aero-engine occupies much space, and how Henry may have disliked journalist WF Bradley for claiming that the post-war straight-eight stemmed from Bugatti and not from the great Peugeot designer’s Ballot, Borgeson offering the suggestion that this may well have been why Bradley describes Henry as a fine engineer in his earlier writings, later demoting him to the role of a draughtsman — which bears on the Henry/Hispano-Suiza controversy, but we don’t want to go into all that again, do we? Certainly this book exposes WF Bradley’s inaccuracies which I have long been aware of but which, surprisingly, some British writers excuse; nor is it at all polite to Charles Faroux, who is described as “simply a pirate” whose rule was “no publicity without a payoff “.
Having thus shown his intention to brook no nonsense, Borgeson, who saw a Bugatti for the first time in 1931, gives us some quite fascinating revelations about how Bugatti’s mind worked, based on a long friendship with one of his sons, Roland Bugatti. This gave him an opening into hitherto unrevealed aspects of what he chooses to term “Bugattiana”. He tells us why L’Ebes “The Bugatti Story” is extremely biased, bases some of his data on the valuable Bugatti items and documents that Uwe and Monika Hucke possess and altogether offers much for discussion and controversy. It will be interesting to see if Bugantics, for instance, comes up with any counter-material.
Of course, Roland Bugatti was born in 1922 and it is a pity Borgeson could not have palled-up with Jean Bugatti, who knew so much more of the matter. Incidentally, the theory that Jean’s death when testing a racing Bugatti could have been suicide, a sort of gallant sacrifice on the part of a heavily-insured son to save the family business, is again put forward, with the suggestion that the postman-on-the-bicycle he is supposed to have swerved to avoid is another myth — but surely, even in France, a fatality on a public road must have been the subject of some sort of investigation, with the bicyclist, if there was one, called as a witness?
Without having the same space as Borgeson it is impossible to go through his arguments in detail, which is not to dismiss his work as other than a very important and readable contribution to the life of Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti, Le Patron, The Boss. Just a few miscellaneous observations, then, before we hand you over to studying this unique book for yourselves. It is nicely illustrated, incidentally, and uses many well-known old photographs as well as plenty of unfamiliar ones.
As Griffith is such a meticulous writer I know he will want me to expose the very few errors or debatable points which I discovered in “Bugatti by Borgeson”. He corrects the spelling mistakes of others, but lets “Moulsheim” get by for Molsheim on p 91. He says that the famous Bugatti “Black Bess”, that reminded faded memories of the fact that Ettore had built 5-litre chain-drive racing-cars, was bought in this country “by Col Eric Giles”, when, in fact, it was Eric’s brother, Brig-Gen GM Giles, who acquired the derelict car — I should know, because I discovered it in a shed in Derby, going to see it, appropriately, in JD Aylward’s Type 40 Bugatti, and it was after I had written about my discovery that the Brigadier took the rebuild on; I wasn’t aware that Eric had been in the Army. Poor Frank Halford, having recently been made into the owner of a chain-store by Motor, is called “Hadford” by Borgeson, and it isn’t quite true that the axle of Zborowski’s Miller came completely divorced from the springs (GB is quoting Giddings) at Lyons in 1924 — Sammy Davis and the Count stopped in time! The 4WD Bugatti of Jean crashed at an MAC, not at a BOC, Shelsley Walsh Meeting, and the old controversy about Bugatti alloy-spoked wheels, taken from an article in an IPC journal, and the old correspondence about the tyre failure experienced with these wheels when the Type 35s made their debut in the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyons, has surely been dealt with adequately by Conway? Borgeson does not read Motor Sport or he would not have needed to remain ignorant for so long about Lionel Rapson and his double-treaded tyres! I think, too, there is confusion about Ettore wanting to ensure at Lyons that his drivers, had they had a puncture, could drive to the pits on a flat tyre without it coming off the rim, instead of wasting time (Ettore says five minutes, over the whole race period) changing a wheel at the roadside, which only the poor vulcanisation of treads to carcasses of the new Dunlop ss tyres ruined, not, as GB thinks, that Bugatti was trying to provide a fail-safe, run-flat tyre as such. Borgeson also thinks Vittorio Jano’s memory is at fault in saying that during the Lyons race the new alloy wheels broke up so quickly that “a growing pile of broken ones could be seen behind the Bugatti pit”, yet he admits that such wheels need strengthening for modern racing and that the early ones merely prone to cracking, as the Brooklands’ scrutineers also knew very well! Or could those “growing piles” have been wheels returned to the pits after having been taken away somewhere for the integral brake drums to be skimmed-out, Sammy Davis having noticed that they would not slip over the brake shoes; after all the race lasted between seven and eight hours, giving ample time? I am all for minutiae, and Borgeson devotes nearly 18 pages to this tyre and wheel matter alone. By the by, isn’t he setting rather too much store in journalistic drawings, when quoting one, of this 1924 Bugatti wheel, used by The Autocar to show the general appearance of what was then a unique feature of the new Grand Prix Bugattis, as proof that the wheel-spokes were not skewed? Given that the artist in question was “highly skilled”, surely he was simply depicting how the revolutionary Bugatti wheel looked to most people; had he been illustrating a technical discourse about their construction no doubt he would have shown skewed spokes, if such were used. Borgeson is out to prove that Bugatti cribbed from Miller here, of course.
