Book reviews, October 1983, October 1983
“Grand Prix Bugatti” by Hugh Conway. 272 pp. 11 in x 8 in (Haynes Publishing Group Ltd., Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ, £19.95).
This is the second edition of “Grand Prix Bugatti”, the first having appeared five years ago, so naturally Hugh Conway, who might almost be said to have “invented” Bugatti lore in recent times, has considerably revised and added to the contents. To say the book is enthralling is an understatement. It is of big format, with lots of truly exciting photographs of one of the World’s most desirable motor cars, but there is ample text, of a distinctly erudite nature, as well. The early days are covered adequately but not in so much fascinating detail as Conway devotes to the racing years of the Bugatti from 1922 up to the war. Apart from telling us of the more important races in which the marque took part, there is all the technical stuff descriptions of the various Bugatti models, in much detail, for Hugh has owned such cars and has been able to dissect, measure and photograph them, and he has had access to factory drawings and other documents, from which he quotes generously.
So this is THE book about the competition Bugattis. The new edition has photographs of 52 prominent Bugatti drivers, from Robert Benoist to Count Louis Zborowski, which reminds me that the photographic coverage is not only magnificent but that some rare pictures are included. To name but a few — there is one of the Juneks in a 1923 “tank” GP Bugatti, Mays and Berthon in a GP Bugatti at Skegness, Leon Duray with one of the Type 43s he bartered for those Millers that showed Ettore the path to twin-overhead-camshaft engines, the bolster-tanked GP cars in the 1929 fuel-consumption GP of the ACF, Moffatt and Sir John Venables-Llewelyn touring the USA in a Type 35, and other less well-known owners using their Bugattis as everyday or long-distance transport. Inevitably, many of these photographs have been seen previously but here they are enlarged and properly reproduced. They are accompanied by many engineering drawings, and the Appendices give the history and present day owners of different types of Bugattis, etc.
Errors are few, but Editor Leban has let a few through. I did not know that Nuvolari’s Christian name was Tasio, having always used Tazio, and “Hevery” on the first page cannot be right, surely, nor Zbrowski”. . . .
This is a splendid book and if I were bound for a desert or any other island and allowed to take only two books I would pack this one and “Morgan Sweeps The Board”, so as never to be far away from happy reminders of what competition motoring was all about before the war, and the cars I would have dearly liked to have owned, (Actually, Conway covers the post-war renaissance as well.) — W.B.
“Spitfire – A Test Pilot’s Story” by Jeffrey Quill. 306 pp. 83/4 in x 51/2 in. (John Murray Ltd, 50 Albemarle Street, London, W1X 4BD. £12.50)
This autobiographical account of his flying career by the great test-pilot Jeffrey Quill, OBE, AFC, FRAeS , whom Motor Sport interviewed some time ago, is one of the most interesting, well-written and “non-put-downable” flying books I have had the pleasure of reading for some considerable time. Mainly, it is about Quill’s test-flying of all marks of the immortal Supermarine Spitfire fighter-monoplane, and on that score alone this is a very absorbing and vitally important contribution to this subject, told with obvious authority and giving Quill’s opinions and preferences of the many different versions of the Spitfire, 53 in all, if the photo-reconnaissance and Seafire types are included. There are Appendices giving much fresh data about them, as well as Quill’s textual account of flying them. In this respect the book is complementary to John Murray’s other titles, “Sigh For A Merlin” by Alex Henshaw and “Spitfire Into Battle” by Group Captain Duncan Smith, DSO, DFC.
But Quill’s book, besides being very lucid and authoritative, goes further, telling of his pre-test pilot career, in the RAF. This is enthralling stuff. It covers learning to aviate in Avro Tutors after schoolboy interest had been fanned by Avro 504s near Lancing College, and what it was like to fly in an AW Siskin flight and later the horrific experience of being one of the two pilots appointed to the exacting Met. Flight, in which they once contrived an unbroken two-flights-a-day for a whole year, sometimes in “impossible” weather conditions, using Siskin 111As. Quill also flew Bristol Bulldogs — those long-gone biplane days — and his stories of getting lost in bad weather conditions, making forced landings and of his escape by parachute from a Vickers Wellesley that refused to come out of a flat spin, and crashed at New Malden in 1937. No-one was injured, although the abandoned aeroplane fell on a house and precipitated the birth of a baby girl whose mother was living therein; years later Quill’s daughter met the girl who knew that her father had “dropped a big aeroplane on our house” . . . These accounts, and Quill’s open descriptions of important people he met while in the Air Force and at Vickers-Armstrongs, including Spitfire designer RJ Mitchell, I found of the utmost interest; so buy this book not only for its great contribution to the Spitfire story but for discovering what flying was like, in those adventurous pre-war days.
Quill includes references to his old Morris-Cowley and to his later well-loved 3-litre Bentley of which he recalls “the distinctive throaty exhaust note emanating from its low-revving engine”, as he drove with mixed feelings from Brooklands to Duxford to make his first acquaintance with the Spitfire — his flights in K5054 get a chapter to themselves. Quill also remembers the Trojan that met him at Pewsey station in 1932 after he had been posted to Upavon, which I am sure the Trojan OC will appreciate. Other cars mentioned include the Rolls-Royces with their silver-cobra mascots, owned by the autocratic Sir Philip Sassoon, and the Rolls-Royce which had been given to RJ Mitchell by its makers after the 1931 Schneider Trophy victory. Daily life in the Air Force at this period is well-described, including a rather fraught part taken by Quill and his colleagues in the 1933 RAF Display, when flying Jupiter-engined Bristol Bulldogs in close formation in poor visibility, for No 17 (Fighter) Squadron’s dummy attack on an “enemy” convoy.
The Foreword is by Sir George Edwards, OM, CBE, FRS, FEng, there are 60 pictures and six drawings, and the book is strongly recommended, even if the binding of the review copy allowed four pages to detach themselves.
Latest in Motor Racing Publications’ “Collector’s Guide” series is James Taylor’s “The Classic Rovers”, covering in picture, text and tables the Rover models of 1934 to 1977, so it is excellent reading for those who favour “aunties” or the more sporting 2000s, etc. Racing and rallying get a chapter to themselves, there is buying and maintenance advice, and this 71/2 in x 9 in book with its 144 pages costs £8.95. —WB.
THOSE who like to have on hand in their libraries every book about specific races will be pleased to know that “The Great Savannah Races” by Julian K Quattlebaum, MD, which was first published in 1957, has been reissued as a Brown Thrasher book, by The University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA for 19.95 dollars. Not a very in-depth book, nevertheless for an outline of the various important events run at Savannah between 1908 and 1911, from the International Light Car Race of the AC of America, to the final Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prix there, it is of much interest. The book has 132 pages (11 in x 81/2 in) and there are maps and plenty of good photographs of the big racing cars of those days. —WB.
The latest trio in Haynes’ popular “Super Profile” series is “MG Midget and Austin-Healey Sprite” by Lindsay Potter, “Jaguar E-Type (3.8, 4.2 and 5.3-litre)” by Andrew Whyte, and ‘ “Lancia Stratos” by Graham Robson. Each of these informative books sells at £4.95.