Book reviews, September 1987, September 1987

Directory Of Historic Racing Cars by Denis Jenkinson. 190 pp. 9″x53/4 (Aston Publications Ltd, Bourne End House, Harvest Hill, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire SL8 SJJ. £11.95)

In this nicely-illustrated soft-cover book Jenks sorts out the genuine, authentic and facsimile among surviving historic racing cars. He further sorts them into such categories as original, resurrection, re-construction, special, duplication, destroyed, scrapped and broken-up, avoiding (note) the term “fake”. This has to be useful and entertaining and it is said that at VSCC Silverstone all copies on Chater & Scott’s stall were sold very quickly, to owners and dealers wanting to see what DSJ had written about their cars!

So far as it goes this is worthwhile information and entertainment, but as a directory it falls a little short because the present owner of each car described as surviving is not always quoted. Jenks explains that such cars change hands too frequently to make this practical in every case, so he prefers to say “owned by a well-known VSCC member”.

Generally, however, the book tells a lot about such cars, and the categories into which they are fitted are fully described in a glossary of terms, while fakes are discussed in the introduction. Sixty-nine different makes (including many Specials) are covered, from AC to Veritas. These are very nicely illustrated, but with pictures of the cars mostly as they were, not as they look today— and one error has crept in, where a Geoff Goddard photograph purporting to be of a 1923 200-Mile Race Alvis is, in fact, of a Janvier-engined Warwick which did not run in that race until 1924. WB

A Record Of Grand Prix And Voiturette Racing, Volume One, 1900-1925, by Paul Sheldon. 335pp. 113/4″x8″. (St Leonards Press, 4 Station Road, Esholt, Shipley, West Yorkshire BD17 7QR. £36 + p&p £2.10 UK, £3.10 Europe)

We have considerable respect for the Formula One Register, which since 1961 has been collecting an enormous amount of motor racing data, mainly associated with single-seater formulae. It has now issued some of this information (extending beyond these formulae) in 1000 copies covering important races from 1900-1925, available by post from the above address.

The result is a volume packed with reports and results of almost every race that matters in those years, including track events, and is excellent, with reservations.

For instance, complete accuracy has to be expected, so I was surprised to find Halford given as the winner of the 1923 JCC 200-Mile Race when this driver was not even entered; what was intended was CM Harvey, who was correctly shown, however, in the list of finishers. The incorrect version of Bugatti’s disqualification from Le Mans in 1920 is adhered so, and another error is that Eldridge’s Fiat is quoted as being 18 litres in 1924— by then it had a 21.7-litre engine.

There are no pictures and few lap-graphs. It is irritating that the race results tables quote drivers but not cars (as all too often with modern Formula One results), although cars and engines, without engine sizes, are given in the entry lists. There are copious indices of both drivers and cars, though they are not always complete. This is, however, a good attempt to unravel much motor racing history. WB

Occasionally one comes across a stylish book with a title of no apparent significance, such as Coupes, first published in 1987 and now available from Foulis of Yeovil. This is a study, so the subtitle says, of “Classic coupes and Berlinettas of yesterday and today”, with a foreword by Sergio Pininfarina. An extravagant offering for those still with space on their elegant coffee-tables among the cups and sugar-bowls, it costs £24.95, and embraces 224 12in x 81/2in pages — even the smell is expensive . . WB

The Himalayan Minor by Philip Young. 81 pp. 103/4″ x 8″. (Speedwell Books,The Studio, Wadhurst, East Sussex, TN5 6SW. £6.95)

An unusual, very readable and compellingly illustrated book about how a chance conversation on a train between the Archdeacon of Daventry and the author resulted in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Morris Minor being driven in the tough 1980 Himalayan Rally. Lord Montagu bought UYU 741F for exhibition at Beaulieu after the car finished 15th out of 26 starters, crewed by Young and the Rev Rupert Jones (seen in one picture in “dog collar” and crash helmet!). The Archbishop’s Morris Minor was, in fact, a 1967 model given a larger, souped-up engine. It completed the Rally on one set of Avon tyres, the only competitor not to suffer a puncture. There is also a lot about Jones’ rallying career, but the book ends on a sad note of museum philosophy — after buying the Himalayan Minor, the NMM quickly sold it, and it is now in a New Zealand museum. This unusual book is impossible not to read from cover to cover, and is such a bargain that casual proof-reading can be excused. WB

Ultralights —The Early British Classics by Richard Riding. 255 pp. 91/4″x71/2″. (Patrick Stephens Ltd, Wellingborough, Northampton. £19.95)

To staunch Motor Sport readers interested in older aeroplanes and their historic background, this book by Richard Riding, Editor of Aeroplane Monthly, will be irresistible. It deals with some 90 types of light, low-powered aeroplanes built in Britain between the wars— those “motorcycles of the air”, if you like, sparked off by the 1923 Lympne, up to 750cc single-seater motorglider contests, and the 1924 two-seater light aeroplane meeting.

Riding has confined himself to machines weighing no more than 1,000lb all-up weight, which excludes, for instance, the best of all the more powerful light aeroplanes, namely the DH 60 “Moth”.

The result in completely fascinating, apart from being an important addition to aviation history. The aeroplanes described run from Austin Whippet to Luton Major in chronological order, nice for browsing but no less useful for serious study. Ultralight engines are also described and illustrated, and the book is packed with good pictures.

It became essential for my bookshelf after I spotted the shots of an HFSII Gadfly being flown under the Byfleet bridge at Brooklands, Stan Cockerell dropping the Vickers Viget low over the Byfleet banking when making landing, and the RAE Hurricane being towed behind a two-seater Morris-Cowley. There are numerous other pictures which effectively capture that period of private and competitive flying, together with three-view plans and tabulated data. The regulations and outcome of the Lympne Competitions are well covered, and the entire book is not only indispensable to historians but delightful to read, the only previous book to cover such ground being Terence Broughton’s The Story Of The British Light Aeroplane (Murray, 1963), which was primarily concerned with the more powerful types. WB

The two latest motoring titles in Shire Publications’ little Album series are No 197 Motoring Costume by Andrew Lane, and No 198 Rolls-Royce by Jonathan Wood, excellent value at £1.25 each.