Reviews, October 2004

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Lotus — The Early Years by Peter Ross ISBN 1 90235112 6 Published by Coterie Press £34.99

It’s hard not to be impressed by this weighty hardback. Written by one of Chapman’s early collaborators, it tells the story of Lotus’ formative years from the perspective of the many uncelebrated talents who gave ‘Chunky’ a leg up on his way to greatness. Tackling the story up to 1955, it’s refreshing to read firsthand accounts from the likes of the Allen brothers and Mike Costin, along with several of the helpers who usually register as mere footnotes in other Lotus histories. The author can spin a good yarn and the text is free of florid language: just don’t expect much in the way of revelations.

Ross is also strong on the technical aspect of those early specials, thankfully without patronising the reader with engineering speak. The numerous, often previously unseen photographs and drawings all add up to a compelling purchase for Lotus-types, but there are some lingering reservations. For this sort of money, the annoying (and rampant) lapses into apostrophe abuse with dates are totally inexcusable. But what grates even more is the distressing use of brown borders throughout.

Otherwise, another likely seller from the prolific Coterie team, with a welcome personal slant. RH

******

The Complete Book of the World Rally Championship by Henry Hope-Frost & John Davenport ISBN 76031954 5, Published by Motor Books International, £34.99

This thumping 320-page hardback celebrates 30 years of the rallying world championship and manages a commendable job of outlining the many heroes of the sport and, to a lesser extent, their machines.

Words are informative, concise and accurate, although some lists of career highlights are incomplete: Colin McRae did compete after 2000, for example. And with such a visually stimulating sport, it’s a pity that some images are reproduced in glorious blur-o-vision. That said, the round-by-round (all 375 of ’em) results tables will keep the stattos happy. And there’s no doubting the authors’ love of the subject. RH

******

Racing in the Park by Bob Montgomery ISBN 1-902773-15-2 Published by Dreoilín £22.50 (hardback) or £7.50 (softback)

Motor racing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park celebrated its centenary last year and this work marks the rich history of this popular annual event.

After the speed trial in 1903 the sport did not return to the park until 1929. For three years thereafter, the Irish Grand Prix attracted star men like Birkin, Campbell, Campari and Caracciola. Racing at Phoenix Park has continued (with a few interruptions) ever since.

Montgomery relates the story chronologically with the aid of race posters and excellent photographs, although the power of some are lost in the book’s gutter. The early years are the work’s strength. DS

******

1950s Motorsport in Colour by Martyn Wainwright ISBN1 904788 15 7 Published by Veloce £49.99

Finding 1950s motor racing images in colour is a tough gig at the best of times but filling a book with them is surely impossible. Not so.

The photos in this 160-pager are from Martyn Wainwright’s archive. Or, more likely, his loft. Forgotten about until recently, poor storage meant that the transparencies needed digital enhancement for publication. Truth is, as evocative as many of them are, often poor repro renders the weighty price tag a little bit excessive. Even so, there are some wonderful photos here, more so the clubbie action than the Continental events; the sort of good stuff that doesn’t get aired that often. RH

******

The Griffith Years by Mike Mooney ISBN 9741307 2 Published by Possum Valley $29.95/£18

This engaging labour of love traces the story of Andrew ‘Jack’ Griffith and his many overpowered creations, in particular the eponymous TVR-based coupés.

The narrative tackles his career from entrant to his switch into car production, the fresh information on the fallout between him and his English suppliers being particularly enlightening. Of most interest is Mark Donohue’s role in the genesis of Griffith, the marque — sadly, ‘Captain Nice’ never got to drive the works ‘Cobra Killer’ as he’d moved on by the time it was finished.

Poor repro aside, a good effort. Check www.griffithyears.com RH

******

Maserati: Victory by Design series presented by Alain de Cadenet Released by Goldcroft Films £17.99

At last — racing cars well filmed by enthusiasts. No music, just whining gears and gurgling carbs, recorded live. When you see the driver’s knee twitch, you hear a gearchange. And when the driver is Main de Cadenet, you know there’s no pussyfooting.

I can’t think of anyone better suited to presenting these DVDs than de Cadenet, a serious racer who can talk engagingly to camera as he collects a slide in a million-pound car. He describes and drives the significant racers in turn, one marque per DVD — the others are Alfa, Jaguar, Aston, Ferrari and Porsche.

It’s a fantasy — but this is one you can, and will, replay. GC

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