IAIN ROBERTSON 

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Thanks to being cloistered away over the past few months, it seems that our nation has become increasingly book savvy and Iain Robertson has reviewed some of the latest motoring titles that are worth including on your personal reading list.

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VOLKSWAGEN T4 – The Essential Buyer’s Guide

By Richard Copping and Ken Cservenka

ISBN: 978 1 787114 38 8

£13.99

Veloce Publishing – www.veloce.co.uk

The popularity of the consummate modified van has increased exponentially over the past few years. Many of them have been acquired by businesses to be used as promotional tools, while others are pure leisure vehicles and restoration projects.  Although the ubiquitous Transits and Trafics are ideal platforms for further development, the illustrious Volkswagen T4, which was built from 1990 to 2003, has been so much ‘in demand’ that used values have stabilised and, in some areas, have even increased. Its very car-like driving experience is a great reason to consider a T4 over its rivals in the light van scene. When sourcing an example, which could be up to thirty years of age, remember, knowing the pitfalls, recognising the duds and avoiding a spending pit are all necessary information. Thus, having an expert on hand will provide a buying advantage. This handy pocket guide will help you to pick the right van at the right price. Packed with essential details and plenty of colour photographs, it covers Transporter, Caravelle and Camper variants and details various checklists to help with the buying process, one of the more useful of which is the inspection guide. Yet, as much as its authors are ardent fans of the VW T4, they also understand the model’s strengths and weaknesses and state them clearly. Richard Copping is a leading VW authority and has written almost thirty VW titles over the years. Ken Cservenka is a well-known figure from the classic VW scene and many of his photographic records have enabled this concise 96pp paperback guide to be compiled.

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MERCEDES-BENZ G-WAGEN – The Essential Buyer’s Guide

By Nik Greene

ISBN: 978 1 787115 14 9

£13.99

Veloce Publishing – www.veloce.co.uk

If you really want a G-Class Merc, rest assured that you will fall into a narrow but surprisingly knowledgeable segment of the market. The newest examples of the Gelaendewagen, or G-Wagen for short, can be acquired through Merc dealers at an astronomical £150,000, or thereabouts, dependent on which model teases you most. I only mention this, because the eminently capable G-Wagen has never been a particularly affordable 4×4, even as a second-hand proposition. Built by the same company that produces the go-anywhere Unimog, it has always carried a price premium over its nearest rivals. Yet, it remains a practical, if different, choice for the serious off-roader. Despite its fairly agricultural stance, with visible door hinges and a square-rigged appearance, it is technologically on-the-money but a G-Wagen can be a total nightmare to live with. Unsurprisingly, rust on examples that might now be over 40 years of age can be an unseen downside that would make ownership a dreadful and time-consuming proposition. It may be a tough and uncompromising 4×4 but it still suffers from all of the wear and tear problems that afflict any vehicle. The author of this handy, 96pp, paperback guide, Nik Greene, is an acknowledged expert in the G-Wagen field, which means that what he does not know about Merc’s indomitable multi-surface vehicle is scarcely worth knowing. Packed with vital hard facts, warts and all advice on acquiring the best examples, deciding which variant best suits your needs and a comprehensive list of ownership ‘fixes’, should ensure that the nightmare scenarios seldom need to rear their ugly heads. Veloce Publishing has created a major series of these guides that cover all makes and models.

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Faster Than The Bullet

By Mike Breslin

ISBN: 978 1 67024 862 6

£11.99

Pie Shop Publishing

Before I even explain why, I am going to tell you that the latest novel by sometime motor racer and journalist, Mike Breslin, is my ‘Novel of the Year’ and for incredibly good reasons. The last time I reviewed a Breslin novel was with 2014’s ‘Pieces of Silver’, which was utterly engaging in its content. Yet, my most recent review was of his wondrously Walpoling ‘Road Trip: A Practical Manual’ that offered hands-on advice for any one of 50 proposed road trips around the world. Great fun!  This time, Mike has combined his love of motor racing, notably from the Argentinian and Italian scenes of the 1950s, with a WW2 story that commences in Poland but involves time spent by the book’s ‘anti-hero’ (Ingo Six) in Russia and the UK. It is an extraordinary tale about a young soldier, roped into wartime exploits, none of which is particularly glorious, one of which becomes a tragic secret, from which he does his level best to escape. However, he is pursued in the post-war period and needs to balance his prodigious talents at the controls of a racing car, with a need to remain away out of public glare as much as possible. I love the way in which Mike involves his reader in every, excitingly nuanced element of the subject’s life. As Mike suggests, it is part-thriller and part-saga, which highlights the strident connection between military and motor racing during the post-WW2 period. It is never more obvious than to visitors at the annual Goodwood Revival, in Sussex, where militaria is every bit central to the stories promoted by the organisers, as motor racing is. Yet, this novel is not cliched in any way. The paperback is spread sweepingly over 435pp and is available through Amazon at a value for money price. I strongly recommend it, not least because I can perceive its movie potential.

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TAKE RISK!

By Richard Noble

ISBN: 978 1 910505 51 9

£18.99

EVRO Publishing

One of the UK’s foremost speed kings is undoubtedly Richard Noble, the holder of a series of World Land Speed Records. He first returned the record to our country, when he drove Thrust2 to a remarkable 633mph in 1983. Although I had a personal fascination for the project, much like any young chap, my first sight of that ‘car’ was at the Initial company’s headquarters in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where it was parked innocuously outside the building. Noble’s subsequent involvement in the ThrustSSC project of 1997, which brought the first supersonic record (763mph) back to Britain, with Andy Green as its driver, cemented his status. I was a lot closer to that project, having reported on it on several occasions. Over 264pp of charming autobiographical text, Noble provides highlights of the eleven record-breaking and aviation projects in which he has been involved. Interestingly, it is not a ‘first person’ cocktail of experiences, which serves to underscore that Mr Noble is not only generous in his applause for others but also recognises their contributions in a series of high risk adventures, to which he has been dedicated. Each chapter of this small format hardback concentrates on the diverse range of projects on which he has worked extensively and include both Thrusts 1 and 2, the Atlantic Sprinter, JCB Dieselmax and both aeronautical and water speed records. A very brief introduction provides an understanding of Richard’s drive and determination, which is evident in each of the chapters. A small section in the centre of the book is reserved for both monochrome and colour photographs relevant to the contents. In many peoples’ eyes, Richard Noble is a modern-day hero. He has not won every battle but he is a championship quality communicator and this title underlines his contribution to society.