Book Reviews, September 1955, September 1955

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The Complete Mercedes Story,” by W. Robert Nitske. 167 pp., 5 ½in. by 8 ½in. (The Macmillan Company, 10, South Audley Street, London, W.1. 35s.)

Here in one volume is a sorting-out of Mercedes-Benz history by a writer who was born in Berlin but went to the United States in 1929 and became an American citizen in 1936.

He covers the prototype, production and racing models of the great Stuttgart factory from 1834 to 1954, but whether or not the book lives up to its title all depends on what you imply by “complete.”

The text is presented in a slick style not uncommon in American productions but leaves a good deal unsaid, the descriptions of the latest models being somewhat sketchy and jumbled, while inevitably this book repeats much we have read previously in St. J. Nixon’s history of Daimler, George Monkhouse’s “Motor Racing with Mercedes-Benz” and other works.

Nevertheless, here in one volume is a compact history of the great German firm, and the illustrations, although mostly from the company’s publicity archives, are many and well reproduced, these photographs being backed by 52 small line drawings of different Mercedes models on the inside front and back covers.

Chapters are devoted to the 3-litre and larger MercedesBenz Grand Prix cars (the 1 ½-litre referred to as a “silver bomb”), to Mercedes drivers, the firm’s Land Speed Record achievements, allied automotive products of the company, the Blitzen Benz, the 1939-1954 production models, etc.

It is all very comprehensive but I preferred the pictures to the text, which is something of a record for false statements and ambiguities. — W. B.

“Winterstoke — The Story of a Town,” by L. T. C. Rolt. 248 pp., 5 ½ in. by 8 ¾in. (Constable and Co., Ltd., 10-12, Orange Street, London, W.C.2. 16s.)

There is not a great deal about motor cars in this book, yet it should appeal to a large proportion of Motor Sport readers, describing as it does, in fascinating style, how England changed with industrial development and new machines — steam, electric, petrol, diesel and jet — affected the scenery, living conditions and the inhabitants of Tom Rolt’s imaginary but authentic town of Winterstoke, in the Midlands.

On the inside front cover of this book we have a map of Winterstoke as it was circa 1790; on the inside back cover we see Winterstoke in 1953, with its housing estates, government offices. R.A.F. station, cinemas, road-house, approved school, its many specialised factories, the Electronic Development Corp., radar station, the Summersend Atomic Research Establishment … Rolt’s story tells how all this came about down the long years, aided and abetted by the machines he so graphically and skilfully portrays in words. We see the first “horseless carriage” running in Winterstoke’s streets, leading to the later mass-production of cheap (and Rolt implies nasty) Foster Flying Fours built in a factory that was once a garage, as Morris, Clyno and other cars were developed in real Life.

Rolt has written earlier books, on canals, railways and motor cars, but in “Winterstoke” he writes at his best. I recommend this book, not only to readers of like tastes to my own, but to history masters who find difficulty in getting pupils to apply themselves to standard text-books of English history. Rolt, who ran a 1903 Humberette in Brighton Runs, steered his narrow-boat along the inland waterways, drove about our country lanes in his 12/50 Alvis, has written a book, simple and sincere, yet disturbing in its portrayal of the past and its implications for the future. If you want a title for your book-list that will educate as it entertains. “Winterstoke” is just such a book, with the added merit that it is unusual and effective in its approach to a fascinating subject. — W. B.

“Tuning for Speed and Economy,” by Philip H. Smith, A.M.I.Mech.E. 160 pp., 5½in. by 8½in (G. T. Foulis and Co., Ltd., 7, Milford Lane. Strand, London, W.1. 15s.)

Mr. Smith is well known for his clearly-written and useful works on the design and tuning of sports-car engines. In this book he assists the car owner to get the best from his vehicle, detailing vital tuning operations and adjustments under headings such as valves and valve gear, spark plugs, ignition equipment, induction system and carburetter, fuel supply apparatus, lubrication system, cooling system, etc. Lots of valuable diagrams are included, notably of S.U. carburetters and fuel pumps, etc. General electrical equipment is not included.

This book should repay study by those enthusiasts who avidly seek to increase the speed and performance of their cars, because before commencing specialised tuning they are advised to get every component working in an efficient manner. — W. B.

Two motor-racing directories or year books have been published recently: the “Motor Racing Directory, 1955-1956,” which is a soft-cover 220-page publication costing 7s. 6d., and the “Autosport Directory, 1955,” which is a true book, of 356 art-paper pages, priced at 30s., edited by Nevil Lloyd. Both carry advertising matter.

Both books cover the R.A.C.-approved motor clubs in some detail, provide details and diagrams of racing circuits, and reprint the 1955 fixture lists. The “Motor Racing Directory” scores by having many excellent photographs of well-known drivers and racing personalities, and an interesting personalities’ Who’s Who; also a directory of manufacturers and suppliers. The “Autosport Directory” offers more comprehensive data on the various circuits and reprints rules relating to sports and touring-car competitions, extracts from the International Sporting Code, and contains brief specifications of current G.P. and high-performance cars, the addresses of British and foreign car manufacturers, details of special awards, including the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy, data on motor books and magazines, conversion tables, etc. It lacks pictures of drivers and their cars, however. Useful routes to British and Continental circuits are given.

It is true to say that a directory of this kind is as useful as the wanted-information it provides, and there are omissions from each of these directories, while the “Autosport Directory suffers from casual proof-reading. For instance, in respect of circuits, the “Autosport Directory” far outnumbers the other, including many British circuits no longer in use, and being far more comprehensive so far as Continental circuits are concerned, yet for information on the course at Marseilles it is to the “Motor Racing Directory” that one must turn! Both these, annuals lose somewhat by being published in the summer, when racing is well under way.

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Ian Allen Ltd., Craven House, Hampton Court, Surrey, have brought out two more of their 2s. “A.B.C. ” books, ” Motor Racing” and “American Cars,” both by John Dudley. The former is comprehensive for the money, with sports/racing cars included, but suffers from the rate at which motor-racing “dates”; the other booklet is a useful quick-reference to “all-looking-alike” U.S. automobiles.

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Mobilgas have introduced No. 10 of their 6d. maps, this being of the London area with a through-way plan for Central London, index to places of interest, theatres, cinemas, etc. Good value — obtainable at the “Sign of the Flying Red Horse.”

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J. & L. Randall Ltd. have introduced a Merit Outfit plastic assembly kit which makes up into a 1910 model-T Ford two-seater complete with driver. Their address is Potters Bar, Middlesex.