Other chapters of this sensational Bugatti expose deal with Roland Bugatti (who disposes of the Bugatti horse-shoe radiator-shape myth by telling GB that it was based on the egg), the further, bigger myth of which tricycles and cars the very young Ettore copied or did not copy, the aforesaid Isotta-Fraschini voiturette problem of who designed it (answer: lng Coda), with offshoots concerning Mathis and Turcat-Mery, the problems which manufacturing at Molsheim instead of in Milan posed for Ettore Bugatti (with asides about how the sole remaining Type 10 was found, and restored by Harrah in the USA), Bugatti’s artistic foibles, the beginnings of his “three-valve” concept, the aero-engines, what the author calls the “American Bugatti”, more on the aero-engines, the origins of the straight-eight engine, Indianapolis, those wheels, the La Royale “White Elephant”, with concluding chapters on Bugatti engine and chassis technicalities, up to the last GP Bugatti. Borgeson quotes his book on twin-cam engines, but as this has not yet been published, this may cause confusion.
He is interesting throughout and I was glad to learn more about the 1923 Bugatti expedition to Indianapolis. Apparently all the five high-born Bugatti drivers were aghast on finding that the best Bugatti lap of 95.3 mph had to be compared to Milton’s 108.17 mph in a Miller. There is a hint that de Alzaga had been led to believe that he and Riganti would be the exclusive Bugatti team at Indy, only to find it constituted five cars! Seeing the Millers in action, de Alzaga it said to have ordered two immediately and Zborowski one, the latter not to go straight to Brooklands, as I had thought, but intended for the European GP at Monza after Zborowski had tested it at the Los Angeles track, and for. the Thanksgiving Day November Indy race if he wins the great European classic”.
Borgeson has stirred things up, which may bring a hornets’ nest about his head after BOC, fanatics have digested it, because no Bugatu advocate will allow any Molsheim product to be dismissed as a crib of other’s designs, and more than Bentley folk like Alec Ulmann saying that WO copied the Clerget aero-engine for his BR1 or an Hispano Suiza for his 3-litre. Or that the so-called classic artistic outlines of the components was due to unskilled farmer’s sons constituting much of Molsheim’s labour force. although one has suspected that these outlines were due to lack of sophisticated machine. tools and an economy approach. Nor will they like the suggestion that Ettore Bugatti was not an engineer, had no formal theoretical training, very little practical training, had very little eduation at all, distorted records very badly, liked to play the. “Big Shot”, and was vain, arrogant, handled langauge poorly, and did not even express mechanical ideas clearly (Bradley was at the back of much of this, apparently). Ettore’s happist days were said to have been during the Dietrich/Deutz. period — “the Myth”.
Bergeson does not pull his punches, calling the famed Bugatti aero-engines, for example, “Slag heaps in the sky”. Yet, for all that, I feel that he has real affection for this remarkable man and his cars. But I shall be very interested to see what the reactions to his book are, among pur sang Bugatti owners! — WB.
“Morris Minor —The World’s Supreme Small Car” by Paul Skilleter. 224 pp. 10″ x 7″ (Osprey Publishing Ltd, 12-14, Long Acre, London, WC2E 9LP. £8.95).
