Book reviews, September 1962, September 1962

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“500 Miles To Go,” by Al Bloemaker. 278pp. 8½ in. x 5 3/5 in. (Frederick Muller Ltd., 110, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4. 30s.)

This is the Story of the Indianapolis Speedway, from 1908 to present-day, and thus this book joins Boddy’s monumental tome about Brooklands, his more recent history of Montlhéry and the Monza Year Books in providing a history of a given historic motor racing venue.

Bloemker adopts the “popular” style, quoting a lot of dialogue from the distant past, most or all of which must have been culled from his imagination, and he gives almost as much space to dramatic incidents, crashes, and fires that consumed Indianapolis buildings, as to the races and cars. But he has a great deal of history to cover and cannot be expected to include in a single volume as much material as is to be found annually in the Clymer Indianapolis Year Books.

However, as an account of how Carl Fisher came to construct the famous Indianapolis Speedway, scene of the 500-mile race every car on May 30th, which is the World’s sole remaining long distance semi-track race, and of the developments and racing highlights there, down the years, this book is not to be denied.—W. B.

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“More Wild Drivers,” by Red Daniels. 69 pp. 7 3/5 in. x 4 7/8 in. (The Scorpion Press, 11, Refant Road, Northwood, Middlesex 7s. 6d .)

Having, as motorists, been thoroughly and skilfully, but with right good humour and sketches of outstanding draughtsmanship, put in our place by Red Daniells in his hilarious “Drivers Wild,” we accept “More Wild Drivers” with avidity—and look forward to this all-seeing writer’s special study of women motorists that he threatens.

The present little volume deals with such members of the great motoring scene as the gimmick kings, the confirmed combo rider, the wolf in the big American car, the philosophic Bond miler, the scooter non-square, children’s crossing keepers, travellers in fertiliser, coach drivers, policemen on noddy-bikes, smash-and-grabsters, careful drivers, caravan-towers, driving-schools, railway van-drivers, Englishmen abroad, traffic wardens and many other mobile characters. We like particularly the owner of the gadget bedecked pre-war Morris 8 Who has joined the vintage car movement but cannot seem to find a class for his particular vehicle and the remark of the railway van-driver that he answers to Beeching, not Marples, while if you are having trouble deciding which kind of car to buy, reading page 68 may save you the trouble! If you can laugh at yourself as well as at your fellow motorists buy this little hook—it will dispel the blues ’caused by traffic jams and the “perversity of things.”—W. B.

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“Monza 1962,” 150 pp. 11½ in. x 8¾ in, (British distributor: Autobooks, 76, Bennett Road, Brighton Sussex. 35s. post free.)

This is the third of these beautifully-produced, lavishly treated Year Books that tells you all you could possibly wish to know about the Monza Autodrome. The 1962 edition not only describes the 1961 season in detail but continues the history of Monza, covering the years 1928 to 1933, with some very fine illustrations, both of cars and motorcycles. For instance, there is a picture of three different types of Mercedes on the line for the third heat of the 1929 Monza G.P., Fagioli in the 16-cylinder Maserati of 1932, Leon Duray’s f.w.d. Muller that for a time led the 1929 Monza G.P., fine static views of the fabulous 16-cylinder Tipo W.4 Maserati car and its dual engines, and other similar pictures of Lombard, 8CM-2500 Maserati, Amilcar Six, Tipo B-2600 Alfa Romeo, Maserati 8CM-3000, Lord Howe’s Bugatti and so on. The rating motorcycles of the period are similarly dealt with, the fine art paper setting off text and pictures to perfection.

Tabulated results of the racing era concerned are included and several full-page colour plates of modern rating at Monza are amongst the many excellent reproductions, lap records and maps of the various circuits etc., are provided, nor do the advertisements detract from this high-class Year Book, the English edition of which has text in English and Italian.—W. B.

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“Veteran Cars,” by Anthony Bird. 71 pp. 8¾ in.  7 2/5 in.  (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1. 12s. 6d.) .

