“Land Speed Record”

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By Cyril Posthumus. 256 pp. 9 3/8 in. x 9 1/8 in. (Osprey Publications Ltd. PO Box 25, 707, Oxford Road, Reading, Berkshire. £4.00.)

No book by Cyril Posthumus, that enthusiastic and accurate writer on historical topics, is to be denied. Yet I wish he had in this instance devoted his energies to writing, perhaps, another biography like his very acceptable life-story of Segrave. Because I can think of at least four previous books about the history of the LSR, including one of my own, apart from others on individual onslaughts on the fastest-ever title.

Maybe this isn’t entirely fair. Posthumus brings the story up to date, from 39.24 to 630.388 m.p.h., following, apparently, an idea of driver Gabelich’s, who writes the Foreword. Osprey have produced it beautifully, with big reproductions of familiar Press photographs, plans, tables and colour side-views of many LSR cars by Michael Roffe. Moreover, the author follows the main history with chapters on the unrecognised and the unlucky LSR contenders, such as the 1919 V12 Packard, the 1920 twin-engined Duesenberg, Lockhart’s Stutz “Black Hawk”, the unconfirmed and unsuccessful, like the 1902 Baker Electric, 1910 300-hp Fiat, 1922 Wisconsin Special, etc., and the Untried and Paper Projects, which makes the record decently complete. There is even a list of “Where are they now?” and a table of contrasting LSR car specifications with prices–£900,000 for Donald Campbell’s turbine car to £225 for Eldridge’s Fiatboth hard to believe!

This is the most complete and best-presented LSR book ever, but is it merited? BP have previously done it pictorially and Posthumus leaves unanswered some of the leading conundrums in this field, such as how did Eldridge make the Fiat go backwards, what really killed Parry Thomas, which one hoped the author might have researched. An unnecessary, but a compelling, book.W.B.