Rac­ing the big-twin Cooper

Octane - - CONTENTS -

To see them is to want them

TERRY WRIGHT, Loose Fill­ings Syd­ney, £55, ISBN 978 0 9943661 0 8

THE SUB-LINE on the front cover says ‘Rac­ing the Big-Twin Cooper’ but this is so much more than that. It’s bet­ter de­scribed in the blurb on the back: ‘This book is a new look at the early his­tory of the mod­ern rac­ing car… through the his­tory of world record mo­tor­cy­cles, hillclimb and sprint spe­cials and dirt-track speed­way cars.’

And ac­tu­ally, it’s a bit more than that too, be­cause in ex­plor­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the first Cooper rac­ing cars, and their pre­de­ces­sors in Great Bri­tain and the USA, au­thor Terry Wright also ex­am­ines the con­di­tions in which the pop­u­laces of the two coun­tries were liv­ing be­fore and a"er World War Two. All this turns what might have been a dry tome into a gen­uinely en­ter­tain­ing read.

So, as you’re prob­a­bly still won­der­ing what it’s re­ally about, the book’s main fo­cus is the early rac­ing cars built by Cooper, from the first ex­am­ple put to­gether by Charles Cooper and son John in 1946. Stir­ling Moss and Peter Collins were early cus­tomers, but the big break came when the world mo­tor­cy­cle speed record JAP 8/80 V-twin en­gine was mounted in the back of the lit­tle race cars.

With this set-up, Moss, Collins and many oth­ers were able to bat­tle on equal terms with the more pow­er­ful front-en­gined Fer­raris and Maser­atis of the pe­riod. More­over, th­ese V-twin Coop­ers were per­fect for hill­climb­ing, and they soon came to dom­i­nate the Bri­tish scene of the 1950s. Even more im­por­tantly, they pro­vided the ba­sic de­sign for the highly suc­cess­ful For­mula 1 Coop­ers that went on to win the 1959 and ’60 Cham­pi­onships.

So, the Cooper story is well told within the 342 pages, but it’s the sur­round­ing his­tory that re­ally adds to the tale. This cov­ers the pre­de­ces­sors to the Coop­ers: in Great Bri­tain, fab­u­lously ec­cen­tric home-built hillclimb spe­cials and, in the USA, race cars built for the many dirt track speed­ways that sprang up in the pe­riod be­tween world wars.

To help ex­plain those rac­ing scenes, Wright adds in fas­ci­nat­ing so­cial his­tory of the pe­riod, which brings to life the won­der­fully var­ied (and beau­ti­fully re­pro­duced) ar­chive pic­tures of cy­cle­cars, midget rac­ers and spe­cials driven mostly side­ways by their gung-ho own­ers, wear­ing lit­tle if no pro­tec­tive gear.

For those im­ages alone, the book is worth ev­ery penny of the £55 cover price. That it’s a great read as well is sim­ply a huge bonus.



Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.