The well-known Jaguar documenter has departed from the Big Cat den to write about an out-of-production small-car that is still extremely prolific on British roads, as DSJ, who uses one, reminded me recently. This book should be welcomed by Morris Minor users and followers. Its coverage is comprehensive, abetted by more than 200 excellent pictures, and it is all there — from hearse to tractor, racing Minors to runabouts based on the memorable Issigonis base. The design, the development details, the Minor in competition, Skilleter has embraced it all. There are drawings, as well as camera-studies of the wide range of Minor activities and styles, and Anders Clausager of BL Heritage has provided specifications, production figures for the Series MM, Series II, 948 and 1,098cc Minors, as well as annual outputs of Minors, their car type-numbers and a long analysis of them model by model. Dimensions, weights, details of the experimental and prototype Minors, how to go about buying, restoring, modifying or customising a Minor, whether a car, a van, a pick-up, a fire-engine or an American Minor, with all of which this book deals — quite an achievement! Although as I have observed before, Skilleter does not appear to read Motor Sport, or at all events does not quote us, his latest book reminds me of how very impressed I was after driving the first road-test Morris Minor home to Hampshire from Cowley, and how we thus enthused about this splendid little car, the first British small-car to handle properly, thanks In those small wheels at each corner and rack-and-pinion steering. I remember how one enthusiastic Minor user ordered a brand-new Minor 1000 just before production ceased.
The many friends of the Minor, including the Riley and Wolseley derivatives which the book includes, should snap up this title, which Osprey offer at a competitive price. — WB.
“The Jowett Jupiter — the car that leaped to fame” by Edmund Nankivell. 144 pp. 10″ x 71/4″ (BT Botsford Ltd, 4 Fitzhardinge Street, London W1G OAH. £9.95).
Here is a book about another British car, less memorable but of more sporting mein than the Morris Minor, The Jowett Javelin was one of the first entirely new British cars to appear after WW2 and its advanced design and streamlined styling was exciting to those who wanted a car to look new and who perhaps remembered the high excellence of the pre-war Lancia Aprilia. And the Javelin, of which Motor Sport had much experience, did have a fiat-four engine, whereas the Morris Minor missed this intended additional Issigonnis refinement. The Jupiter was the compact sports version of the Javelin, which had as a 11/2-litre saloon earned its competition colours. Motor Sport had a Jupiter as well — I recall it as a snug drop-head two-seater with a hood that could be put up or down without leaving the driving-seat. Is this book about the Jupiter the Motor ,Sport road-test is quoted and I see that my conmments about the car’s good handling after I did the test in 1950 were endorsed by many other writers, only the American reporter Tom McCahill disagreeing. As for performance, I wistfully suggested that the Jupiter’s performance figures were not very different from those of the pre-war Meadows-engined HRG. However, much development of the Jowett flat-four engine was undertaken and I remember thinking I was about to go mad or have a stroke, sorting out all the data Jowett’s provided me with for a leading article on the subject, which Nankivell doesn’t reproduce. But he does use nearly three-and-a-half pages of our Managing Director, Mr WJ Tee’s story of driving 25,000 miles in the Jupiter he once owned.
The book contains many nostalgic relics from the Jupiter’s past, many pictures of the personalities connected with it, such as its designer Gerry Palmer, Eberon von Eberhorst, Horace Grimley, Roy Linn, Charles Grandfield and many others, not forgetting those who rallied and raced Jupiters. Fittingly, the Prologue is by Gordon Wilkins who raced the R1 Jupiter at Le Mans and an especially valuable section of the book is devoted to a breakdown of engine numbers, pictures and descriptions of special-bodied cars, and finally a Register of literally hundreds of these now-rare sports-cars. WB.
Albion Scott Ltd. can supply Jean-Marc Borel’s big Lamborghini book for £22.50.
As a sort of follow-up to Paul Skilleter’s book on the Morris Minor, reviewed above, comes one on the “Amazing Mini” by Peter Filby. This is less exciting, because there has been excellent previous coverage of Sir Alec Issigonis’ great little FWD Mini Minor, commencing with Laurence Pomeroy’s technical discourse on the birth and evolution of this now immortal minicar. Filby’s book, which comes from Gentry Books Ltd., 15 Pont Street, London SW1X 9EH for £8.95, is mainly pictorial and packs in an enormous number of Minis, some shown in colour, divided up into, to quote the book’s Contents List, Fundamental-Minis, Maximum Minis, Prototype Minis, Competition Minis, Chic Minis, Custom Minis, Alternative Minis, and More (about) Minis. The book has apparently also been published in New York.
