“Brooklands Bikes in the Twenties”. by Peter Hartley. 244 pp. 81/2″ x 5″ (Argue Books Ltd, Argus House, 14 St. James Road, Watford, Herts. £6.95)
After Peter Hartley had written and published his pre-1916 Brooklands motorcycle racing history and had promised us the post-war story as its sequel, there was an unhappy delay due to difficulties for Goose, his publisher, and we feared that the full history might never appear. So it is excellent news that Argus Books have now released more of this race-by-race BMRMC history, in a neat, soft-cover publication. It is not a book for the casual follower, who would probably find it very dull indeed. But to those who love Brooklands memories and consider that there should be a motorcycle record to go alongside the car history of the old Track, this is not only worthwhile but essential material.
There are, as far as I can see, practically no points of difference that other experts will want to raise with the author on general Brooklands aspects, except that I disagree that the BARC recognised 1/4-mile records, although it did issue official Certificates for speeds timed over the distance, the shortest record distances in the early days being the 1/2-mile, kilo and ten miles. I was unaware that, apart from the local residents’ complaints about noise that came up in 1907 and 1924, there was another outbreak in 1911, nor that this was the reason why the 1921 500 Mile Motorcycle Race. for the AG Miller 200-guinea Cup, intended to be resumed in 1922, was never repeated — but one never stops learning interesting fresh facts about the old Track, even though it has not been raced over for 41 years.
Hartley describes every race at every race meeting, even the motorcycle races at mixed meetings and those of the smaller clubs, and if this is repetitive reporting, based probably mainly on the Press reports of the time, it does cover all that anyone should need to know about this aspect of Brooklands and the chaps who rode motorcycles there, for which there had been very little published beforehand until I tackled the task for Lord Montagu’s now-defunct magazine. This book also includes all the motorcycle and three-wheeler records established from 1920-1929. Hartley found so much to write about, inspite of quite brief accounts of these races, that he has stopped at the end of the 1929 season, with the promise of a third book to bring his coverage up to the end of Brooklands as we knew it. I think it rather a pity that he did not continue to the close of the vintage years, as represented by 1930. However, we have his first book covering BMCRC racing from 1908 to 1915. and his present offering gives us chapters relating to 1919-1920 and thence from 1921-1929, a period in which, as he says, speeds rose from a little over 70 mph to well over 90 mph, and the motorcycle lap-record went to over 118 mph.
He includes just enough of the technical aspects of the more outstanding machines and their riders to leven the inevitably tedious race-by-race reporting and he had the aid of a few of the experts to help with the contents. The pictures, chosen on the advice of Dr. Joseph Bailey. are clear but small and not particularly exciting, but adequate to convey the atmosphere of the days when riders such as Rex Judd, O’Donovan, Marchant, Bert Le Vack, Emerson, Claude Temple, Tony Vorters, Chris Staniland, Baragwanath, Baldwin, and Riddoch were among the household names at the Track, especially on those “Bemsee” afternoons centred around the outer-circuit and the Fork paddock.
Reading all this past history, it is surprising how very few accidents occurred (no fatalities in this intense ten years) and how the public was attracted by much the same racing — apart from the one 500 Mile Race and the later 200 Mile solo and sidecar races — between mostly the same “names”. If Hartley has produced a book which must seem dull to the uninitiated, who could be misled by its title to expect more about the machinery than the races, what a treat it is for Brooklands fanatics to have all the motorcycle history properly set out. I, for one, am grateful, and am avidly awaiting the third volume. The present one has appendices giving the full results of that 1921 500 Mile marathon won by Le Vack’s 998 cc vee-twin Indian at 70.42 mph from Freddie Dixon’s 989 cc vee-twin Harley-Davidson, great stuff for those far-away days and a dramatic finish, and a list of holders of BMCRC Gold Stars for a lap at 100 mph or over, to the end of 1929, but it is a pity it is not uniform with volume one. There is also a useful Index. Well done, Hartley. — WB.
“Racing With The David Brown Aston Martins” by John Wyer and Chris Nixon. Two volumes, 249 pp each, 11″ x 81/4″. (Transport Bookman Publications Ltd., 8 South Street, Isleworth, Middesex, TW7 7B. £14.95 each volume).
