January is always a pretty slow month for the motoring enthusiast. The season is over and the weather is usually so bad that even driving a modern car is no fun.  So with a lack of driving to keep me entertained I have been forced to get my thrill vicariously by plunging into some of the rather good motoring books I bought with my Christmas vouchers (thank you unimaginative relations!)…

Comic books feature rather strongly! But grown up(ish) comics I would like to think.  The Art of War is the pretentious titled F1 expose of former Williams Chief Exec Adam Parr.  Mr Parr was not, it appears, widely liked in F1 and that does to a degree shine through the pacey and nicely illustrated book he has produced.  It’s fair to say Bernie does not come out too well from Parr’s recounting of his years in F1.  On the other hand Max M, who wrote a forward to the book, is feted.  Whether you’d want to spend much time with any of them is open to debate. Still the book provides a fascinating insight into the politics of F1 and is a useful reminder of the fact that what is still a great sport is now also big business.

Art of War - Adam Parr

One of the joys of holidaying in France and Belgium is being able to buy Michel Vaillant racing comic books. Jean Graton’s Gallic racing star has been winning races since the mid fifties when he first appeared in the Tintin comics.  Now you can buy all the books in several thick volumes. They aren’t cheap so I have just bought the first, which covers our hero’s exploits from 1957 to 1960 in such diverse events as the Monte Carlo Rally,  Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.  The illustrations of the fifties sports racers are great and the plots entertaining and just about discernible with my schoolboy French.  It was “an age of gentlemen”, as demonstrated by the gallant Gaul in one story who not only stops to help rescue his American rival and friend from a horrific crash but also provides an on the spot life saving blood transfusion too!  All this and an introduction by Alain Prost. What more do you need? Vive La France!

Michel Vaillant - Jean Graton

More recent comic delights are provided by Marvano whose Grand Prix Trilogy covers the exploits of the Silver Arrows before the last war. Given the awe in which they are now held it sometimes easy to forget that those magnificent Auto-Unions and Mercedes were financed by the Nazis for the greater glory of that benighted regime.  The story is told through the eyes of characters both real and fictional including Rosemeyer, Neubauer, Stuck, Porsche and that car loving non driver himself,  Hitler.  When I am in Stuttgart in March it will be interesting to see how much of a mention the Third Reich, a time when those shiny Silver Arrows used to run with a Swastika flag on their flanks, gets at the Porsche and Mercedes museums.  The illustrations are exceptional but the books are in French and I needed a dictionary to be able to understand some of the more subtle writing.  Still, excellent books for all those with an interest in pre war racing.

grandprix

Away from the comic books I acquired two good reference books.  Julian Hunt’s Motorsport Explorer is an excellent gazetteer of all motor sport sites in the British Isles.  Not just race circuits but hill climb venues, speed trial venues and even drag strips. The work that must have gone into this book is staggering.  Everything is covered from the ever-changing Silverstone to obscure hill climb courses used once in 1906!  Given moves to once again allow racing on closed public roads I am sure I am not the only one looking with interest at the locations of some of the old public road hill climbs and wondering..

motorsportexplorer

I have a bit of a nerd’s interest in old garage buildings so I was delighted to see Morrison and MinnisCarscapes that looks at the architecture and landscapes of cars in the UK.  Profusely illustrated it covers everything from car factories to petrol stations, roads, domestic garages and multi story car parks. It’s astonishing how much is left from the earliest days of motoring in the UK and this book will surely help preserve some of that heritage for the future.

carscapes

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