Book Reviews, September 1964, September 1964

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“Jim Clark at the Wheel,” by Jim Clark. 208 pp. 8 3/5 in. x 5½ in. (Arthur Barker, 20, New Bond Street, London, W.I. 18s.)

It is customary these days for famous racing drivers to do what Charles Jarrott did in 1906 and write their memoirs. Jim Clark is but one of a long line of racing-driver authors and no doubt books by or about McLaren, Hill and others will arrive sooner rather than later.

Jim Clark’s book, however, has special merit. In the first place it is by the current World Champion (nothing to do with gardening!) and there is good reason to believe he wrote it himself, whereas, from Segrave’s “Lure of Speed” onwards, most of these so-called autobiographies have been a lucrative field for literary ghosts.

Then, Clark is particularly frank and outspoken about his feelings and reactions to motor racing, about the Monza accident and the subsequent unpleasantness, and so on. If his book has any shortcomings, these are incidental to the comparatively brief career of Clark, who had no sooner felt his way round Crimond in a D.K.W. Sonderklasse than he was going really fast in a D-type Jaguar at Spa and in a Lister-Jaguar at Mallory Park and was into big-time racing with Lotus. The other possible short-coming is that the book has been serialised, so is not as fresh to some readers as it might be.

But Clark writes from the heart, Or should I say from the toes of his throttle-foot, about cars, real cars and the fun he has had driving them, on the road as well as round the circuits. His boyish enthusiasm is infectious. His race accounts are honest. This is a book to be recommended, not only for the 1948-1963 autobiography part but for Clark’s observations on coping with fear, racing in America, and his whole philosophy of racing. There are also some comprehensive statistics about his successes and failures and the cars he has raced, by his friend Ian Scott-Watson.—W. B.

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“American Road Racing,” by John C. Rueter. 139 pp. 10 1/5 in. x 6 4/5 in. (Thomas Yoseloff Ltd., 18, Charing Cross Road, London, W.C.2. 42s.)

This is at once an unusual and a rather expensive book. It is concerned with races organised by The Automobile Racing Club of America in the nineteen-thirties. Thus, while it omits the bigtime stuff, it covers the smaller, obscure, almost forgotten sports car and road races held by the A.R.C.A. before the war.

To go through Rueter’s book is rather like turning up pre-war issues of the V.S.C.C. Bulletin. There are hosts of pictures of interesting cars, cars one didn’t realise ever got to America at all. The book, in fact, abounds in Austin 7, Amilcar, Alfa Romeo, Riley, Bugatti (one of which the author raced), M.G., Lancia Lambda, S.S. Jaguar, Maserati, 328 B.M.W., Delage and other European cars, often the classic models. There are, naturally, Ford V8, Auburn, Studebaker, Cord and other local products, and “composites” like the Ford-Amilcar, Buick-Mercedes and so on. And there is a very racy-looking Ford Special raced by Rueter, and some nice Willys Specials.

All these, and others, are illustrated taking part in hill-climbs, oval circuit races and the A.R.C.A. pre-war road races. The history of Alfa Romeo, Maserati and similar cars could be assisted by using this work as a check. The race reports are not necessarily well written, being often verbatim reports from the Club’s magazine, the circuit diagrams are crude, and the appendices of points scored each season from 1930 onwards of little importance in this country after the passage of time.

But “American Road Racing” (within the limits of The Overlook A.R.C., later the A.R.C. of America, organisation) breaks new ground for those motor-racing historians who want their reference shelves to be all-embracing.—W. B.

 

“Grand Prix Racing Facts and Figures, 1894-1963,” by George Monkhouse and Roland King-Farlow. 462 pp. 8¾ in. 5½ in. (G. T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5 Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 75s.)

When it was first published in 1950 to be revised two years later, “Grand Prix Facts and Figures” was in considerable demand, as a book combining George Monkhouse’s observations on the Daimler-Benz approach to motor racing with a magnificent collection of his famous action and portrait pictures of drivers and cars. As the book also contained a useful concise history of racing from 1894 to date, divided into convenient chapters, a discourse on the greater Grand Prix drivers, and particularly as it concluded with King-Farlow’s tabulated race results, it was a unique reference book.

Now here it is again, in a very welcome third edition, taking the historical chapters up to the end of the 1963 racing season and containing a revised tabulated-results section in which King-Farlow gives the 1, 2, 3 placings, winners’ speed, circuit and race distance of 3,400 races run during the past seventy years. This is a fantastic chore by any standards, and as this valuable data is arranged for quick and easy reference by continent, then country, then alphabetically, it will be of the utmost service to those of us who live in, and enjoy infinitely, the past.

The driver biographies too, have been brought up to date. Britain can be proud that she publishes such a record of motor racing and the book, for those who cherish these things, can be described as inexpensive. The dust jacket depicts the start of the 1955 British Grand Prix at Aintree, the Ferraris picked out in red.—W. B.

Although it has virtually no connection with motoring, except for a few pages devoted to Kerr-Stuart diesel lorries, the 1929 version of which was Britain’s first diesel-engined commercial vehicle, and which used 30, 60 and 90 h.p. McLaren-Benz engines (with a separate air-cooled J.A.P. engine for starting the two larger models), we propose to refer to, and highly recommend, “A Hunslet Hundred” by L. T. C. Rolt (David & Charles, Ltd., 39, Strand, Dawlish, Devon/Macdonald & Co. Ltd., 2, Portman Street, London, W.1, 30s.) because Rolt is a renowned vintage-car personality and his histories—this one is about steam and diesel locomotives—are always so readable.

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