IAIN ROBERTSON 

IMG

There has seldom been a more apposite time to highlight the latest automotive books worth reading than now, states Iain Robertson, and you can order copies direct from the publishers, to receive them a couple of days later. 

IMGSlow Burn – The growth of superbikes and superbike racing 1970 to 1988

By Bob Guntrip

ISBN: 978 1 787113 16 9

£25.00

Veloce Publishing – www.veloce.co.uk

There have been convenient parallel lives worked in the post-hippie period between supercars and superbikes. Both speciality fields grew off the back of serious technological advancements in metallurgy, lubricants and engineering. While the cars can be epitomised by the likes of the outrageous 12-cylinder Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari’s Berlinetta Boxer, let alone the flat-six blart of a Porsche 911 Turbo, the unforgettable sound of a Ducati vee-twin, or Laverda’s parallel-twin alternative, with both Moto Guzzi and MV Agusta chiming in accompaniment, became the head turners of an era. Bob Guntrip, the author, has been writing about motorbike racing for over three decades, with a fascination and passion that elevates from the pages carrying his reportage. If the name sounds familiar, you may recall it from Bob’s 2015 book, ‘Racing Line’. Across 256pp, peppered lightly with around 100 colour and a smattering of monochrome pictures, the story of superbike development, from a racing viewpoint, is explored in superior detail. Naturally, it would not be much of a memory jerker did it not include the superstars of the same era, from Barry Sheene and Mike Hailwood to Kenny Roberts and Eddie Lawson, complete with their magnificent machines, of course. Its content underscores the immense team rivalries, the fast-track developments of the Japanese bike-makers and the importance of the 750cc category. It is no surprise that even avid armchair car racing fans also became superbike critics during that period and ever since. The author does not ignore the epic races of the era, applying particular attention to the Isle of Man TT, the Bol d’Or, the Suzuka 8-Hours and the inimitable Daytona 200. Written most engagingly and enthusiastically, hardly a stone is left unturned of the Superbike racing era of the 1970s and 1980s, its glory years in almost every respect.IMG

How to restore Norton Commando

By Chris Rooke

ISBN: 978 1 787113 94 7

£37.50

Veloce Publishing – www.veloce.co.uk

When you see a large format, paperback book that costs a whopping £37.50, it can stop you in your tracks. Yet, with some collector titles tipping into hundreds of Pounds, one produced for the serious restorer, which carries 820 colour images spread over 224pp of carefully constructed prose, can lay claim to being excellent value for money. Bike restoration is every bit as important as car restoration and, while there might not be as many two-wheeled brands, some of them, such as the Norton Commando, are the stuff of which classics are made. Relevant to all Commando models from 1968 to 1975, this step-by-step guide is an essential support to any home restorer. The author, Chris Rooke, understands the issues confronting the individual wishing to breathe new life into an old machine. He is an experienced hand, having created restoration guides for the Triumph Trident and Kawasaki Z1, as well as an ‘Essential Buyer’s Guide’ (all published by Veloce), so it comes as no surprise that the first chapter deals with sourcing a machine ripe for restoration. The content continues through dismantling, dealing with the electrics, brakes and engine, all followed by Chris’s disarming comments about his own experiences, from which readers can gain vital information. The final sixteen pages are packed with practical recommendations, from tools to use, publications worth reading and freezer bags (no…you will have to find out personally!). The writing style is informal and useful and Chris does not miss a trick with remarkable and practical detail. If restoring a classic motorbike seems like a potential nightmare, this book proves that it need never be so.IMG

An English Car Designer Abroad

By Peter Birtwhistle

ISBN: 978 1 787114 70 8

£37.50

Veloce Publishing – www.veloce.co.uk

Known to his pals as ‘Bertie’, the bespectacled, former Barton-on-Humber resident, who became one of the world’s leading car designers and is now an official autobiographer, has a tremendous story to tell about his life during an exciting time for the motor industry. Peter Birtwhistle studied Design, both at Berkshire College of Art and the RCA, London, from where he graduated in 1973. As illustrated in the seminal four-car stack on the cover of this hardback book, Vauxhall was his first employer, where he worked under the watchful eye of American Wayne Cherry, who gave Vauxhall much of its design lead of that period. Peter was allowed to work on the HS/HSR versions of the Vauxhall Chevette that became the company’s rally weapons of choice. During the late-1970s, he worked for Audi, at a time when the Quattro model was about to reach stellar peaks. While perfecting his art on the 80 and 100 models, it was the short wheelbase Audi Quattro Sport, an homologation ‘special’, that would underscore his talent. In 1983, he pitched up at Porsche and worked on the company’s 959 racing car, only to be asked by Mazda Cars to establish its European Design Centre, in Frankfurt, in 1988, from where he retired in 2014. Of course, the beauty of autobiographies is that they draw attention to an individual’s career trajectory but can be, as this one is, peppered with amusing anecdotes and tales from behind the very secretive, closed doors of motor industry design departments. Bumping into Bertie was always a joy at motor shows and (latterly) Mazda gatherings. He possesses a naughty sense of humour but is an artist to the core, who continues to work by educating the next designer generation. Written across 256pp, with almost 270 pictures, Peter Birtwhistle’s life story is both well written and tremendously entertaining.IMG

Cranswick on Porsche

By Marc Cranswick

ISBN: 978 1 787114 83 8

£40.00

Veloce Publishing – www.veloce.co.uk

I have never made any secret about being a Porschephile; I love the German sportscar brand and have been fortunate enough to have experienced almost every model the company has produced. Marc Cranswick’s book deals mostly with the air-cooled period of its existence, which encompasses the period from its inception, through 27 years of confounding its critics, a factor that will be most pleasing to those readers believing that water-cooled Porsches are ‘devil’s spawn’. Yet, the author is smart enough to incorporate the front-engined impetus and water-cooled developments, as he journeys through the marque’s history. As motorsport has played a vital role in growing the brand, a healthy slice of the book’s content deals with both the better known and some of the more obscure races entered by the company. It is a quirky title, with 240pp of well written text and more than 300 pictures and illustrations, some of which came from the hands of the author. Yet, it is abundantly clear that in trying to write a book for an international audience, Marc cannot disguise completely his Americanisms. Read past them and the boundless enthusiasm he displays is remarkably infectious. The content is all there but much of it is compiled in an anecdotal manner, sometimes even like a ‘stream of consciousness’, almost as if the author’s passion cannot be contained. The sliver of detail on Porsche’s rallying exploits is a rich seam that could have been explored more deeply, except that North Americans do not really have a handle on the discipline. Yet, there have been so many Porsche related titles over the years that this one earns its bookshelf slot more for its alternative slant than shimmying past the details. I really enjoyed reading it.