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Inside the Paddock - Racing Car Transporters At Work.

Dalton Watson Fine Books.

David Cross & Bjorn Kjer.
ISBN 978-1-85443-254-4
Published 2011. (Hardback, 392 pages).
Review date July 2012.
The actual cover of this book on racing car transporters

UK RRP 59.00.

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This book on the history of racing car transporters is something I'd been eagerly awaiting the arrival of, finally landing in the UK and going on sale in 2012. Having an interest in these old haulers myself, it was frustrating to find that few books covered the subject to any great length, my appetite having to be satisifed with a German-language book published on the subject a few years back. So when I heard about the plans for this book back in 2010 from David Cross (the author), assisted by Bjorn Kjer, I was keen to get my hands on a copy.
Until a few years ago there was limited interest in the lorries, trailers and other modes of transport used in olden days to transport race cars from their workshops to the venues that they were booked to compete at. With the exception of the Ecurie Ecosse Commer of the 1950s, and the Leyland used by BRM, period transporters were rarely spotted at historic meetings. The "Goodwood effect" of recent years, which has heightened interest in the props and surrounding paraphenalia that accompanied cars to the paddocks, has raised the profile of these old haulers to the extent that modern car manufacturers have re-created a number of their transporters, to accompany their prized racing cars to events across the world. The best-known of these re-creations is the Mercedes-Benz high speed transporter of the 1950s, while Audi has built replicas of the trucks used by the Auto Union team of the 1930s. Lord March provides the foreword, admitting himself that he wouldn't normally contribute to a book on old lorries, but that this book is different, being - in his words - "... the definitive history of the racing car transporter". This book was born thanks to the interest in the subject of both its authors, and this heightened interest in the subject as a whole.
Running to 392 pages, this is a weighty publication, and one that must have required a mind-boggling amount of research to compile. I must confess to a slight involvement, in that I provided the write-up and photos - old and new - of my own vehicle (the restoration of which is diarised here). The vast majority of the near-550 images presented in this book though are period originals, mainly black and white, and in the main reproduced in large scale, fitting in well with the book's landscape format.
The book is broadly organised alphabetically, grouping manufacturer and privateer team vehicles together, which makes for an interesting mixture. On the one hand you have the likes of Aston Martin and BRM in the 1950s, utilising smartly-turned out lorries and/or bespoke transporters, and if required pressing into service the likes of British Eagle (airways) to take their cars by air to distant racing circuits. On the other, you have privateer one-man-band weekend racers, loading up decrepit-looking trailers with cars, tyres, parts and supplies, readied for a day's action on track, usually towed by even more decrepid tow-cars. If anything, the ingenious solutions that the amateur racers came up with to the problems of moving a race-prepared car across country (whether in the UK or overseas) provide a great deal of this book's appeal, incorporating as it does so many previously un-published images from various archives.
By their very nature, transporters are often photographed in paddocks, usually taking a back seat to the cars that they were tasked with moving. Paddock scenes are very evocative of the eras in which they were photographed, and there are plenty of photos to drool over here. Period shots taken at Prescott for example, feature regularly, and are a reminder not only of how informal things tended to be back then, in terms of vehicles parking within a paddock and the general goings-on at a typical meeting, but also of how some events organised by the likes of the VSCC try to re-create these enjoyable, largely laid-back gatherings. The photo for example of Jack Lemon, fettling his Type 51A Bugatti at Prescott with his Ford transporter parked in the background (a modified cake lorry), is just one of many fantastic old images to treasure.
Some of the lorries were purpose-built for the job, while others were chopped about, extended, shortened, and/or otherwise modified for a new life carrying one or more cars. While endless amounts of money were often expended on these vehicle's cargo, the lorries themselves were rarely treated so deferentially. Many's the old coach that, once finished in public or perhaps military service, was shorn of its interior fittings, fitted with ramps and a winch, and their rear bodies cut open and doors installed, to enable their charges to enter and exit the cargo area. In the 1940s for instance, the Cooper Car Company pressed into service a much-modified Bedford coach, its exterior panelwork plastered with sponsor logos from the likes of Lucas (electrical equipment), Shell X-100 motor fuel, Amal (carburetters) and Terry's (valve springs). As a reference for anyone looking to re-create these lost vehicles, and repeat the correct style of signwriting typical of a particular era, the photographs in this book will prove to be a very useful reference.
While the majority of photographs are of the original vehicles, here and there re-creations of vehicles used in the olden days also get a mention, the re-created BMC Competition Department Morris being a classic example.
The cover of the book features a racing car trailer, as opposed to a transporter vehicle, in use with the Maserati works team in 1938. Pages 243 through to 251 recall the various machines used by the team from the 1930s through to the 1950s, including some rare colour shots to add spice to the selection.
No brief review can hope to do justice to the wealth of old photographs to be found here. Anyone with an interest in old racing cars, and motor transport in the period of the 1920s through to the 1960s, should seriously cast an eye over this book given that it covers an important, and almost-overlooked, aspect of road transportation.
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