Although those admirable and hairy British sports-cars, the Big Healeys, have had adequate written coverage (personally I would go for Tim Healey’s books about them), but if you want a compact reference Robson has done one on these cars in Motor Racing Publications Ltd.’s “Collector’s Guide” series, cramming a great deal of significant data into 128 pages and selling for £7.95. Companion to this book, at the same price, is Paul Skilleter’s “The Jaguar XK” by the same publisher, whose address is 28 Devonshire Road, London W4 2DH, for orders and sales.
Jane’s compact Pocket Books are available, covering such subjects as “Air Forces of the World”, “Modern Military Trucks” and “Airlines of the World”. Jane’s have a jealously-guarded reputation for accuracy, and these handy little books contain a useful illustrated record of the subjects. They cost £4.95 each and the publisher’s address is 238 City Road, London EC1V 2PU.
To cover the entire history of rallying in one book is an imposing task, which may be why the indefatigable Graham Robson has relied largely on pictures to formulate his latest tide, “An illustrated History of Rallying”, which Osprey have done at £9.95. The book carries eight colour pages, 224 black and white photographic reproductions, and as you turn the 208 pages the scene changes dramatically, from the rallies of before the war to the modern forest thrashes. Robson has chosen some endearing pictures and provides sufficient text to explain well the purpose and content of rallying, although concentrating mainly on the more recent events. I like particularly the photograph of very ordinary cars embarking for France on a pre-war Monte Carlo Rally and the picture of Lt-Col Loughborough’s Lanchestcr making very good use of its fluid-flywheel in the first (1932) RAC Rally, so that the 100-yards’ slow-running test on Torquay occupied more than five minutes, and won him the event! Today’s rallies are very different. A good book, this one.
Those who prefer to carry out their own maintenance, but who find things electrical something of a mystery will benefit from the fourth edition of AJ Coker’s “Automobile Electrical Systems” from the Newnes Technical Books “Question and Answer” series. This 150 page, card-backed book has recently been completely revised by Bob Krafft, who has expanded the information about alternators and electronic ignition to bring the book right up to date. After an introductory chapter, outlining the principles of electricity and magnetism in easy to understand terms, there are nine chapters covering the whole range of electrical equipment likely to be fitted to the modern car or light commercial vehicle, and these chapters are arranged in a carefully planned “question and answer” style, which makes it very easy to pick out the information required. The text is supplemented by clear and explicit diagrams. Published by the Butterworth Group, Borough Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, this handy volume costs £1.95.
The Transport Publishing Co. has published its latest book about the history of well-known ‘bus operators, this new 100-page title covering the “Provincial'”, ie the Gosport & Fareham Omnibus Company. It is packed with pictures and detailed information that few ‘bus enthusiasts will be able to resist. The soft-cover version costs £6.50, the hard-back edition £8.50, with £1 extra for packing and postage if ordered direct from the publishers, whose address is 128 Pikes Lane, Glossop, Derbyshire, SK13 8EH.
The National Traction Engine Club has reprinted the special edition of its magazine Steaming that dealt specifically with “Showman’s Road Locomotives”. The 122-page book is thought to contain the most complete information about such traction-engines available. It is packed with good pictures and lists such engines and their original owners. The book is available from the NTEC Sales Officer, SJ Grey, 60 Harbour Avenue, Comberton, Cambs., CB3 7DD for £4.75 plus 75p for packing and postage.
The Morris Register has brought out a magazine-size, well-illustrated book on its first 21 years. This “History of the Morris Register” is available for £1.35 plus 35p for packing and postage, from the Register’s Historian, H. W. Edwards, Wellwood Farm, Lower Stock Road, West Hanningford, Chelmsford, CM2 8BY. Pictures of early events in the Register’s life, of its badges, of Press publicity, including Motor Sport’s announcement of the proposed Morris Eight Tourer Club of 1960 etc., all go to make up a strong dose of nostalgia for Morris lovers. WB.
Batford’s “From Old Photographs” Book Series.
