While books of all types are selling strongly, we are reaching that time of the year, at which sales take an upwards spike in readiness for festive gifts and Iain Robertson has spent several days reading and reviewing the latest and best titles available.
Aston Martin Ulster
By Stephen Archer
ISBN: 978 1 907085 32 1
Porter Press International
With number five in the ‘Exceptional Cars’ book series from Porter Press, I have started to wonder if the premium quality titles published by Porter sell as much, if not more, for their exceptional quality of reproduction, as the subjects covered. A great many car fans are collectors and the growing selection of Porter Press titles on my office bookshelves is starting to look exceedingly stylish. To be fair, the content is to the customary high standard of all other Porter titles and the wondrous Aston Martin featured (registered as CMC 614) has been a popular sight at car races both in period and at more recent classic events. In fact, it is THE most-raced Aston ever, let alone of the 31 examples of the Ulster that were assembled. Built in 1935, it contested the Le Mans race of that year, the Mille Miglia and several other important races of that era. The renowned Eddie Hall and Count Johnny Lurani were among a host of top drivers that took the car to class wins around the world. As with all other books in the series, this one is written meticulously and fluently, its author inheriting his enthusiasm for the Aston Martin marque from his father, Alan, who was a former chairman of the owners’ club. The full development of this spectacular machine is described in finite detail, culminating in a detailed and accurate history of the car. As it happens, Stephen Archer, who is a management consultant and automotive exponent, has written several books about Aston Martin and he has been able to resource a stunning array of monochromatic and full colour images of the Ulster, including its exhaustive restoration record, now that the car has been returned to its original specification. There is a wonderful enthusiasm that surrounds every title emerging from Porter Press and this one, despite its ‘narrow’ interest is another one that any classic car enthusiast should welcome to a book collection.
Optimising Car Performance Modifications
By Julian Edgar
ISBN: 978 1 787113 18 3
Veloce Publishing Ltd
The art of vehicle tuning is one that has peaked and troughed spectacularly over the past thirty years. Yet, the desire of owners to modify their cars is undiminished. If anything, a book like this one cannot be described as anything less than apposite. Runaway parts and labour costs have forced a lot of tuned car owners back to their domestic garages, where it could be suggested that they are ill-equipped to maintain them properly. However, an action book that introduces surprisingly simple methods by which to test engine, suspension, brakes and aerodynamic performance gains more effectively and inexpensively will remove ‘finger-in-the-air’ guesswork and make the owner more aware of what he owns. Of paperback format, from Veloce’s ‘SpeedPro Series’, the author debunks the headaches and heartaches and avoids talking down to the reader by explaining his own trial and error methodology. However, Australian-based Julian Edgar is a professional teacher, experienced writer and practical photographer. What he does not know about modern motorcars is hardly worth knowing but his skills in the modifying scene, notably in suspension, engine management and airflow, are extensive and will help other enthusiasts to maintain, make modifications, fix tuning problems and save a lot of money in the process. The ‘how to’ elements of the 72pp book are elementary and Edgar highlights the tools necessary to complete the tasks. Easy to understand and accompanied by a wealth of good photographs, if you are into car tuning, this is a cost-effective must-have title.
The XK Files: 120
By Jennifer Barker
ISBN: 978 1 907085 72 7
Porter Press International
When the author of Porter Press’s first-ever children’s book has a 20 years history in writing for the younger generation, drawing together the talents of a skilled illustrator and combining them within the magical facilities of Porter Press, the end result can only be stunning. Interestingly, because I hope it will not be the only children’s book from this publisher, the 125pp paperback was published earlier this year to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Jaguar XK120 being unveiled at the 1948 London Motor Show. The story of a time-travelling and talking sportscar, known as ‘XK’, is a mere convenience in a delightful novel that can be read by a parent, or guardian, or by the young person at which it is aimed. Robin Lawrie’s lovely pen-and-ink drawings that accompany the text are minor works of art. Its pocket money price tag is also appealing. Beautifully written and very sensible, the novel is a charming one that will enchant its audience.
