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Recommended Reading – Speed and How to Obtain It

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I picked up this third printing of JEG Harwood’s Speed and How to Obtain It at a bookstore while traveling with the Hemmings Great Race this past June. I paid very little for it, but it is full of technical tricks, speed charts, and tuning insights, plus it even has a special section on tuning for racing at Brooklands, complete with a map of the old track.

The book was first published by Iliffe and Sons Ltd. in the U.K. in 1925 and my third edition was printed in 1930, but there have been many editions of it reprinted with changes made to reflect more modern technology. I thought this one was desirable because of its references to the old track, which hasn’t been raced on since 1939 and exists today only in small portions that have not been overgrown or repurposed. You can see from this recent YouTube video just how much (or really, how little) of the old track is left.

Vickers aircraft were built at Brooklands during WWII and portions of the track were used as runways and for aircraft storage and manufacture. A museum, built on the old grounds in the 1990s, pays homage to the many races and racers who once dazzled audiences of thousands at the old banked track and road course. The Brooklands Museum encompasses about 30 acres of the old track, and Dan Strohl posted a story about the Brooklands Society and the Brooklands Museum using a large grant to preserve and stabilize what was left of the historic track and WWII airplane hangar back in 2015.

You can still obtain later versions of this book printed by both Iliffe and Sons and Floyd Clymer. The original books were issued by The Motor Cycle, an Iliffe publication about all types of two-wheeled conveyances that began in 1903 and produced a highly-regarded magazine under several different titles until late 1983.

Some of the interesting chapters in the third edition of this book include:

  • Extra Speed from the Touring Machine
  • Tuning for Club Events
  • The Man
  • The Engine
  • The Machine
  • Tuning for Brooklands

In the back of the book are many formulas and tables with charts to calculate wind resistance, hardness of metal alloys, engine cylinder volume, speed based on elapsed time around the Brooklands course, piston speed at any crank angle, etc. Also near the rear cover are period advertisements for motorcycles of the time, magnetos, riding gear, tyres and lubricants. There is even an ad for a shed to store your bike, and two versions are offered: 14 x 7 x 6-foot-tall wood structures are £8.15 while the same unit with upgraded asbestos siding sells for £10.10. The book is a neat piece of motorcycling history.