Book reviews, September 1960, September 1960

“Jack Brabham’s Motor Racing Book”, 124 pp. 10 in. x 71/2 in. (Frederick Muller Ltd, Ludgate House, 110 Fleet Street, London EC4. 15s.).

It is certainly time the rise of Jack Brabham from cinder-track driver to World Champion was made the subject of a book but it is distressing that this has been done in a sort of photogravure children’s album, packed with errors. It is remarkable that Brabham, so meticulous in his driving and race tactics and so knowledgeable about his cars should perpetuate, or let someone else perpetuate for him, so many mistakes in his own book.

You do not have to go to the text to find these glaring mistakes. They abound in the captions to the excellent pictures. Thus on page 28 Musso is mistaken for Jean Behra, on the double-spread of Aintree Brabham has forgotten which year it was he won the British G.P. there, he muddles Nurnberg with Nurburg on page 47, and again on page 92 proving this isn’t a printing error, while there are such “classics” as Hanstein being captioned as Henry Manney on page 60, Silverstone being mistaken for Goodwood on page 68 and the new Daytona Speedway with its bankings being passed off as Sebring on page 106. We also note that a journalist who has never worked for us is linked with Motor Sport on page 74—wishful thinking ?

This is intended to be a popular book and it contains, besides an interesting account of Brabham’s motor-racing, many amusing pictures of well-known drivers and personalities off-duty and letting their hair down—also some quite unnecessary crash-pictures. But the obvious errors, all the more unpalatable because they come from the World Champion, spoil it. Jack is not above sarcasm in connection with some remarks made by Motor Sport about the dangerous appearance of the Coopers on corners at Aintree in 1959 ; but critics should be careful not to leave themselves wide open and by dropping a very large load of loudly clanging “bricks”. Jack Brabham does just this and may even make some people wonder whether his motoring utterances in the daily papers are approached in the same casual manner. Brabham, in the text, has, however, much of interest to impart, stating for example that it was by studying a Press photograph of his Cooper taking Woodcote Corner at Goodwood in 1957 that he and the Coopers saw how much the suspension needed altering, leading to the double-wishbone layout of the 1958 Coopers.

Brabham, like Moss, admits to loathing the Le Mans race, but need he recall in detail the horrors of the 1955 accident ? He draws an interesting comparison between the military organisation of the Aston Martin team and the lack of organisation at Cooper’s, concluding “there is one thing they have in common. They both win motor races”. He rates Cooper as the first works team ever to make motor racing pay, considers the matter of women in the pits and pays many tributes to his wife Betty and to the bravery of motor-racing photographers. Brabham is very interesting about the last Championship race of 1959 at Sebring, when McLaren won, with 4 gallons of fuel left in the Cooper’s tanks and he had to push his dry Cooper home—he attributes this to flooding carburetters. He is interesting about his TV “Sportsview” appearance after winning the Championship, explaining why, in naming Graham Hill, Dan Gurney and Bruce McLaren as the three drivers most likely to win the Championship this year, he inadvertently omitted to name Moss. And he seems to incline slightly to the view that Moss is a car breaker, for he remarks “I must concentrate more on my driving and worry less about my car. I think Stirling should perhaps worry a little more about his car.” The book concludes with a splendid profile of Hill, immediately after Graham has finished a race, naming him “a star of the future.”

There is, then, much worth reading in ” Jack Brabham’s Motor Racing Book ” but as presented its not worthy of you, Jack. WB.

“Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War,” Compiled by WM Lamberton. 221 pp. 111/4 in. x 83/4 in. (Harleyford Publications Ltd., Letchworth, Herts. 45s.).

This beautifully-produced book of art pages and innumerable and often very rare photographic reproductions is published by Harleyford, who specialise in historic aircraft books. It is a companion volume to “Air Aces of the First World War” and is packed with data and illustrations about the aeroplanes that these pilots flew and fought in. More than 700 photographs were selected from a collection of 2,000, all of them over forty years old, and a team of experts has fitted data and story to these unique pictures, even to including five double-page tables detailing specifications and performance statistics for 163 different aeroplanes.

The general arrangement of this “collector’s” volume is that 84 aeroplanes of American, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German and Italian 1914-18 origin each receive a page of text and five photographs, opposite a page of 17/2nd-scale three-view drawings. That alone is definitely an achievement, which will be appreciated as the enthralled reader turns the big glossy pages from Le Pere Lusac II to Macchi M.5 and M.7, absorbing the historical, constructional, performance and squadron data so freely provided.

But that is not all. The book includes, in addition, details of armament installations, camouflage and markings of airframes and engines, again with masses of rare and/or instructive pictures, a section illustrating the engines used in these First World War machines, and, as if reluctant not to put in several hundred more pictures, page upon page devoted to rare and experimental aircraft (have you met, for example, the Ursinus seaplane with retractable floats or the Naglo Quadruplane ?), aeroplanes of long ago in strange surroundings or unusual garb, engine installations, cockpit interiors, photographs depicting fuselage construction, miscellaneous details (there is a shot of Guynemer in his Spad S.7 called “Vieux Charles” —did a certain GP Lorraine-Dietrich ever serve his squadron ?) and so on.