Morris Minor – 70 years on the road
By Ray Newell
ISBN: 978 1 787112 07 0
Veloce Publishing Ltd
Innumerable automotive anniversaries are being celebrated this year and none are as memorable as the 70 years since the first Morris Minor entered production at Cowley, Oxfordshire. The illustrious ‘Moggy’, which was designed by the same Alec Issigonis, who created the Mini, is one of the most popular British motorcars of all time. Employing a delightful array of photographs and period illustrations, the author, Ray Newell, highlights his intense knowledge about the Morris Minor in a skilfully written and logical way. Interestingly, much as the Mini was immensely innovative, with its transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive and gearbox-in-oil-sump engineering, I was amazed to discover that the original Minor was intended to feature a flat-four engine (like a VW Beetle). A number of prototypes were made but the layout was dropped from the development programme. Each of the 22 years’ worth of production are explored, using the manufacturer’s promotional materials from four decades of output. In fact, the book is as charming as its actual subject matter. It is a truly fascinating paperback, although I worry that its card cover will soon become ‘dog-eared’.
Schlumpf – The intrigue behind the most beautiful car collection in the world
By Ard and Arnoud op de Weegh
ISBN: 978 1 787113 09 1
Veloce Publishing Ltd
The first time I ever visited the remarkable Schlumpf Automobile Collection, in Mulhouse, Alsace, NE France, I was taken in by the tax-dodging mystery perpetrated by the French government against textile industrialists and ardent car fanatics, Hans and Fritz Schlumpf. On that occasion, I was a guest of Romano Artioli, the owner of the new, revived Bugatti brand. As part of the launch of the stunning EB110 model, a visit to what has become the ultimate classic Bugatti collection could only be described as essential. However, I am really delighted that the father and son authors of this new book take the French government to task for their misinformation, law suits and unfortunate haranguing. The Schlumpf story is not really about wealthy business owners and their impoverished workers, which seemed to suit the socialist mindset of the French government between 1976 and 1992. In fact, despite the discovery, behind securely locked doors, of a car collection that is virtually beyond comprehension and which is now on full display, having been ‘rescued’ by the French government, the Schlumpf battle to clear their family name was doomed to failure. As the authors discovered, the resistance to their research for the book was almost total, notably from the French. Father and son, who were initially unwilling to write the book, have actually uncovered the true story about the ‘Schlumpf Affair’ and their findings should go a long way towards rehabilitating the sometime highly-regarded Schlumpf family. If you ever want to visit a lively car museum, then visit this one. If you want to read a fantastic story about automotive enthusiasm, then read this 160pp hardback book.
Land Rovers in British Military Service – Coil-sprung models 1970 to 2007
By James Taylor and Geoff Fletcher
ISBN: 978 1 787112 40 7
Veloce Publishing Ltd
Fans of militaria, especially military transport, will love the fine detail into which this excellent tome delves, as it details what is often regarded as the British Armed Forces most favoured mode of transport. The bulk of the writing was carried out by motoring historian James Taylor, who has an incredible library of over 120 books to his name. Fortunately, his personal favourite is also the subject of this title. His co-author, Geoff Fletcher, provides the valuable research and historical knowledge of pre- and post-war militaria. The 176pp of this large format hardback are packed with 267 colour and black-and-white photographs taken over the period covered. To be fair, this is actually the second book of a series, the pair having dealt with the leaf-sprung versions of the Land Rover around three years ago. Each chapter contains a brief overview, descriptions of each of the variants and then lists all of the known examples, alongside their technical details. As car fans will be aware, the first coil-sprung Land Rover was actually the Range Rover of 1970, although its chassis was used to create the 90, 110, 127 and Defender models of subsequent years, renowned as much for their durability and easy repair, as their remarkable multi-surface capabilities. While the contents do not cover the later air-suspended versions, or the Freelander model, I feel sure that the authors will compile a further edition dealing with them alone. The close development links between the British Armed Forces, UK emergency services and the Land Rover factory are explored in excellent detail and I cannot recommend this title highly enough, especially to serving, or retired, members of the Armed Forces.