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S.F. EDGE - MAKER OF MOTORING HISTORY By Simon Fisher
Selwyn Francis Edge, invariably known simply as ‘SF’, was a highly significant pioneer of motoring in Britain. When, in 1902, he drove a Napier to victory in the Gordon Bennett Cup, a mighty event on public roads between Paris in France and Innsbruck in Austria, he initiated serious British endeavour in motor racing. He was deeply involved in the birth of Brooklands, setting a 24-hour solo driving record there when the circuit opened in 1907. As a towering industry figure most closely associated with Napier and AC Cars, he played an important role in the growth of car manufacture in Britain. In the words of ‘Bentley Boy’ S.C.H. ‘Sammy’ Davis, ‘His keen grey eyes, the bushy eyebrows and the hawk-like face… made him a notable figure in any assembly.’ This biography uncovers the life of an extraordinary man whose achievements deserve to be far more widely recognised.
- Dedicated cyclist: SF’s early interest in cycles led to racing achievement on two wheels and three, including setting records for round trips between London and Brighton, and taking part in a race from Bordeaux to Paris in 1891.
- Introducing the motor car to Britain: from his first driving experience, in 1897 with a De Dion-Bouton, SF quickly became an influential advocate of all things automotive in a country that initially lagged far behind France.
- Motor racing pioneer: after early competitions on motor tricycles, SF became a regular competitor in the heroic long-distance races of mainland Europe, famously winning the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup in a Napier and becoming a national celebrity.
- Growth of Napier: with SF as a guiding force, this long-established engineering company evolved into the manufacturer of some of the finest cars of the Edwardian era.
- Brooklands: upon the circuit’s opening in 1907, SF drove a Napier solo for 24 hours at an average speed of just over 65mph, establishing a record that stood for 18 years.
- AC Cars: after the First World War, SF helped to develop AC Cars into an important manufacturer of sporting cars, with more attempts at speed records along the way.
- ISBN: 978-1-910505-79-3
- Format: 240x210mm
- Page extent: 192pp
- Illustration: 155 images
- Published August 2022
Simon Fisher grew up in Surrey, not far from Tilburstow Hill, scene of some of S.F. Edge’s early competition successes. After university he trained in London as a chartered accountant, using a 1934 Alvis Firefly as his everyday car. A few months after qualifying he signed a six-month contract to work for his employer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the end of which he forgot to return home. The rest of his career has been spent in Eastern Africa, mainly in Kenya, where he and his wife Catherine now live. That has not prevented him from pursuing his passion for early motoring. He has been a member of both the Vintage Sports-Car Club and the Alvis Owner Club for over 50 years and the Veteran Car Club for almost as long, and has maintained a succession of elderly cars in England, including two Napiers, while his Alvis Firefly spent many years with him in Nairobi.
“Early motoring enthusiasts have waited a long time for a biography of the man whose European racing achievements with cycles and motor cars over 20 years earned him the universal admiration and respect of sporting commentators… This well-produced volume contains a sure-footed assessment of his life. It has been worth the wait.”
“An excellent book about a fascinating period of our motoring history.”
The Society of Automotive Historians in Britain
“Very well-written… I recommend this book and a glass of wine, both to be enjoyed in front of a blazing fire. Five stars.”
“Simon Fisher has laboured to create a beautifully written and well-researched work which removes Edge from the dusty pages of motoring academia and brings him to life in a comprehensive study… Fisher’s work is not just extremely informative, but a genuine page-turner, from Edge’s mischievous childhood (how we yearn for the days when detonating gunpowder outside your elderly neighbour’s house was all just a harmless part of growing up) to his twilight years... This is a delightfully warm, human portrayal of one of motoring’s most important pioneers.”
prewarcar.com (Zack Stiling)
“Ownership of a 1913 Napier inspired Simon Fisher to research the life of Selwyn Francis Edge and this 192-page volume does the early motoring legend proud… An enjoyable read and a key reference for early motoring history.”
Classic & Sports Car (Mick Walsh)
“One could find a bigger book for one’s £45 if one wished but one could not find a more complete or delightful setting-out of a life.”
“Enjoyable to read, informative, and lavishly illustrated with superb contemporary images, this book is well worth reading by anyone with an interest in the early days of motoring. It explains how Selwyn Edge was so important in the history of motoring worldwide, and particularly in Britain.”
“Simon Fisher’s book is a fascinating insight into a man who achieved so very much, and who deserves wider recognition.”
“Very readable… Few people have led such a varied and influential life.”
“Edge’s abilities should be greatly applauded, this is a book for all enthusiasts, a staple for their library.”
“This is a fascinating account of a great character, accompanied by splendid period photos.”
Best of British
“A really interesting story and impressively well researched.”