Just the cover jacket alone is reason enough to buy this book. It was eagerly awaited in the office and the striking image by Arthur Benjamins, plus the title “The British Are Coming” makes you stop and pick it up. The inside is every bit as good. Celebrating the achievements of British speed record breakers across the years on land and water, there are some truly great images from various archives together with recollections by the teams involved.
The jewel part, though, are the behind the scenes photographs that show the huge team efforts across the decades that back up the man or woman in the hot seat. First hand recollections make compelling reading, from Wing Commander Andy Green’s recount of breaking the sound barrier in Thrust SSC to the srtiking recount of John and William Norris, the first men on the scene of the Bluebird CN7 Salt Lake crash. And also, sadly, Leo Villas account of that fateful day in the Lake District in January 1967. For sure, many people have paid the ultimate price in this quest for ultimate speed.
The quality of the book is first rate, the landscape format may not be the easiest to balance a glass of red alongside, especially a book of this weight, but the orientation lends itself to displaying the images. World record breaking speed machines by their very nature are long and slender so their lines display well this way. The quality is first rate with the Kodachrome colours of the early 50s and 60s faithfully reproducing the period feel of the images.
Mike Varndell has taken a roughly chronological oder for the book, but the chapters are dedicated to individual British record breakers. And not just outright speed records either, with coverage given to the significant achievements of others including Don Wales,Mark Newby and Patsy Burt.
You don’t need to be a fan of world speed record breaking to enjoy this book. You don’t even need to be British. If you enjoy browsing the quality feel of a good motoring book as a method of relaxation, this is for you. It’s one you’ll keep on the shelves for a long time to come and lift it down when you’re feeling self indulgent.
Text – Neill Watson
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