IAIN ROBERTSON

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Whether you like your reading material heavyweight, or pocket-sized, Iain Robertson guides you through six-of-the-best titles of this summer that deal with motoring, motorsport and more specific subject matters.

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Ferrari 250 LM – No.7 of Exceptional Cars series

By James Page

ISBN: 978 1 907085 75 4

£30.00

Porter Press International

Putting a smile on an enthusiast’s face is a most satisfying result. For me, any car that possesses an almost uninterrupted history since it was first produced in 1964 is smile-worthy. When that car happens to be a controversial Ferrari 250 LM, a Corgi Toys model of which was in the toy boxes of most child enthusiasts’ of the mid-1960s, the memories are stirred delightfully. Enzo Ferrari, who was known as ‘Il Commendatore’, was seldom averse to courting controversy and, when his design and development team created the 250 LM, where the LM stands for Le Mans and its famous 24-Hours race, where it was meant to carry a ‘P’ suffix and forced to compete as a Sports-Prototype, when it should have been contesting the GT World Championship, he was furious. Yet, chassis number 6313, the Giallo (yellow) painted scheme of Belgian Ecurie Francorchamps, would not just lead most of the 1965 race through the French countryside but, following a destructive tyre blow-out, with less than three hours of the race remaining, would actually finish second overall to the sister 250 LM driven by Jochen Rindt. Only 32 examples of the mid-engined sportscar were ever produced and it is remembered as much for its model name (which should have been 275 LM!), as its slightly twitchy handling. Jacques Swaters’ Belgian race team was one of the most loyal and successful of all privateer Ferrari teams. Yet, as tended to happen with cars possessing a racing history, its identity had been confused with chassis number 6023, also ran by the Belgian team. Unbelievably, it took many years of intense scrutiny and detective work, carried out by well-known Ferrari specialist, Keith Bluemel (who was the consultant on this excellent book), before the truth was revealed as recently as 2001. In fact, the unravelling story is central to this book’s contents. James Page, the author, is a former editor of Classic & Sportscar Magazine and his engaging storytelling talent simply serves to support another excellent, 128pp hardback record from the Porter Press International stable, which is packed with period and the customary studio shot photography that makes these books such highly-valued collectibles and additions to any home library.

 

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The Self Preservation Society – 50 Years of The Italian Job

By Matthew Field

ISBN: 978 1 907085 86 4

£45.00

Porter Press International

Part of the reason that ‘The Italian Job’ is regarded so highly as a cult movie classic lies in the fact that it was a typical, small budget, British production that almost did not make it to the big screen in 1969. That it was not a roaring box office success upon release is astonishing enough, although it is also the key reason for the sequel not being produced soon afterwards. Yet, it was a romp. It was fun. It was glamorous and yet as ‘kitchen sink’ as any of the best British dramas of the 1960s, of which there were many. To author, Matthew Field, this weighty 333pp hardback is his life’s work, commencing when he was a student and fan of the film. He is renowned for his behind-the-scenes books, even producing and directing a feature-length documentary about the film, among many other successful titles that he has authored. Of course, a US-funded remake of the original, with a somewhat larger budget and Mark Wahlberg as its central star (in the Michael Caine role) has been produced but with zero detriment to the much-loved original. If you want to know all of the glorious and gory details of how the film was made and many of the people whom worked upon and starred in it, then this 50th Anniversary book is not going to reside on your coffee table for too long. Trust me, it is packed with details and innumerable photographs and memories that have never been aired before. The first draft screenplay, written by Troy Kennedy Martin, and completed on 24th February 1967, is carried in original detail, as are the relevant biographies of each cast member and the discarded scenes from the cutting room floor. Printed and published by Porter Press International, which is an assurance of exceptional high quality, it is not just the definitive record of a movie that has come to signify all that was worth celebrating about ‘Cool Britannia’, but also one of the best loved car movies of all time.

