It may be a little on the dusty side but you don’t need thick-rimmed glasses and an enormous beard to enjoy this book.
In this title Bill Boddy has chosen a curious specialism: cars of at least 10 litres in capacity that competed on the Brooklands race track. This was the first purpose-built circuit when it opened in 1907, and lasted until the outbreak of World War II.
But it is very much Boddy’s specialism – he is already the author of a three-volume history of Brooklands and several other books on the topic. This edition incorporates his 1995 title Brooklands Giants and his 1992 book Aero-engined racing cars at Brooklands.
The second section has it its focus the extraordinarily huge cars that derived their enormous engines from contemporary aircraft. There is quite a bit of overlap between the two and some chapters that are basically repeated.
Both are conspicuously detailed and feature a large amount of photography (monochrome, of course).
Now, I know what you’re thinking – this all sounds very worthy. And the copy is dense and the subject matter is on the dusty side.
But Brooklands Giants has both a romantic charm and a very British sense of a pursuit for slightly eccentric engineering excellence. It has a Wallace and Gromit feel to it.
It also has some genuine surprises in parts, like the young and petite Kay Petre, a female racer who manhalded (womanhandled?) an enormous 10.5-litre V12 Delage around Brooklands at an average speed of 134.75 mph. There are other examples of proto-Katherine Legges and Danica Patricks, too.
The technical details of the gigantic machines are genuinely hair-raising, too, particularly regarding the aeroplane-engined monsters.
It’s not exactly a blistering read. It has the completeness and dedication to detail that a thorough telling of an historical account demands, but that does not lend itself to such frivolities as entertainment.
As such, it’s not a Grand Prix book for the masses. But that in itself is no bad thing.