Reviews, October 1993

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“It Was Fun!” — My fifty years of high performance, by Tony Rudd. Patrick Stephens, £19.99.

What a pleasant change from the dreary run of books have had to review recently to receive this refreshingly different one by Tony Rudd. It is packed with interest, so that you do not stop reading it until the small hours. It tells, in a crisp no-nonsense style, how Rudd’s long association with highperformance cars and motor racing appeared to him. You can sense at once that it is the work of a widely experienced, skilled engineer, not a journalist.

Here is what it was like to be an apprentice at RollsRoyce, mainly on the aeroengine side, just before and during WW2. Here is a splendid description of working on the V16 BRMs, telling, with no holds barred but never in vindictive fashion, of the muddles and mistakes which held back this advanced, so exciting British racing car, until Sir Alfred Owen took over. The technical detail is absorbing and it precedes the forthcoming book by Doug Nye on this delicate subject — how interesting it will be to compare them. . .

Rudd debunks, by the way, the theory that the centrifugal blower was instrumental in making the V16 an unsuccessful car in World Championship terms. Rudd’s book covers in the same refreshing and enthralling style his years with Owen’s 250F Maserati, the 2 1/2-litre, four-cylinder BRMs that gave Graham Hill his first World Championship, and how he joined Colin Chapman (‘Chunky’) at Lotus, building up its engineering facility to the £5million-a-year mark.

It closes with the days when Rudd, that hard-toiling enthusiast, ran Team Lotus, until his very well-deserved retirement in 1991 — to write this biography, which runs to 345 closely-packed pages, not one of which should be missed. It is perhaps even more outspoken, as a mechanic’s account, than was All Francis’s book. What good value it is, at less than £20. It positively breathes motor racing. The Chapman/DeLorean saga and power boats also come into it, and there are many splendid anecdotes to digest and smile at.

The details, too, are there — the long hauls to continental race circuits, the hotels, the fellow racing mechanics, clashes with Peter Berthon and Raymond Mays, some of the cars he owned (including his accurately-detailed toy Model-T Ford, of a sort! think Woolworth’s sold for sixpence each, in tourer, sedan and coupe forms and the like of which I have never encountered since). It is very informative and nicely detailed: a real treat. You should be rushing now to your nearest bookshop . . . W B