Reid Railton: Man of Speed
By Karl Ludvigsen, £150, evropublishing.com, 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.