A great deal of concentrated Aston Martin history was already with us when these two big new books appeared, with a great wealth of pictorial support for the text. It has to be said, however, that a recent offering covering the make is said to be so full of inaccuracies that we have heard of a purchaser asking for his money back, and of course more is known today about the inside story of such racing than was the case when it was pieced together just after the war. In any case, Chris Nixton has had John Wyer to write his first volume and nothing could be a better insurance of accuracy than that. Wyer, the Neaubauer of Britain, joined Aston Martin in 1950 to run their racing and became General Manager of Aston Martin and Lagonda Ltd in 1957, Reg Parnell then taking over the team management of David Brown’s Company, and later Wyer left to run racing for Ford.
So here we have in much detail Wyer’s own account of Aston Martin racing from 1947 onwards, supported by many fine illustrations of almost every aspect of the game and of the Aston Martin competition cars. To go hand in hand with this, in his second volume Nixon provides as with fascinating taped interviews with 29 AM personalities, starting with Sir David Brown himself, and allowing us to chat, as it were, to the drivers, the mechanics, the engineers including Professor Eberan-Eberhorst, Louis Klemantaski who not only took pictures but did a Denis Jenkinson ride with Parnell in the 1953 Mille Miglia in a DB3, and other important personalities, but not forgetting the girls, Pauline Clayton and Gillian Harris, who kept it altogether in the background and who contribute as much as any of the others to this very complete AM look-back.
There are tabulated race results, technical details, including those of “project” cars, and reproductions of technical reports made after the races, in volume one, but it is the quantity and quality of the pictures, many of them informal, that bind this long story together. It must form essential study for every AM buff and I shouldn’t be surprised if members of the AMOC are not queing-up for their copies. From a purely personal viewpoint I could have done without the flavour of journalese that Nixon, late of Autosport, has worked into his recipe, such as the many questions posed on the back end of each dust-jacket which the books will then answer, and the heavy type used for the chapter headings by a publisher who seems to have plenty of paper to spare — but perhaps this was out of Nixon’s hands. It does seem rather ungrateful to John Wyer, however, to print on the volume two dust-jacket the statement: “You’ve read John Wyer’s official version in volume one — now find out what really happened” That apart, it can be said that these two books do for DB Aston Martin enthusiasts something of what the Nagle book of interviews with Bentley personnel did for followers of WO Bentley racing. — WB.
“Aircraft Alive — Aviation And Air Traffic For Enthusiasts” by Chris McAllister. 143 pp. 10″ x 71/4″ (BT Bauford Ltd., 4 Fimhardinge Street, London WIH 0AR. £6.95).
This Batsford book will be useful to all who wish to know more about how Airports function and how the arrival and departure of modern air-liners is controlled. It is a subject about which previously all too little had been revealed to aviation enthusiasts and Chris McAllister has done them a good service, especially as the book, which is well illustrated, contains charts, cards, diagrams and tabulated data explaining the finer points of the text. It also covers the growing interest in air-band radio, with VHF frequencies, which, however, it emphasises is illegal. There is a chapter on military flying. — WB.
“Maserati Birdcage” by Joel E. Finn. 207 pp. 9″ x 9″. (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP. £9.95)
Here is the story of those “Birdcage” or space-frame Maseratis, the Marvelous Tipo 60 and 61 Sports-Racing Cars as the book’s sub-title has it, which the author, who has raced them, refers to as “Mean, purposeful and potent. but somehow almost friendly”. He tells us in his Introduction how he first saw a Maserati of this type in New York in 1961, when he was running “a tired old Jaguar XK 120 roadster”, and after explaining about these “Birdcage” cars with the aid of James Allington cut-away drawing of what is thought to be the original Tipo 61, chassis No 2452, he gets us enthusing with chapters about the development and background to these cars, their technical make-up, their racing career in America and Internationally in the years 1960 and 1961, and how it went from then to the present.
I am not a Maserati expert, so cannot say bow accurate Finn’s findings are. But if you want the story, plus specifications, reproduced factory data-sheets, power-curves, wiring diagram. etc, which form the appendices, this is the place to find all the gen. — WB.
“Pit & Paddock — A Background To Motor Racing, I894-1978” by Michael Frostick. 122 pp, 10″ 71/4.. (Moorland Publishing Co.. PO Box 2, Ashbourne. Derbyshire. £7.95),
l am inclined to write this one off as a pot-boiler from an expert in the scissors-and-paste technique, except that it does take us through our motor racing history in pictures rather entertainingly. Against that, the photographs of mostly chestnuts, many from manufacturers archives, and don’t ask me why the book ends with the racing of 1978. The author is a bit weak on some of his captions, too, identifying for us only two out of seven racing cars in a Brooklands’ line-up in plate 54, being rude to the Vale Special in plate 61, and mistaking a quite-normal-looking Salmson for an Amilcar Six in the wordage under plate 62. But if you have money to spare and like looking at pictures. . . . — WB.
