Summer 2018 Book Reviews – 2
Armed with more of the latest titles, the following books have a strictly motoring flavour, covering both superstars and a renowned marque and Iain Robertson recommends them for the sheer pleasure of reading at any price.
Jim Clark – The Best of the Best
By David Tremayne
ISBN: 978 1 910505 16 8
Hero-worship seldom reaches a higher ground than when it is foisted upon you. From as far back, as I can remember, Jim Clark was my first hero, other than my dad. Jim’s father and my grandfather were neighbouring farmers at Kilmany, Fife. My first Scalextric was a Jim Clark racing set. I can still recall watching his racing on Grandstand and World of Sport. One of my most-treasured model cars is a tin-plate, wind-up, post-WW2-Schuco Lotus…as driven in full-size by Jim Clark. Ironically, there is a portrait photograph of Jim, in the Jim Clark Rooms, in the wee town of Duns, to which you might even add the name ‘Ayrton Senna’, so alike are the two superheroes and I hold them both in exceedingly high esteem. However, Jim Clark remains the stand-out Champion. He set records that proved difficult for subsequent racers to beat. Twice an F1 World Champion, he won 25 of the 72 Grands Prix that he contested. In 520pp, supplemented by 425 photos and 170,000 words, renowned motorsport journalist and author, David Tremayne, admits to a 20 years immersion into the Clark family, relating with Jim’s friends, relatives and colleagues, to compile a definitive record. Published on the 50th anniversary of the great racer’s death, in the fifth lap, at a dank German racetrack, in a race that he should probably never have started, this remarkable book commemorates a phenomenal life and celebrates the often-complicated existence of a conflicted man. In some ways, it is a ‘bubble-burster’; you do not want to know how indecisive the shy Jim Clark could be out of a racing car; you do not want to know about him chewing nervously on nails bitten down to the quick. Yet, his driving record remains on a lofty platform and he is revered by his peers and most racing drivers to date for his uncanny skills in all manner of cars. Unlike today’s racers, Jim would hop from one class of car to another, often at the same race meeting, often winning regardless. Yet, there is an elephant in the room…£80 is a lot to ask for any book, however well-constructed and comprehensive its contents. However, as a work of art, it would be really difficult to place any value on it. As an historically valuable record, it is priceless.
Hobbo – Motor-racer, Motor-mouth
By David Hobbs, with Andrew Marriott
ISBN: 978 1 910505 31 1
At 79 years of age, David Hobbs, one of England’s foremost, multi-formula racing drivers, who became a renowned TV motorsport commentator for NBC, could be described as more than slightly sluggish at telling his life story. Yet, it could also be that he has never found time in a career that has been as hectic as any of the races he contested. Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool motorsport enthusiast, the chances are you may never have heard of ‘Hobbo’, mainly because his racing truly took-off, once he had moved to America in 1971. Renowned as a genuinely amusing chap, with a string of witty repartee available to all inquisitors, David Hobbs is a survivor from an era that lost many heroes. While his racing continued through to the 1990s, his F1 commentating lasted for more than forty years. Skilled on either side of the fence, David’s roots lie in Scotland and, although his formative years were spent in the family home in Australia, Leamington Spa would become his British home for several decades. Hobbo’s embryonic racing career is written about most amusingly in this book, complete with a mass of photographs from the David Hobbs Collection. The Hobbs family was famed for the development of its own automatic transmission, which invariably was fitted to the racing cars (largely road-converted) that David drove. Trained as an engineer, David was typical of race drivers of his era, in that he might easily turn to spannering for his own car. Of course, it was as a Gulf GT40 driver between 1968 and 1970 that he was drawn into public view, although it would be Formula 5000 that gave him the greatest successes, mostly in America. Each of the carefully annotated, 16 chapters in the book is packed with anecdotal humour and seemingly endless charm. Inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame (America) in 2009, David is revered by his fellow racers and commentators and you will also become totally entranced by his brilliant memoirs.
Rock ‘N’ Roll and Fast Cars – Volume II
By Martyn Goddard
ISBN: 978 1 5272 1300 5
Bring together the talents of a premier league photographer, an entrepreneur by the name of Mike Pickles and a blend of fast cars and rock bands and you arrive at a Really Useful Products book (the ‘rup’ of the website). Martyn is renowned for his commissions for a number of high-end motoring titles, although his photographic career commenced in the world of New Wave music, providing publicity shots for the likes of Blondie, The Jam and The Cure. As his talents became more widely recognised, George Michael, Ian Dury, Bob Geldof, Spandau Ballet, Steve Strange, David Sylvian, Genesis, U2, AC/DC, Pete Townshend, Jethro Tull, Bryan Ferry, Eddy Grant, Chuck Berry and Vangelis all became his subjects in a whirlwind of musical intensity that constitutes around half of this large-format book’s contents. The second half consists of some of the most spectacular pictures of concepts, actual and racing cars, accompanied by appropriate text from the magazines for which they were shot. In some ways, the Harrow College of Art graduate of 1974 is demonstrating the technological changes, with which he needed to become familiar, such as the shift from film-based stock to digital, and the range of styles is abundantly clear. However, as Mike Pickles, who has sponsored both of the available volumes so far, states so succinctly, “Martyn is a truly interesting and clever guy, with a great eye for an image.” He is not wrong and this book makes an excellent coffee-table tome guaranteed to generate innumerable exclamations.
MG Made in Abingdon – Echoes from the shopfloor
By Bob Frampton
ISBN: 978 1 787112 68 1
Veloce Publishing Ltd (www.veloce.co.uk)
If there is one car brand that has been responsible for creating more emotion than any other, it must be MG. Abingdon, in Oxfordshire just south of the county town, was the home to ‘The G’s’, as they were always known, from 1929. Almost from the outset, race success gifted the car a strong repute and it grew like Topsy. MG people were immensely proud to work for the marque and, by all accounts, many of which are carried in this excellent little, 160pp paperback, the Abingdon factory was a place of tremendous contentment, right up to its demise as part of the MG-Rover company, sold to the Chinese but not detailed in this book. The author, Bob Frampton, has written several titles about the locale, most of which arose from his volunteer work at the County Hall Museum. However, fans of MG will want to include this memory-jerker in their collections. From the earliest days, through the WW2 period, all the way to the end, Bob focuses on the characters, the social gatherings and both staff and visitors to the factory. Immensely personable, written in a sympathetic but frank manner, few books about MG actually get to the nub of the firm’s issues as this one does. Strongly recommended.