Digging into the latest book releases, Iain Robertson enthuses over a pair of enthralling tomes from the marvellous Porter Press stable, a Le Mans retrospective from EVRO and a brilliantly colourful, glovebox driving guide to France
Number Nine of this outstanding series of single-model celebratory titles, both Jaguar lovers and specialist aficionados will find tremendous joy within the 320pp of this impeccably researched, large format book. With more than 300 stunning photographs of the car in period, supported towards the end of the book with a stunning studio portfolio, of such high tactile quality that the observer can do little more but smile appreciatively, the story of chassis number XKC 051, stamped, if anything, slightly carelessly on its identifying plaque, is centred on its victorious 1953 Le Mans entry. Drivers Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt revelled in their win at the 24 Hours race, but the car continued to enjoy a full post-factory racing history that started with the mercurial Ecurie Ecosse. Splendidly, the car wended its way back to Hamilton family custodianship, when Adrian, son of Duncan, acquired it. This car was a true pioneer, featuring aircraft-grade aluminium body panels and fuel tanks, its performance being arrested by disc brakes. It provided racing acclaim to renowned drivers like Ninian Sanderson, Peter Walker, James Scott-Douglas and Desmond Titterington, all of whom were Ecurie Ecosse pilots in the mid-1950s. Its colour was changed over the years and inevitable race-incurred damage had to be repaired, but the car’s heart remained true to its initial construction, complete with a trio of Weber carburettors beneath the air-vented bonnet just in front of its surprisingly basic cockpit. As has become familiar fayre, Philip Porter’s ability to dip into previously untapped resources pays dividends for the reader, but Chas Parker’s knowledge of the marque and the model specifics adds unparalleled quality to the finished publication. I know that it is an expensive book but, when it is of such high merchantable quality, it is a price tag that can only increase in value.
As the second of the three £60 tomes reviewed, it is fair to say that its value will be a critical reference point and I can inform you that this weighty publication, which is licensed officially by the ACO, the organising club of the annual Le Mans 24-Hours race, is exquisite. Spreading in excess of 350 photographs across 368pp of well researched and judicious script, this is actually the seventh title of a decade-by-decade series, which completes the history of an event that has been a focus of British motor-racing fans since its outset. Despite no race being held in 1936, the other nine years of that decade are covered in fine detail. The photography is impressive and charismatic, while the accompanying editorial delivers the glory and grimness of the racing with more information than ever published before. However, it is the statistical detail that will appeal to race fans, especially as this era highlights the end of the Bentley Boys’ event dominance, while reinforcing the Alfa Romeo race-winning stance that brought top racers like Earl Howe, Henry Birkin and the great Tazio Nuvolari to the fore. Intriguingly, it was Nuvolari’s demon drive that resulted in the race’s closest ever finish in its history in 1933. Equally vital were the race wins accorded to Lagonda, Delahaye and Bugatti, a brand that was at its racing peak throughout the 1930s. The author, Quentin Spurring, is a renowned British magazine editor, who has been associated closely with each of the seven books in this series. His knowledge is encyclopaedic and his determination to leave no stone unturned in compiling the truest image of a glorious race history is to be lauded. Breathtakingly brilliant, yes, it is worth every penny!
Number Ten in the Porter Press International series of ‘Great Cars’ could be described as one of the narrowest subject matters covered by Porter Press and it displays great courage to even contemplate such a subject. Yet, Sir Stirling Moss, the British motor racing phenomenon, remains as popular a folk hero as he does historical champion, largely because he is the most famous driver never to win a World Championship, despite winning many races worldwide and garnering fanatical spectator support accordingly. Apart from Philip Porter’s enduring friendship with the great man, which has resulted in the publication of the definitive Stirling Moss Scrapbook 1955 (the first of a promised four), the octogenarian racer’s input was valuable to Ian Wagstaff, whose technical talents and investigative mind have uncovered every imaginable sliver of editorial detail from Moss’s relationship with the Lotus 18. Moss aficionados may have wondered about why the side panels were removed from this Rob Walker-entered car and the deeply involving report of the 1961 Monaco GP covers the subject most comprehensively. In fact, the book also details Moss’s second Grand Prix victory in the little, 1.5-litre Lotus, also known as Chassis Number 912, at the Nürburgring later that year, which also happened to be Stirling’s last ever F1 victory. The car raced against the Ferrari ‘Sharknose’, which was expected to win everything, although Moss also won the non-championship Modena GP in it. To me, a Moss fan, this book is automotive nirvana. The car’s full history is outlined in 320pp, accompanied by well over 300 photographic images, some of which are in full colour, most of which are original and never been published before, including the now typical, exquisite, studio-shot portfolio towards the end of the book. Classy and complete, I cannot wait for the next in the series to be published.
As our closest geographical neighbour, France remains as an immense attraction for drivers of all types, whether holidaymaking, attending car club expeditions, or just traipsing across the Channel for a slice of relative Gallic ‘freedom’. Whether we remain in the EU, or not, France will always offer a wealth of attractions, most notably to motorists, either travelling there by ferry, or via the Chunnel. Naturally, I always arm myself with Michelin maps and the firm’s restaurant and accommodation guide, as well as the most recent gites directory, whenever tackling French trips. However, a new addition to my car’s glovebox will be this marvellous guide. Colourfully illustrated across several neatly and practically filed subjects, from Museums, to Shows & Tours, Marketplaces, Motorsport and even Racing Circuits, it is well detailed, seasonally appropriate and editorially interesting. Divided into five regions, each chapter carries a wealth of information that answers all manner of motorists’ questions. It is fun, useful and a must-have for any planned French excursion.