“BSA Twins & Triples” by Roy Bacon. 191pp. 81/2″ x 71/2″ (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP. £6.95).
Those prolific publishers of motoring books, Osprey Ltd., have branched off into the world of motorcycles with a book on twin-cylinder and three-cylinder BSA motorcycles by Roy Bacon, a man well respected in the two-wheeled world when it comes to nuts & bolts and workshop advice. This book is the first of a series under the title Osprey Collectors Library, more will follow, and it covers everything BSA with more than one cylinder, from the 250 cc twin-cylinder Scooter to the 750 cc BSA Rocket 3 road-racing machine. — DSJ.
“Racing Mechanic — Ermanno Cuoghi mechanic to a World Champion.” 175 pp. 10″x 8″ by Jeremy Walton. (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 12-14, Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP, £7.95)
In 1970 I had an amusing trip to the Watkins Glen 6-hour race with the John Wyer Gulf Racing team, travelling with David Yorke and the mechanics. They were a very happy band and their “ring-leader” was a little, rugged Italian who spoke broken English with a very deep “gravel” voice. While David Yorke was organising tickets, luggage, taxis, etc, it was Ermanno who organised the beer, coffee, sandwiches etc for the lads. On the BAC1-11 from New York to Elmira it was Ermanno who organised the seats and produced the playing cards for a Pontoon school (he took a lot of money off me on that flight!). At the 6-hour race, with the Gulf 917 Porsches, it was Ermanno who organised the pit stops,. “You OK Richie, orlright Peter, OK David” seldom more than the odd word as the car was due in. The Gulf pit-stops were a feature of long-distance racing in those days; they were memorable, and it was the little gravel-voiced Italian who seemed to inspire everyone. Jeremy Walton has spent a lot of time talking with and tape-recording Ermanno Cuoghi’s experiences from the time he grew up in Modena, through his various jobs to his seven years with the Ferrari works team and now with Alfa Romeo. You can read all about Cuoghi (pronounced Quogee with a hard ‘g’) and his life as racing mechanic as well as a lot about the racing of the sixties and seventies but more interesting are the tit-bits of “inside” information throughout the book about the various people he has been involved with and especially Enzo Ferrari and the personnel at Maranello. There are a lot of words in the 175 pages and occasionally the narrative drags or becomes repetitious, but then Cuoghi’s gravel-voice comes through with a chuckle and his mischievous grin appears over the page and he slips in a little gem of information from the “inside”. The end of the book is devoted to a fascinating run-down by Ermanno on all the drivers he has worked with, from Andretti to Watson. For example, Jacky Ickx “he was so young looking that you wondered if he should be driving a car at all,” and Mike Hailwood, “To know a man like Mike was an honour. His big advantage was a big ‘eart; if he made a mistake it was a big one, but his courage . . .”, and Regazzoni, “In sports cars you could make Clay a team man any time. He has a funny temper, but that does not affect the job, a real professional, not a player.” Above all it was Pedro Rodriguez who endeared himself to Ermanno Cuoghi, “Simply the greatest. . .”
When you’ve read this book you should know a lot more about why Italians are so passionate about motor racing. For Englishmen motor racing is an enthusiasm, for Italians it is a passion. DSJ.
“The Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental” by Raymond Gentile. 272 pp. 10″ x 71/2″. (Dalton Watson Ltd., 76, Wardour Street, London, W1V 4AN. £14.50).
The title of this book is misleading, because the author covers all the Phantom II Rolls-Royce cars made for that short six-year run, not the fine Continental model only. You could say that enough books, and more, have been written about Rolls-Royce. The answer to that is that “The Best Car in the World” has irresistible appeal to a great many people and that as this is a Dalton Watson art-paper publication, the presentation is itself to R-R standards.
While this is really a picture book of most of the R-R cars, the author takes us in some considerable minutae through the development of this Rolls-Royce model, which was for many the finest of all the between-wars Royces, the last, as it were, of the truly dignified, long-bonneted vintage chassis before the over more complicated Phantom III V12 took over.
