By Benjamin Shahrabani
BMC Competitions Department Secret
Author(s): Stuart Turner, Marcus Chambers, Peter Browning
In January 1955, The British Motor Corporation, often better known by its acronym, BMC, formed a Competitions Department whose mission was to prepare every car under its umbrella for use in motorsport, both as a means of continued product improvement and customer publicity. Based alongside the MG factory in Abingdon, England, it would grow to encompass such diverse brands in the BMC company portfolio as Mini, MG, Morris, Triumph, and Austin Healey. Over its fifteen-year lifespan, the competition department would come to be regarded as one of the most successful in motorsport with its works-prepared competition cars blazing trails in international racing and rallying, and often breaking records.
In BMC Competitions Department Secrets, the three men that successively managed the BMC competitions department during that period—Marcus Chambers (1955-1961), Stuart Turner (1961-1967), and Peter Browning (1967-1970)—strive to tell the inside story of those years, and expose the secrets of how the team became a true world-beater.
First hand accounts from the three team managers, along with internal memos, documents and photographs from the period strive to paint a picture of how engineering, tenacious modifications and a dedicated and often daring team were responsible for the oversized success that lasted until the department’s dissolution in 1970: MGAs competed successfully at challenging tracks such as Le Mans, Sebring, Daytona, while Austin Healeys and Mini Coopers dominated international rallying the world over, with the Mini winning three Monte Carlo Rallies in 1964, 1965, and 1967.
If you are into British rallying in the ’50s and ’60s, you may want to give this book a look.
Off the Road: Explorers, Vans, and Life Off The Beaten Track
Editor(s): R. Klanten, Sven Ehmann, Maximilian Funk
If you’re an automotive enthusiast looking for something a little more "off-the-beaten path," something that perhaps hews more closely to the early, undiscovered days, and ways of your favorite destination, you might want to check out a new and beautifully presented book from Gestalten that focuses more on the beauty of the journey—how it was accomplished, and obstacles overcome—rather than leading you to a specific place.
Off the Road: Explorers, Vans, and Life Off the Beaten Track is a collection of true off–the-road adventures taken by explorers who, with the help of vans, trucks, station wagons, 4x4s, and motorcycles depart from paved tarmac and take a trip on the wilder side. Whether you're a seasoned overlander or just an armchair dreamer (at least for the time being), this book is a fun read from start to finish.
The editors do a wonderful job curating poignant, but often humorous, accounts of some adventuresome explorers navigating harrowing roads, and often unforgiving terrain. If you have ever wondered what it is like driving around Africa via motorcycle just two weeks after getting your motorcycle license, or traveling to Argentina from the urban jungle of Los Angeles in a Craigslist-find Chevrolet Blazer, this book paints a detailed picture of both the high and low points with wonderfully written, first-hand accounts from the travelers themselves, and with often very evocative photography.
For those that like or aspire to watch civilization fade away in the rearview mirror, this is a highly recommended book.
Porsche: The Classic Era
Author: Dennis Adler
"In the beginning, I looked around and, not finding the automobile of my dreams, decided to build it myself." This quote from Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche—better known as Ferry—begins Porsche: The Classic Era, and is probably a sentence very few could repeat today in all seriousness—well, unless you’re Elon Musk, perhaps. But on June 8, 1948, an entirely new hand-built aluminum prototype labeled "No. 1" emerged from a workshop in Gmund, Austria, and became the very first vehicle to bear the Porsche nameplate. This first Porsche had a rear-mounted, 40-horsepower Volkswagen engine, as well as other parts sourced from wherever the nascent car company could acquire them. Against the odds, a distributor ordered five additional cars, and just one month after that, a 356 won its first race. The die was cast, and anything was possible: even building your own car company.
Automotive historian and author Dennis Adler explores the birth and history of one of the world’s most iconic car manufacturers, from road cars to racing models, from the company’s somewhat humble origins through to the end of the classic, air-cooled era. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche III writes the book’s foreword, and the tale of the little car company that could starts auspiciously with the backstory and the history of the man who founded the company, Professor Ferdinand Porsche, but switches gears quite quickly to focuses on the early days in Gmund where the 356 era began and the Porsche legacy cemented, and moves swiftly through the development of other generations and models of the "classic" Porsche era, including the 550 Speedster, 911S, 912, 930 Turbo, 914/6, 964, and 993, as well as racers like the 906, 908, and 935.
While packed with a plethora of color and black & white photos, including many from Porsche’s archives, Porsche: The Classic Era, may not be as detailed as some Porschephiles might require. It’s not a reference guide, and somewhat light on technical information, but it’s also not just a "looking at" book. What it is though, is a book almost everyone can enjoy, and a very good value proposition at just $40.
Those are our three picks for September: what car related books did you enjoy reading this month? Let us know in the comments.