Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz
A nice little pocket paperback book is The Story of Thrust SSC, the World’s first Supersonic Car.The writers aren’t recorded, but Dave Morris, Ron Ayres and Glynne Bowsher are listed as thanking the Thrust Team. The booklet measures only 4 inches wide and 7 inches high and was published by Corgi Press in 1998. The ISBN# is 0-552-546410 and there is no price listed. The Story of Thrust SSC, the World’s first Supersonic Car is 160 pages on inexpensive paper with 11 black and white photographs and a special interior plate with 16 color photographs. There are five charts and five drawings and diagrams to help explain the story of the fastest car in the world. There is no Table of Contents and no index. There are fifteen chapters but they run chronologically so it really doesn’t matter whether the authors used chapters or not. The charts are informative and the one on the land speed records is comprehensive. There is also a nice chart on the team members from the 1983 and the 1997 land speed record runs. The Story of Thrust SSC, the World’s first Supersonic Car is nowhere as good as Sir Richard Noble’s book, Thrust, Through the Sound Barrier, but it wasn’t meant to be. The little booklet came out right after the record runs at the Black Rock Desert in 1997 in order to give a short record of what had occurred and how the record was achieved. This booklet does a remarkable job of telling the basic story and if the reader is interested in the more technical aspects of the land speed effort, then Noble’s book will provide that. The Brits are famous for their patience in explaining the technical prowess of their car, design and team.
The story of Sir Richard Noble’s attempts to build a car and set the land speed automotive record is documented briefly with comments from Sally Noble, Richard’s wife and Jack Noble, his son. Noble builds a drag car in England, then a landspeed car with better results. In 1982 the British team was frustrated with the rain that flooded Bonneville and they discovered a dry lake in northwestern Nevada that proved to be the perfect course for them. They returned in 1983 to set the record and bring the land speed title back to Great Britain after two decades in American hands. After a fourteen-year absence, Noble and the Brits returned to Gerlach, Nevada and the Black Rock Desert. There in a pressure packed duel with Craig Breedlove in his Spirit of America, Andy Green sets a new world record and breaks the sound barrier on land. But in between the beginning and the final record is the often-overlooked toil and hard work by hundreds of volunteers. Richard Noble was knighted for his efforts by the British government and well he should be. Without Noble there would be no world record and no team. Noble has that perfect personality that is both charismatic and practical. He knows how to inspire men and women in a project that most see as impossible. Noble is a force of nature when it comes to bringing the best people together and instilling in them a willingness to achieve no matter what the problems might be. He simply cannot hear the words ‘no,’ or ‘it can’t be done.’ He will not stop until the impossible has been accomplished. Surrounding Noble is a hard-working and talented crew of Brits who make the record possible. Many were on leave from the British military, including Andy Green, the man chosen by Noble to take his place in the car and set the record.
Noble isn’t vain. He could have driven the car but he recognized the odds and his value to the team as its leader and soul. Without Noble there would be no team and no record. Noble also recognized and valued every volunteer and there were hundreds, including Americans who gave time and money to the cause. Even Breedlove, who was his competitor for the record, was essential to the success of the British effort. Without Breedlove the Brits would have had trouble raising the funds to stay on the desert and set the record. Breedlove and the American team rushed their car out to the desert too soon in an attempt to compete, but also to help spur on a competition that would raise money for both teams. There were hundreds of volunteers who came to the Black Rock Desert in September and October of 1997 and who gave of their time, skills and money to help the two teams battle it out. In the end it was the Brits who set the record, but for land speed racing fans it is not about who sets the record but the efforts that go into them that count. The Story of Thrust SSC, the World’s first Supersonic Car is a small booklet, but it is jam-packed with a good story. Check with Autobooks/Aerobooks at 1-818-845-0707 to see if they can locate a copy for you.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS2@JUNO.COM