“Brooklands Giants: Brave Men and their Great Cars” (Bill Boddy, 2006)

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Grand Prix motor racing reaches its centenary in 2006 so this retrospective look at some of the behemoth racers from the dawn of the century is well-timed.

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.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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