 

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My Greatest Defeat

By Will Buxton

ISBN: 978 1 910505 40 3

£19.99

EVRO Publishing

With a title that cannot be described as anything less than ‘defeatist’, you might fairly believe that concentrating on the worst moments in the careers of twenty of the world’s greatest living racers and rally drivers is hardly going to be an uplifting subject. However, to a certain extent, we all love the underdog, the ‘loser’, who may appear to have had everything on a silver platter, yet somehow managed, for just that one moment in his life, to squander it. Actually, author Will Buxton’s excellent interviewing skills prove to be as disarming to the motorsport legends, as they are fulfilling and capable of carrying a deeper series of messages to the reader. Moments of weakness can be immensely revealing. We admire those famous names, people like Derek Bell, Mario Andretti and Dario Franchitti, let alone Mika Hakkinen, Sebastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz and Jackie Stewart, all of whom open their hearts and spill the beans frankly about their greatest defeats. Where the uplift occurs is in their attempts to regain a balance, to deal with their demons and to demonstrate how their greatest moments can emerge from desperate low patches. Inevitably the 336pp hardback book deals with death and one of its subjects, Niki Lauda, has passed away sadly since the book was written. While I am well aware of some of the other subjects’ stories, not least those of Ari Vatanen and Alex Zanardi, it is always valuable to take another spin from a first-class author, especially one possessing such a fine journalistic history in the field of motorsports. This is a fantastic read.

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The Land Rover Story

By Dave Phillips

ISBN: 978 1 910505 35 9

£25.00

EVRO Publishing

There have been many books written about Land Rover, a brand that has been stoically British for much of its history, despite foreign ownership in recent years. It is also a brand that has been in the news a lot, notably this year, when it reported one of the biggest financial losses of its existence. Its author, Dave Phillips, is a total fan of the brand, which is not always a great indicator of competent content but he is a skilled journalist and former editor of both Land Rover Owner International and Land Rover Monthly magazines. The simple truth is, what he does not know about Land Rover would be hardly worth incorporating within this hardback book’s 312pp. Amazingly, I found that its content was pacey enough that it was hard to put down, once I had started to review it. There were innumerable details that I knew nothing about and I discovered that it was informative, insightful and written with so much gusto that I consider it to be one of the best single marque titles that I have read from cover-to-cover in recent times. Complete with 24pp of high-quality photographs, the valuable trawl through Land Rover’s decades, from inception to current day, is a sheer delight.

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Bikes, Cars and Thoughts From Mars II

By Michael W J Wilgar

ISBN: 978 1 703020 88 8

£4.99

(Self-published)

Belfast-based author, Michael Wilgar, promised me that he would write a second volume of his immensely amusing observations of a life less ordinary and he has come up trumps with BC&TFM2! From the first moment that you crack open this 154pp paperback, the smile will spread across your visage, as you read Michael’s often disconnected jottings that are written with wry wit and a keen eye for the absurd. He namechecks his pals and contacts, many of whom possess those charming nicknames that are issued during childhood and never lost, even though the reasons for their invention may be tenuous at best. In this volume, Michael recalls his favourite TV shows from the 1970s and 1980s, peppered with experiences of life through Belfast’s most troubled past. His unfettered writing style is refreshing and immensely entertaining to all manner of readers. If you just want to chuckle aloud, it imparts a feelgood factor like few other books I have ever read. He has stated that a third volume is due, which will delve more fondly into his love of motorcycling and even more familial tales of derring-do. Great fun and fast-paced.

 

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Commuting – An Underground World

By Stephen Down

ISBN: (not registered)

£6.00

Self-published (stevedown34@hotmail.com)

To those of us living outside of London, which can boast one of the greatest public transport infrastructures in the world, the very prospect of commuting fills us with dread. Naturally, many of us do commute, as part of our daily process of earning a crust but, as author Stephen Down highlights: commuting is travelling with millions of other people, some distance between one’s home and place of work on a regular basis; all in disruptive conditions, enduring too much close contact with other terribly annoying human beings, for a considerable amount of money. Across 158 intensely amusing pages of advice, incidents, entertaining situations, distractions and observations, Stephen reveals the best and worst of using public and other modes of transport in pursuit of his daily bread. His writing style is engaging and mostly very funny. My advice would be to avoid London like the plague but enjoy reading about what you could be missing. Very entertaining read.