Recently there have been several excellent if very expensive reference books on 1914-18 and later RAF aeroplanes but “Harborough,” of which Harleyford are the publishers, pioneered in this field. Their latest, “Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War” is fascinating, absorbing and instructive (did you know that whereas a Sopwith Camel airframe cost £874 10s, its 130-hp Clerget rotary engine set the tax-payer back £907 10s ?). The whole story is here between two covers, a museum in itself.—WB.

“BP Book of the Racing Campbells,” by Richard Hough. 125 pp. 83/8 in. X 51/4 in. (Stanley Paul & Co, 178-202 Gt Portland Street, London W1. 12s 6d.).

This is an excellent and accurate account of the record-breaking careers of the late Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald Campbell, who is just about to attempt to break the late John Cobb’s fastest ever car speed record.

The story opens with details of father Campbell’s early motoring experiences and his racing at Brooklands in the age of giants, due acknowledgement being given to W Boddy’s “The History of Brooklands Motor Course”. Campbell’s later “Land Speed Record” attempts in his many “Bluebirds” are concisely but excitingly described and this leads to his water speed records and his son’s brave and successful endeavours in that sphere with jet-propelled boats.

BP have timed this book well, on the eve of Donald Campbell’s venture into the land-speed field and the book contains many beautifully reproduced pictures, a few of them rare. This is a “popular,” condensed Campbell biography, but well worth having for all that, and at last the true cause of “Babs” crash which killed Parry Thomas is fearlessly told. Indeed, we have found but one minor error—a misprint in the designation of one of Campbell’s touring Sunbeams.—WB.

“The Motor Car-1765-1914,” by Anthony Bird. 256 pp. 9 in. x 6 in. (BT Batsford Ltd, 4 Fitzhardinge Street, Portman Square, London W1. 25s.)

Produced in Batsford’s standard, very high-quality style, with a delightful coloured dust-jacket and innumerable line drawings in the text, Anthony Bird’s considered history of the origins and subsequent development of the automobile is likely to be accepted by students and historians as the standard work of reference.

For all that, Mr. Bird writes not a dull historical tome but a readable account of how it all began and emerged, adding many new facets and refusing to accept certain dogmatisms which previous historians have accepted without question. Naturally, this is fairly heavy going, especially for those, like the reviewer, who cannot become wildly enthusiastic about pioneer steam coaches and the very first of the horseless-carriages. Yet in spite of aversion to this so-long-ago period of motoring history this reviewer found himself enjoying Bird’s masterly discourse on a vitally important if uninspired period of automotive history. This is because he writes well and concisely, leaving out unimportant details but using flashes of humour to enliven his text and splendid line drawings of significant developments, such as the intimate technicalities of Daimler’s V-twin engine of 1888, Tenting’s pioneering of friction drive, the arrangement of reverse gear by sliding bevels in early crash gearboxes, Serpollet’s water tube boiler, the Cannstaltt-Daimler gate gear-change, Renault’s direct-drive gearbox of 1899, etc.

This being the case this reviewer even read yet again about Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz without screaming too loudly !

“The Motor Car-1765-1914” contains besides the line-drawings of classic mechanisms, others of famous cars, together with some excellent photographic reproductions, the humorous captions of some of the latter being slightly out of place in such a serious and valuable history book.

The author concentrates mainly on the pioneer era but rounds this off with an interesting summary of Edwardian developments, including a chapter on the model-T Ford and Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce cars, though here repetition is more apparent. VCC members will surely be giving one another Bird’s book as a very acceptable Christmas gift !–WB.

If you still have a Continental holiday to come you may like to take with you as a useful, ready-made log, the “Foreign Touring Companion” (Dudley Noble Publications Ltd., 2s.).

Floyd Clymer’s latest publications include a “Complete Porsche Owner’s Repair and Maintenance Handbook” covering 1959-69 and earlier cars, by Ocee fitch, costing 4 dollars and available from specialist English booksellers, and a book on “Modern Flight,” by Cloyd P. Clevenger (3 dollars). Available from Motor Books for 37s 6d.–postage 1s 0d.—is Post Motor Books “Making the Volkswagen Go,” by Henry Eliink. which covers the latest transporter-type engine.

That very successful historian LTC Rolt, well known in VCC, VSCG and 12/59 Alvis circles, has written a splendid triology about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Telford and George and Robert Stevenson, of great interest to those of our readers interested in engineering as well as motor cars. These books are published by Longmans and will be reviewed next month.

John Lloyd has written n comprehensive little book called “The World’s Veteran to Vintage Cars” (Macdonald, 15s.), in which he describes briefly 82 pre-1930 vehicles and some historic racing cars, illustrated by a motley but clearly-reproduced collection of photographs.

A car compass

Rally drivers find a car compass essential and this is an accessory which can add pleasure and save petrol in ordinary motoring. A very good one is the Poleo compass with full NE/EW compensators, and screw or suction mounting. It is liquid-damped, luminous, and has screws for canceling out magnetic interference. It costs £2 0s 6d. from the Poole Clock Co, 90 Aldersgate Street, London EC1.