Through the years, hundreds of coffee table books have honored the sporting marques of twentieth-century Great Britain. Until now, not one of those has brought together the roster of talent we find behind this fine new title, Rule Britannia: When British Sports Cars Saved a Nation.
It’s a labor of love from our friend John Nikas, the automotive historian and vintage racer whom longtime Hemmings publication readers know for his incredible charity, Drive Away Cancer. This campaign raised awareness and treated sick children to rides in “Grace,” the clapped-out-but-charismatic 1953 Austin-Healey Hundred that would travel around America, and internationally, to the tune of 340,000-plus miles over three years.
This book represents a collaboration with world-renowned automotive photographer Michael Furman, and is published by Furman’s Coachbuilt Press. As is typical of Coachbuilt’s titles, Rule Britannia is a generously sized (nearly 12 x 10 inches), cloth-bound hardcover with a sturdy, matte-finished paper dustjacket, and its 300 pages are rendered in top-quality paper.
A number of very prominent figures in automotive circles contributed their opinions and recollections to this title, including Goodwood patron Lord March, aka Charles Gordon-Lennox, prolific automotive author Graham Robson, racer and TV presenter Alain de Cadenet, Automobile magazine design columnist Robert Cumberford, and British motor-industry historian, Dr. Timothy Whisler.
Rule Britannia offers an excellent blend of text and images, with photography ranging from delightful, rarely seen historic documentation, to Furman’s lush, full-color studio portraits and intriguing detail captures.
The book highlights a selection of iconic automakers whose postwar products helped define the sports car or performance-oriented British car, to the American (and world) market. Celebrated within are AC, Aston Martin, Austin-Healey, Jaguar, MG, Mini, Morgan, and Triumph.
In each marque-themed chapter, John recounts that automakers’ history, most of which dated back to the prewar era. He introduces readers to the forceful personalities–and corporate wranglings–that would helped define them, and of course, discusses the competition that gave each its sporting bona fides. Through the context of time, we learn how they were, typically desperate for dollars, driven to export their vehicles to markets equally hungry for what those cars uniquely offered.
John proves himself an engaging and considerate storyteller, fleshing out details that might otherwise be lost to history. Considering this, and the book’s captivating visuals, we consider Rule Britannia a genuine page-turner, and a must-have for anyone who understands and appreciates the critical, emotionally charged role postwar British sports cars have played in America, and around the world, for the last 70-plus years.