Quest for Speed


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By Barry John

Foreword by David Tremayne

As Land Speed Record historian David Tremayne states in his foreword, ‘This is a wonderful book that celebrates passion.’ In a remarkable first book, Barry John has celebrated his life-long passion for the quest for speed by writing, illustrating and designing this fascinating history of record-breaking on land. Along with his informed and detailed text, his beautiful artwork shows all significant record-breakers in their immense variety, each illustrated in profile and accompanied by a cameo portrait of its driver. From the start of it all in the late 19th Century to today’s challengers seeking to reach ‘the last frontier’, 1,000mph, the story that unfolds will enthral not only enthusiasts for the subject but anyone appreciative of innovative engineering and brave human endeavour. 

  • Early records, often achieved with electric cars such as Camille Jenatzy’s La Jamais Contente (65mph, 1899) and steam-powered vehicles such as Fred Marriott’s Stanley Steamer (127mph, 1906).
  • Britain’s speed kings, most significantly Malcolm Campbell, whose record-breaking began with a Sunbeam 350HP (146mph, 1924) and culminated in him becoming the first man to exceed 300mph, in his final Blue Bird (301mph, 1935).
  • Other notable British achievements, including Henry Segrave’s Golden Arrow (231mph, 1929), George Eyston’s Thunderbolt (345mph, 1938), John Cobb’s Railton Mobil Special (394mph, 1947) and Donald Campbell’s Bluebird (403mph, 1964).
  • American pre-eminence in the jet age, when a flurry of Bonneville records fell to Art Arfons in Green Monster (576mph, 1965), Craig Breedlove in Spirit of America (600mph, 1965) and Gary Gabelich in Blue Flame (622mph, 1970).
  • Richard Noble’s exploits at Black Rock Desert, first as a driver in Thrust2 (633mph, 1983), then as mastermind of ThrustSSC, the current record holder with Andy Green and the only car to have broken the sound barrier on land (763mph, 1997).
  • Besides the absolute records, the book covers national and class records where we encounter vehicles as diverse as Dave Spangler’s Turbinator II (fastest wheel-driven car), Andy Green’s Dieselmax (fastest diesel), Rocky Robinson’s Ack Attack (fastest motorcycle) and Don Wales’s Inspiration (steam-powered record-holder).
  • Publication date: September 2020

  • UK price: £30.00

  • ISBN: 978-1-910505-59-5

  • Format: 210x290mm (landscape)

  • Hardback

  • Page extent: 184

  • Illustration: over 350 colour illustrations


    Like every boy in the 1950s, Barry John knew the names of Cobb and Campbell and possessed battered Dinky toys of their cars. When he was 15, he discovered Hot Rod magazine and, instantly mesmerised, bought it when pocket money stretched that far. In Hot Rod’s pages he discovered the exploits of Breedlove and Arfons — and has been fascinated ever since. After studying at Harrow School of Art, he pursued a career as a graphic designer. Now retired, he has applied his professional skills to his passion and produced this book. He lives in Kent.

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