Having requested these books for review I feel rather guilty, because not all of them have an abundance of cars on the road amongst the other ancient scenes depicted. This is scarcely surprising, because the periods dealt with, and all the more credit to the photographic rarity of the books for that, are mostly before the age of the horseless-carriage. Thus the books, covenng London, Scotland, Wales and Liverpool and the North West, all but the first title in the Edwardian and Victorian days, are of much interest in their own right. Each costs £7.50, and the publishers are, T Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London. W1H 0AH. Looking at the motoring scenes therein, a real feast is provided in the book about London, as this coven the 1925s and 30s. The end papers and a picture within, of Oxford Street in 1930, shows an amazing congestion of traffic, including 40 ‘buses, now mostly covered-top, so that one wonders how the Beardmore taxi and other vehicles trying to emerge from a side road, the taxi especially as it is turning right, ever got into toe main thoroughfare. In this picture an early Austin 12 tourer is noted: could it be the same one that is in the now-classic 1926 General Strike Picture of seven lines of traffic going up the Embankment opposed by one tram coming down? I seem to recall this one from my “Wonder Book of Motors” — Morris, Singer, Talbot, Austin and Daimler are but a few of the makes depicted and you should try your hand at identifying the rest! Incidentally, if driving a vintage car in London is a bit of an adventure now, what can some of those hemmed-in drivers have thought about it, in 1926? Another Strike picture, however, shows a gentleman sitting nonchalantly in his Singer Ten 2-seater in Oxford Street in spite of the Rolls-Royce Armoured-Car, gun pointing, just behind him! The only Strike casualty shown is a Model-T Ford van on its side in Blackfriars. The best London traffic scene provided by James L Howgego is of a wet day at Vauxhall circa 1935. I can identify Austin and Morris, but what of the rest of the assorted traffic? I love the Renault taxi quite surrounded by open-top ‘buses going the opposite way. at Charing Cross, in 1921! As I have said, the other books, being of an earlier period, contain few cars. Yet there are old railway photographs and it is no bad thing to me what roads and places looked like before motors filled them. CS Minto’s “Scotland” has a rare shot of a Ridley car built in Airdrie after the original Company failed, ED Jones’ “Wales” pictures of a motorcycle combination with wicker “chair” in a trial, steam-wagon, ‘buses and trams. and the “first motor car to arrive in Newport”, obviously a Benz Ideal, said to be there in 1896. Rolls is shown ballooning at Monmouth in 1908 and the first aeroplane (a Farman?) to land at Rhos in 1910 is there. Captions and introduction (each book has the latter to add much interest are in Welsh as well as in English. George Chandler’s “Liverpool” shows Liverpool’s City Engineer entering his car (can someone tell me the make?), in 1907, and cars are seen at Lord Street. Southport which dates the picture as later than the suggested 1900, while conversely the very early Daimlers (one carrying No. 5, shown outside the Aigburth Hotel, Liverpool date the photograph as far earlier than 1907 I would think, perhaps 1900 during the 1,000 Mile Trial? Finally, unless anyone can identify the makes of all the motor vehicles shown in these books, what of the car that has had a mild accident with a Mann (?) steam waggon on Newport bridge, circa 1910?— WB.
Model making this autumn will be enhanced by three new Revell plastic kits for making some very classic motor cars to 1/16th-scale, which means impressive miniatures with plenty of interesting detail. The kits I refer to are for making up models of a 1948 TC MG Midget (hood up if required’), a Jaguar-SS100 two-seater and a really impressive replica of the 540K Mercedes-Benz two-seater. The reference numbers are, respectively, H-7487, H-7486, and H-7485 and these kits are obtainable from the better model-shops.
On the matter of children’s miniature cars, apart from Cadillac, Packard, Vauxhall. Citroen and other professionally-built models, we have seen a photograph of a vintage 40/50 hp Napier Cunard tourer accompanied by a realistic child’s car obviously based on it, and possibly made by D Napier and Sons Ltd. Can anyone enlarge on this?
Hornby Hobbies have added a Saudia Leyland Williams FW07B F1 car to their range of Super Formula cars to run on Scalextric track.. Catalogue no C138. this green and white model is driven by a 12.volt DC motor and for top maximum speeds through the bends of a Scalextric circuit it has a low c of g and speceil low-profile tyres. The body, reinforced with an underpan carries the correct team numbers and sponsors’ decals, as do all these Scalextric Super Formula cars. The suggested retail price to £9.50.
Intidentally, if you are possessed of skilful fingers it is possible to tune the motors of such cars for different circuits, as described in the Haynes book on the development of the Scalextric cars and tracks which was reviewed in this column last month. WB
Reviews, September 2009
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