Book reviews, October 1985, October 1985

“Escort Mk 1, 2 & 3 – The Development & Competition History” by Jeremy Walton. 374 pp. 10 in X 7 in. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ. £14.95).

Last month I reviewed Jeremy Walton’s book about the RS Fords and now here is a comprehensive look, by the same author, at the Ford Escort that for the past 18 years has served well drivers of all kinds. The coverage, as the title indicates, is of all the Escort models, including the front-drive ones that inevitably replaced the former rear-drive models. The author has driven most Escorts, sometimes very fast, and was with Ford’s AVO department when they were in the early stages of production. So anyone who wants chapter and verse about this popular Ford will find it in this latest Haynes’ book. I am pleased to add that Walton has borrowed many Motor Sport test figures in comparing different Fords, a reminder that I have enjoyed driving many quick Escorts, from the first Escort GT to a Mexico. This work very effectively puts the Escort on the bookshelf.

Every so often one comes across a book which seems to be so far out of the usual mould that it is positively eccentric. Very occasionally such a book proves to be a mine of delight. Such a book is Robin Read’s “Goodwood – a Private View” (published by Nelson & Saunders, 2 Dartmouth Road, Olney, Bucks, MK46 8BH, 104 pp, paperback, 8 in x 12 in, £9.95).

The book is a photograph album of Goodwood between the years 1949-56. The photographs were taken by Robin’s father, Cyril, now living in retirement in Norfolk. Cyril Read had lost his left hand and so could support only a relatively light camera, with the result that he could not take action shots which would have required a telephoto lens and, instead, concentrated on intimate shots taken in the paddock. We see, therefore, Paul Emery with a worried look trying to get one of his 500 cc cars to run correctly. There is a happy Reg Parnell at the wheel of his 4CL T/48 Maserati and, in the background, is Graham Hill who was then just a fan and three years away from taking his driving test. Throughout the book one comes across the outstanding cars and personalities of the period, a very pleasant stroll down memory lane.

Robin Read, whose involvement with the sport includes running Dante Engineering and three years as Sales Manager of Lotus, has provided a clear, authoritative commentary on each photograph. For those who are interested in the period of motor racing which saw the foundations laid for the ultimate success of the British motor racing industry, this book is a must. It’s something to keep and every so often take off the shelf and dip into. – ML.

When one sees a book described on its cover as a “definitive history” my reaction is normally to stifle a snigger. “Jaguar”, however, is written by Andrew Whyte and what Mr Whyte does not know about his subject is really not worth knowing. More than that, he writes well and knows that behind every car is a story about the people who made it and the car cannot be understood unless you first understand its background and the people who made it.

“Jaguar” was first published in 1980 and the first edition was reprinted three times. This latest edition (pub. Patrick Stephens Ltd, Denington Estate, Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 2QD, 252pp, illustrated, £12.95) has been revised and up-dated so that it brings us up to the beginning of 1985.

It’s a particularly well-illustrated book and always readable. If one’s library had to contain only one book on the marque, this would have to be the one. – ML.

Shire Publications Ltd, Cromwell House, Church Street, Princes Risborough, Ayles­bury, Bucks, HP1 7 9AJ, have come up with an attractive little book by Llyn E Morris about “The Country Garage”, price £1.25. It contains 35 reproduced photographs of early country garages, some of which have been seen elsewhere but which are nostalgic in the extreme, one of these, for instance, being of Donald Healey’s Perranporth establishment, as mentioned in Motor Sport recently, seen circa 1922. The vehicles thereat are not named, nor are they in many of the other shots, but you should have fun identifying them. There is a simple accompanying text and reproductions of old advertisements, etc. Altogether a pleasing little production some of the vehicles seen in the pictures are named, such as a rare 1918 15 hp Swift tourer at the country garage at Bugle in Cornwall and a Darracq chassis at Presteigne. Morris and Ford seem to predominate in later pictures and the unnamed car on page nine is a Scripps-­Booth. Watch for a vintage-motor-car book from the same source, this autumn.

It may be of interest to historians who do not use the old British Road Federation booklets when seeking statistics of the number of vehicles in use on British roads that those quoted in “The Country Garage” are from the “Abstracts of British Historical Statistics” published by Cambridge Univer­sity Press, showing for instance that in 1914 there were 389,000 mechanically-propelled vehicles of all kinds on our roads, and that by 1939 this figure was up to 3,030,000.

I cannot imagine why anyone should want a book expressly devoted to “British Family Cars of the ‘Fifties” but should anyone do so, Haynes – address above – have filled the bill with a biggish book by Michael Allen on this very subject. It was clever to get many of these dreary 1950s cars in colour. But Singer and Wolseley enthusiasts need not bother, because for some inexplicable reason this make is not among the Austin, Ford, Hillman, Morris, Standard and Vauxhall cars which make up what, at £14.95, is a too-expensive offering. WB.

Those interested in early aviation history will welcome a little book, “The Royal Fly­ing Corps in Oxfordshire – 1912-1918” by Peter Wright. It contains lots of fascinating pictures, and the text outlines the coming of the RFC to Oxfordshire, the aeroplanes used, the aerodromes they occupied, the first being that at Port Meadow, the early accidents, and so on. What I found especi­ally interesting was the references to the remains of buildings and other relics of those days, which can still just about be seen, including a trace of Aerodrome Road at Port Meadow. The book also has a photo­graph of the memorial-stone, still at Wolver­cote Bridge, in memory of Lt CA Betting­ton and 2nd-Lt E Hotchkiss, who lost their lives when the Bristol Coanda monoplane they were in broke up when coming in to land at Port Meadow. Locals contributed to a 1d-fund for the stone and flowers for the funeral, which totalled more than £31 10s; the bodies had been removed in a 60/90 hp Napier. (I had known of, and have photo­graphed, two similar memorials near Stone­henge but did not know of this one.) There is also a plaque in Wolvercote Parish Church, made from a sheet of metal from the crashed machine ….

The book lists some of the flying accidents in the county from 1917-1919 and all the RFC/RAF graves in Oxfordshire dating from 1917-1918. The book can be obtained from the author at 4 Parklands, Freeland, Oxford OX7 2HX, Smiths bookshops, and the price is £2.50 post free. – WB.