OF MOTORSPORT BOOKS, there is no end:– so it must seem, at any rate, to anyone aiming to build up a library from scratch and trying to decide which books to choose or reject.
At any give time, there are literally hundreds of different titles available. And this is not to mention the thousands of books in the “out of print” category, some now very hard to find but worth seek out and waiting for if one really wishes to create a quality collection.
There are always, of course, those books which are not even intended to last, but which cash in on some headline-making event or driver and which if they do not sell out within months are adjudged failures. Then there are those with such catch-all titles as “100 Years Of Motor Sport”, which may appeal to readers with a passing interest in the subject but which by their very nature can do little more than skim its surface. These are all books which can be dismissed, by and large, but there will still be an abundance of titles left which may or may not be worth buying.
As a general rule, think in terms of authors rather than titles, such as distinguished motor racing historian, Doug Nye. Almost everything written by Nye has been arduously researched -going to primary sources rather than to books written by others and has been conceived and written to be definitive. The latest additions to Nye’s collected oeuvre is volume 1 of his exhaustive BRM history, published by Motor Racing Publications. Previous books include Cooper Cars (Osprey Publishing), Theme Lotus (Motor Racing Publications again) and the two-volume Autocourse History Of The Grand Prix Car (Hazleton Publishing). Also worth seeking out is the lesser-known Motor Racing Mavericks (B T Batsford) which looks intriguingly at some of the innovative but often forgotten racing machines created during the sport’s history.
One author whom Doug Nye himself once referred to unequivocally as “the king” is the American, Karl E. Ludvigsen. Notable among Ludvigsen’s output are massive histories of Corvette and Porsche (both published by Automobile Quarterly) and, for motorsport devotees, the unrivalled ‘Mercedes-Benz Racing Cars. Published in 1971, this book has been updated since then, but only in German, making the original version hard to find. Publishers were Bond-Parkhurst.
Two authors who are always worth reading, and whose names will of course by familiar to readers of Motor Sport, are William Boddy and Denis Jenkinson, both have written a number of books, the former being perhaps best represented by his monumental History of Brooklands Motor Course 1906-1960 (Grenville Publishing), and the latter by The Racing Driver (B T Batsford), an analysis of the competitor’s art which has lost little of its validity, and none of its readability, over the years… Nor can one mention Jenkinson without immediately recalling that other fine writer, Cyril Posthumus, and their collaboration on the excellent Vanwall: The Story of Tony Vandervell And His Cars, published by Patrick Stephens in 1975.
David Tremayne and Mike Lawrence are writers who have both proved themselves capable of producing work that will stand the all-important test of time. Tremayne’s Racers Apart (Motor Racing Publications) celebrates a variety of motorsport heroes who have not always won the big accolades but who have brought immense character and commitment to the sport, while Mike Lawrence has earned consistently laudatory reviews for such books as The Story Of March and The Grand Prix Car 1945-1965 (both published by Aston Publications).
Chris Nixon’s fame as a motor racing author rests on a succession of books which, though not large in number, are exhaustively researched and filled with a tremendous “feel” for their subjects. Racing With The David Brown Aston Martins (Transport Bookman, two volumes), Racing The Silver Arrows (Osprey) and the Mike Hawthorn/Peter Collins biography Mon Ami Mate (Transport Bookman) are books of which any historian in the world could be proud and are worth paying any price for… if you can find them.
No motor racing library worthy of the name should omit Andrew Whyte’s Jaguar Sports Racing & Works Competition Cars To 1953 and its sequel covering the period from 1954 onward, (winner in 1987 of the coveted Montagu Trophy). Between them, the books total over 1,000 pages, with not a dull paragraph. They are published by Haynes.
A different breed altogether is the author who has achieved an enduring reputation by virtue of just one book. In fact, a number of the best books ever fall into this category, notably David Weguelin’s E.R.A. history (New Cavendish), Antony Blight’s George Boesch And The Invincible Talbot (Grenville) and the recently revised and reissued The Miller Dynasty, written by Mark L. Dees and published in America by Hippodrome.
William Court’s Power and Glory: The History Of Grand Prix Motor Racing 1906-1951 was first published over 20 years ago. Since then, it has been reissued and a second volume covering the period 1952-1973 has appeared, both published by Patrick Stephens. Running to a total of almost 700 large pages, both books involved years of research and are unlikely to be bettered. Three books which have not been reissued and perhaps never will be are The Grand Prix Car Volumes 1 and 2, by Laurence Pomeroy, and a subsequent volume, by L J K Setright, taking the story from 1954 to 1966. Prices for the hard-to-find volumes 1 and 2 will run well into three figures.