Reid Rail­ton: Man of Speed

Classic Cars (UK) - - Books & Models -

By Karl Lud­vigsen, £150, evrop­ub­lish­, ISBN 978 1 910505 25 0

The fact that Karl Lud­vigsen’s land­mark work on the en­gi­neer Reid Rail­ton be­gins with a chap­ter run­ning through the man’s most suc­cess­ful work says a lot about how lit­tle even most ar­dent petrol­heads know about him. Man of

Speed is a fairly con­ven­tional bi­og­ra­phy of a thor­oughly un­con­ven­tional man. This 848-page book, con­tained within two slip­cased vol­umes, traces Rail­ton’s life from aero-en­gine de­sign un­der­study to God­frey Parry Thomas, through his un­ri­valled con­tri­bu­tion to speed-record break­ing with Mal­colm Camp­bell and John Cobb, to his later life de­sign­ing road cars in Amer­ica.

Through a com­bi­na­tion of pe­riod ac­counts, doc­u­ments and fam­ily mem­o­ries, it quickly be­comes clear that this of­ten-over­looked en­gi­neer cre­ated the rac­ing car as we know it. It demon­strates his de­vel­op­ment of cars as a com­plete pack­age of en­gine, weight-sav­ing and stream­lin­ing, set­ting a tem­plate for drag rac­ing and For­mula One. This is a long-over­due book.

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