Six new, motoring-related books have been reviewed by Iain Robertson, all of which would make great Christmas presents, or the perfect way to squander post-festive period book tokens. The choice is yours….
STIRLING MOSS The Definitive Biography
ISBN: 978 1 907085 33 8
By Philip Porter
Porter Press International
At a whopping 640pp, it is worth noting that this is just ‘Volume One; 1929-1955’. While the word ‘Definitive’ can be no less than an idle boast for some publishers, Philip Porter, a renowned motoring author, already has four previous Sir Stirling titles to his portfolio, although he admits that this is the book he always wanted to write. Hardly a novelette, it is fortunate that it is packed with more detailed, yet fascinating information, than I have ever read before about the only British Formula One Champion, who never was! My tenuous connection to the Beckham of his era lies in an autograph that was given to me by him, when I was a mere babe-in-arms. My father, as a British Ambassador based in France, had presented a winner’s race trophy to Stirling following another successful outing in the late-1950s. Although I have been fortunate to interview Sir Stirling on a couple of occasions and I did value a close relationship with his brother-in-law, Erik Carlsson, I cannot say that I ever got to know the great man. As a result, I, along with his innumerable international fans, have always taken deep interest in any books regarded as knowing and understanding him. Porter’s tome (Part One) is, without doubt, the finest, most passionate and most fascinating study into the 87 year old racing driver’s life, warts and all. While Sir Stirling might be aged, one look into his eyes reveals that a competitive light still burns intensely and, even though he needs a little more time to walk around the paddock at race meetings, he can still be coaxed behind the controls of some of the greatest racing cars that he has driven over the past seven decades. It is a story of tremendous bravery and excitement, much of which stems from a pre-politically-correct era, when the birds and booze were in abundance but racing safety was seldom a consideration. I am very fortunate to be able to review this fantastic book but it is one of the few major titles in which I would have invested my own cash, so thorough and well-written it is. If you are a motoring enthusiast, make some space for what I can only term as my ‘Book of the Year’. I cannot wait to review Part Two, which will serve to complete the most comprehensive, well warranted and staunchly British motoring biography so far.
Bruce McLaren – From the Cockpit
ISBN: 978 1 910505 14 4
By Bruce McLaren
Somewhere in my domestic library is a much-thumbed and original, 1964 version of the former New Zealand racing driver’s memoir. I bought it used from a St Andrews’ old book store. Yet, it remains one of my more treasured titles. The latest reprint is beautifully bound and makes great reading. Bruce McLaren’s story is a brilliant but surprisingly brief one. In 1970, he died at a mere 32 years of age, from injuries incurred in a testing accident held at the Sussex racing circuit, Goodwood. While his name continues, in both the racing team that he founded and its more recent road car offshoot, his legacy is not that well understood. Through 18 chapters and 278pp, you can relive his life through his own words and it is certainly not a boring one, especially when you consider that he commenced writing it from his hospital bed, following a racing accident at the Nurburgring, Germany in 1963. Racing driver’s life stories are usually peppered with the colour and spectacle that surrounds their sporting endeavours and McLaren’s autobiography is no exception to that rule but it also reveals a deeper and innately charming character that is eminently beguiling and makes this a must-read life story.
ISBN: 978 1 845849 33 7
By Honest John and George Fowler
Pithy remarks and critical, even cynical, commentary are inevitabilities when you get two motoring scribes, Honest John (Daily Telegraph) and George Fowler (Daily Star), together in one place. I have known both of these gentlemen for most of their respective careers and I am delighted to call them ‘friends’. In some respects, this arrogantly opinionated review of 80 of the worst motorcars of the past 20 years is little more than flim-flam but its content is amusing and is also beautifully laid-out. Not every carmaker is going to be happy about being included in this list and Messrs John and Fowler are doubly sanguine about some of the cars but the result is something that makes a good stocking-filler for the motoring person in your life.
Iso Bizzarrini – The Remarkable History of A3/C 0222
ISBN: 978 1 907085 54 3
By Richard Heseltine
Porter Press International
Porter Press has been busy recently, introducing a fresh series of motoring books that follow on from its success with Great Cars. The first of the Exceptional Cars series deals with just one, solitary model from a particular manufacturer, in this case, the rare and very special Iso Bizzarrini. Even more specifically, it is chassis number 0222 of the A3 Competition run. A bespoke model that started life on the motor show circuit (Turin 1963), it was entered for two seasons’ worth of international sports car racing. The car was renowned for its speed potential, hitting 190mph at the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Following retirement from its brief racing career, now in road trim, the car passed through several hands, until it was restored as a racer and returned to the tracks as an historic competition machine. It is a rare opportunity to be able to follow one motorcar through its 53 years of history but this large scale book, using period and recent photography, allied to the author’s first-class research, tells the story of a supercar classic in all of its glory.
Brian Redman; Daring Drivers, Deadly Tracks
ISBN: 978 1 910505 10 6
By Brian Redman, with Jim Mullen
It is clearly that time of the year, as this is the third of the books that is also an autobiography…in this case, of sorts. Brian Redman was born in Colne, Lancashire. Now aged 79 years, he reflects on what was probably the most tragic, yet exciting decade of motorsport’s history; 1965-1975. No less than one in three top-level racing drivers were either killed in their cars, or died as a result of on-track incidents during that period. As Mr Redman highlights, safety was just not an issue; there was zero protection either for the drivers, or the spectators. This wonderful, colourful story is as much about the racer’s formative years, as it is the more glorious period of his working life and the accident that very nearly did for him. It represents a delightful trawl through what are commonly termed ‘The Golden Years’ of motorsport but it does not pull its punches either, a view shared by an ‘Epilogue’ posted at the end of the book by Brian’s wife, Marion. Well written, excellently illustrated and able to serve as a valuable record of motor racing history seen through the eyes of one of its greatest (unsung) heroes, this is a book that more than deserves its space in your personal library.
TANKS – 100 years of armoured warfare
ISBN: 978 0 233 00495 2
By Robin Cross and David Willey
Andre Deutsch (publisher)
Celebrating a century of the armoured fighting vehicle, or tank, as it became known, led to the creation of a truly fascinating and information-packed book. In large format, contained within a hardback sleeve, with a Foreword written by TV historian, Dan Snow, it is a fantastic record of the machinery that altered the course of 20th Century history. There is a handful of well visited war museums in the UK and northern Europe but the one concentrating on the tank is based in Dorset. Mr Willey is the curator of the Tank Museum, while Mr Cross is a military historian. Contained within the book are several artefacts (replicas) that include documents, blueprints, ID cards from the Cold War period and even reprints of booklets and manuals. In my personal book collection, I have a marvellous Ayrton Senna biography that has a similar style of illustrations and historical items. The extra information provides a fascinating insight to tanks from around the world and this book is guaranteed to provide a talking point, way beyond leafing through its 132 informed pages.