By John Mayhead
2023 review by James Loveridge
In the 1920s and 30s breaking land speed records was very much a British speciality with the likes of Seagrave, Campbell, Thomas, Eyston and Cobb as the outright fastest, driving car with engines of unlimited capacity. Limiting himself to the smaller types, up to 1500cc, was Goldie Gardner, who went on into the 1950s. GOLDIE. The amazing story of Alfred Goldie Gardner the World’s most successful speed-record driver by John Mayhead is the story of this very determined man.
Gardner wrote his own story in 1951, Magic MPH, as well as co-authoring two other books about motor sport, but quite clearly John’s book, as shown by the quantity of footnotes and copious acknowledgements, has benefitted from a massive amount of research and tells a fuller story. In his Introduction John says he has written the book not just for “knowledgeable, well- informed motoring enthusiasts” but also for “people who just love a good story”. It is a pity, therefore, that the book, which was launched at this year’s Goodwood Revival, as early as page 39 attributes the design of the Austin Seven to Gordon Bennett Trophy winner Selwyn Edge whereas, as is fully documented, the person who helped Herbert Austin with the little marvel was an apprentice from the works called Stanley Edge. This is probably of no concern to John’s readers who just like a good story, but why perpetuate misinformation? Isn’t there enough of that about already? It is sure to be of concern to the “enthusiast” and, as with this reviewer, does almost inevitably rather cast a shadow of doubt about the remaining facts quoted. This egregious mistake also questions the role of National Motor Museum Publishing who publish this book; after all, the Museum does have one of Edge’s Napiers so ought to know something about his history. Didn’t someone there read the book? Other mistakes such as “food” for “foot” on page 162 and “his” for “hi” on page 174 are now probably understandable.
Allowing for all that this is actually a very well written and very readable book and reasonably well illustrated. What is clear is that Goldie, badly injured, holding a Military Cross and serving in both World Wars, was determined to the point of obsession to achieve his goals and ended up with over 150 recognised records. He was not a wealthy man; the book tells how he was able to get finance for his attempts and gained the respect and friendship of many significant people in the motoring world such as Malcolm Campbell and Cecil Kimber. Like the other early record holders he was also a pretty successful racing driver but the lure of speed soon became an addiction. The stories of the various cars he drove and in particular the beautifully streamlined MG EX135 are well dealt with.
His achievements are detailed comprehensively though the telling of his wartime experiences and several of his drives purporting to describe his thoughts and actions might be put in the “ripping yarn” category. None the less, they are readable and add to the good story bit. It is pretty clear Goldie was not the easiest man with whom to get on unless you were part of the motor sport in-crowd but, after a disastrous first marriage, he does seem to have found some happiness with his second and their daughter.
The websites say this book is due to be published by the end of September so the copy reviewed ought to be judged as a pre-publication copy – so let’s hope National Motor Museum Publications, whose first effort this appears to be, manage to sort things out and avoid damaging their reputation before they even get started.
When it is published it will be available from Amazon and other reputable booksellers at about £19 although was costing £15 at Goodwood.
Publisher: National Motor Museum Publishing
Price: Around £19
Description: 312 pages, hardback. 234mm x 136mm.