This is another Colour Book in the Batsford series for which Anthony Bird writes a compact but comprehensive introduction covering the history of road travel from circa 1810 onwards. The 24 colour plates range from 1888 1½ h.p. Benz to 1915 model-T Ford, all the cars being in existence today and their ownership acknowledged, each one being accompanied by a piece of descriptive text very well managed by Bird in spite of the considerable coverage already devoted to the subject.—W. B.

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The Roads Campaign council has issued an illustrated 31-page book called “Parking Matters—A Community Problem,” illustrated with pictures and diagrams, including those of parking places in Leicester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cardiff, York, Edinburgh and Hook. This book should provide plenty of material for journalists, politicians, councillors or mere motorists who have cars to park. It is obtainable free, on mentioning Motor Sport, from the R.C.C., 15, Dartmouth Street, London, S.W.1.

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Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire have thoughtfully informed us that Vol. 21 of their Record Section, “A Nottinghamshire Miscellany” contains details of the Nottinghamshire Register of Motor Cars and Motor Cycles for 1903. An extract is available for 2s. 6d. and gives names, makes and details of 125 vehicles, including steam engines, owned locally at that date. Supplies are limited and those wanting a copy should apply at once to E. C. Tighe, B.A., F.L.A., Hon. Sec. of the Thoroton Society, at Central Library, South Sherwood Street, Nottingham, referring to Motor Sport.

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Seeing Britain with Ford

A mapbook with the above heading is available through Ford dealers. It is nice to see that the text accompanying the maps contains a reference to motor-racing venues but one’s faith in the accuracy of the whole publication is shaken when one reads only a superficial reference to Silverstone followed by the statement, the more remarkable in view of Ford’s participation in competition, that Aintree is “where the British G.P. and the R.A.C. T.T. races are staged.” (our italics!).

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Cars in books

What now? Well, in the novel “Every Man Is God” by Raymond Postgage (Michael Joseph, 1959) there is an excellent account of the fictional motor-car owned by Lord Alderton of Mickleton Hall in 1918 — “As it was a Very expensive model it had the name Panhard-Levassor On it, and a mechanism by which a hood could be pulled Over the passengers if rain came on. It was started by the use of a heavy iron starting-handle, cranked from the front; it was noisy, and it shook its passengers horribly if it went above 30 m.p.h. (but it was rarely asked to do so); it had two headlamps, burning acetylene gas made from carbide, Which had to be lit with matches. It was of course only used for short journeys — the longest distance it would be asked to cover was to Cambridge. Given a man as great as Arthur Alderton, a major-general and the third baron Alderton of Mickleton Hall in the County of Cambridge, would have to arrange his journeying to fit in with railway timetables… He would not have thought of coming down from London by motor car—not even in a staff car… He would have been uncomfortable, too, if he had; neither the roads nor the cars of 1918 were intended for long-distance driving.”‘

In this Panhard, then, the General came home to his estate and a World that never returned to the spacious conditions of pre-1914. It is excellently portrayed but one feels that the Panhard-Levassor had probably been in the stables along with the carriages some years prior to 1914, and that this has distorted Mr. Postgate’s views on the suitability of later models to undertake long tourneys. It would be a nice gesture for a member of the V.C.C. or V.S.C.C. to invite this author to take a long run in a good Edwardian when, even allowing for the far better roads of today, he should be easily convinced. No doubt if this were to come about a very good meal would be found en route!

Later in this book we encounter that typical post-Armistice character, Capt. Roddman, with his restless desire to “fool around for ever in low. small, open noisy sports cars, his own being called Jilly-bang-bang, which was painted in white on its scarlet body, it made a very great noise and did not go very fast, and was slung so low that he almost had to lie down to insert himself in it.” I do not know what make Raymond Postgate had in mind but the name he has given to his villain’s car suggests that he knew about a certain Maybach-Mercedes hailing from Canterbury. He may even have seen it in action at Brooklands?—W.B.

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