Gentile has gently used experts to help him with this comprehensive coverage of one model of the Royce family of great motor cars and while some of what he presents is known data, it is good to have it all between two covers, backed up by those excellent pictures, with a colour frontispiece of the author’s own 1934 Phantom II Continental 201 RY, and clever little drawings of technical items, switch-gear arrangements, etc. The ploy of reproducing from relevant catalogues. advertisement material etc, is used to good effect, there is a list of all the PIIs make with information about the original owner and his or her location, bodywork, etc, and different chapters cover the pre-GX, GX. JS, AJS, MS, AMS, MY, MW, PP. RY, SK, TK and UK P2s, separately, so that the entire development story of this Rolls-Royce model is easy to follow. All very nicely done too.
A “must” for all owners of Phantom II Rolls-Royces, I would think. It has been left to an American author and PII Continental owner to write the most comprehensive one-model book to date.—WB.
“British Aviation — Ominous Skies, I935-1939” by Harald Penrose. 318 pp, 81/4″ x 51/2″. (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 40 High Holborn. London, WC1V 6HB. £7.95)
With this volume of history-cum-reminiscences the experienced and word-fluent Harald Penrose has seen his great task completed — a full account of how British Aviation in all its aspects developed from the Pioneer Years of 1903-1914, through the Great War and Armistice running from 1915 to 1919, on along the Advancing Years 1920-1929, to the Widening Horizons of 1930 to 1934; I use the titles under which the other four volumes were published. And now with Ominous Skies the fifth and final volume has appeared, having weathered some difficult publishing set-backs that nearly killed off this definitive history of flying in this little Island and one-time Empire.
No one is infallible and Penrose has made a few mistakes. But no-one could have more thoroughly, yet more entertainingly. put the many and diverse factors on paper than he has done, a man who was a very capable test-pilot and who knew from the inside most of the rest of what made the Aircraft Industry tick. He is warm with praise for the dedication of the pioneer manufacturers and, as he says. “their quietly devoted teams which enabled this country to have the power of defeating aerial attack”. This is largely what the final volume in this comprehensive study of British Aviation is about, yet the sporting and commercial flying of the last five years before the outbreak of war are given the same space as in the previous books. Because Vol V is about comparatively recent flying with the drama of another World-war approaching, it may well command a bigger readership than the previous ones — and it might be noted that with the encouragement of the Royal Air Force Museum and HMSO its price is very competitive, against that of commercial publishers’ books.
Penrose describes many of the leading figures of the day in a few, crisp phrases — “tall, fair-complexioned John Tranum. the 35-year-old Dane”, “the eccentric, mysterious 44-vear-old TE Lawrence, one-time leader of the Arab Revolt against the Turkish rule. . . . ” and so on. He quotes frequently the sayings of CG Grey, then-Editor of The Aeroplane, for the enjoyment and edification of his readers and he breaks into pure historical reporting to tell personal anecdotes about flying new Westland aeroplanes and so on. Sporting flying was by no means dead in the years 1935-1939 and the achievements of Jean Batten, Campbell-Black, HL Brook and others make this a book about adventure as well as commercialism, science and politics.
There is a great deal in it, what might appear a dull subject has been set down so that I read on and on, enthralled, and there is a good Index and an adequate supply of small but glossy pictures. The whole of the text has a ring of authority — but it is a pity Penrose says Bill Guinness was “. . known throughout the motor-racing world as instrumental in the success of Bentley racing cars in the famous team which included Malcolm Campbell and Henry Segrave. He means, of course. Sunbeam and Talbot-Darracq. Nevertheless, highly recommended. — WB.
“Moggie” by Colin Musgrove. 112 pp, 91/2″ x 71/2″. (Quills Publishing, marketed by Melvyn Rutter Specialist Services, 27, Brunswick Street, Waltham, London, E17. 18.95).
Colin Musgrove is an industrial chemist by training, a Morgan enthusiast by inclination and now, by profession, a rebuilder of 4-wheel Morgan cars. Moggie does not set out to be a history, but is an entertaining book of hints, tips and anecdotes from the author’s own experience. As such, the book mainly deals with the post-war cars, and starts with a chapter for the prospective owner, containing much useful information about what to look for in the second-hand Morgan. The main section gives valuable advice for the enthusiast who has embarked on a rebuild of his car and includes some tips about seeking second-hand spares, which must be in great benefit to the inexperienced Morgan owner. The book ends with a couple of chapters on how to enjoy Morgan motoring in all its aspects, followed by three appendices giving technical specification, lists of specialist suppliers and recommended further reading. Written well, with plenty of photographs and illustrations, the book is nicely presented and is a must for the Morgan enthusiast, even if the man with a more general motoring interest may find it expensive. PHJW.