‘A band of stubborn pioneers rose from the embers of Britain’s cities after World War Two and created the finest automobiles the world had ever seen ... High Performance tells the exhilarating tale of their journey down the fast lane.’ Ben Collins, bestselling author of The Man In The White Suit and How To Drive ‘A wonderful glimpse "backstage" at the flamboyant mavericks and crazies who populated the British motor industry in the 60s.’ Alexei Sayle ‘High Performance is a cracking read and an adrenaline-packed tribute to the time when British mavericks “blew the bloody doors off” the competition.’ The Sunday Times 'Peter Grimsdale gives a very different and uplifting slant to the story of ... the post-Second World War British Motor industry. He focuses on people who did things differently and whose achievements are with us still ... thoughtful and stimulating.' Alan Judd, The Oldie Chosen as one of The Mail on Sunday’s ‘100 Summer Books’? In January 1964 a team of tiny red and white Mini Coopers stunned the world by winning the legendary Monte Carlo Rally. It was a stellar year for British cars that culminated in Goldfinger breaking box office records and making James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 the world’s most famous sports car. By the sixties, on road, track and silver screen the Brits were the ones to beat, winning championships and capturing hearts. Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Paddy Hopkirk were household names who drove the sexiest and most innovative cars. Designers like John Cooper, and Colin Chapman of Lotus, dismissed as mere ‘garagisti’ by Enzo Ferrari, blew the doors off Formula One and grabbed all the prizes, while Alex Issigonis won a knighthood for his revolutionary Mini. The E Type Jaguar was feted as the world’s sexiest car and Land Rover the most durable. But before the Second World War only one British car had triumphed in a Grand Prix; Britain’s car builders were fiercely risk-averse. So what changed? To find out, Peter Grimsdale has gone in search of a generation of rebel creative spirits who emerged from railway arches and Nissen huts to tear up the rulebook with their revolutionary machines. Like the serial fugitives from the POW camps, they thrived on adversity, improvisation and sheer obstinate determination. Blazing the trail for them was William Lyons, whose heart-stoppingly glamorous and uncompromising Jaguars propelled a bruised and bankrupt nation out of the shadows of war, winning the fans in Hollywood and beating ‘those bloody red cars’ at Le Mans. High Performance celebrates Britain’s automotive golden age and the mavericks who sketched them on the back of envelopes and garage floors, who fettled, bolted and welded them together and hammered the competition in the showroom, on the road and on the track – fuelled by contempt for convention.
'Glorious...gripping and sometimes tragic' Robbie Coltrane The inspirational story of the Bentley Boys and Le Mans – the race they made their own. Le Mans, 1927. W.O. Bentley peered into the dusk. His three cars, which had led from the start, were missing. Two years running he had failed to finish. Once again he was staring into a void. Racing, his shareholders told him, was a waste of money. This race looked like being his last. W.O’s engineering skills had been forged on the Great Northern railway and in the skies of the First World War, where Bentley-powered Sopwith Camels took the fight to Germany’s Red Baron. Determined to build and race his own cars, he assembled a crack team from all strata of 1920s Britain, from East End boys Leslie Pennal and Wally Hassan to multi-millionaires Woolf Barnato and Tim Birkin, men in search of adventures to blaze their way out of the dark past. They dedicated themselves to building the perfect road and racing car. In the hayloft above their workshop, the first Bentley was born and soon it was the car of choice for the fast-living upper classes. They raced at the fashionable Brooklands circuit and then set their sights on the fledgling 24 Hours Le Mans race. An audacious goal for a British car, yet the Bentley Boys rose to the challenge. But on that night in 1927, after the biggest crash in racing history claimed their cars, could they still pull it off and put British motor racing on the map? In the 1920s, Bentley Motors burned brightly but all too briefly; yet its tale, filled with drama, tragedy, determination and glory still shines a century on.