The Aston Martin DB3S

The Aston Martin DB3S Sportscar, by Chris Nixon. Palawan Press, £375.

Perhaps Palawan is pioneering the "homologation special" of car books. Its fabulously expensive limited editions seem to be snapped up more eagerly than the £30 products of conventional publishers, just as Ferrari could have charged whatever it wanted for an F40, or Porsche for a 959, when saloons were hard to shift. We were allowed to look at the cooking cloth-bound version of the DB3S book at £375; add £525 if you want leather, and a further £350 would have brought you a sheaf of art prints too — only that version sold out before publication. The book is magnificent. Split into two lavish volumes, it devotes whole pages to excellent photography, some of it fine period stuff, including previously unpublished colour, some newly commissioned. Nixon's text is exhaustive: Vol I lists the works race history including American and Australian adventures, and talks to all the big players, while Vol ll contains case histories of the 31 cars, all illustrated. Both volumes live in an Aston racing green slip-cover. A fold-out Tony Matthews cutaway is a plus, and the photos are leavened with fine Jeremy Dickinson paintings. Yet the art sometimes overtakes the content: a double-page shot devoted to a chassis-plate looks merely pretentious. G C