Book reviews

Book review: How to build a car by Adrian Newey

Book cover how to build a car
Book cover how to build a car

Adrian Newey is the pinnacle of race car design

Perhaps one of the most anticipated books of my life. Adrian is one of my heroes and a large reason why I am a race engineer today. I don’t know if it was an unfairly large proportion of high expectations or just the misleading title that got me disappointed. Was it a book about Adrian? Was it a book about designing a race car? Or was is about Formula 1 and Adrian’s design philosophy? It sorta turned out to be nothing of those.
One of my earliest memories of a Formula 1 car was a Leyton House. It looked so different from all the other cars. More sleek, more beautiful, more streamlined. It just looked fast. I didn’t know Adrian existed until his later Williams years. And I didn’t know that the Leyton House 881 was designed by Adrian until the early 2000s. When I realized that he designed so many successful and groundbreaking cars over the decades I just couldn’t help but admire him. An absolute master at his craft.
Now let’s take a few steps back and turn down the admire-o-meter a few notches. Adrian is no author, he is no storyteller, he is way too loyal to his previous employers and he doesn’t tell you any technical juicy-ness. I bet he has like 500 NDA´s signed which are still active.
So what is the book about you say? I say a more correct title for this book would be Adrian Newey: The life´s story. We start at early childhood and the story about how he ended up in Aerodynamics. As with all great people, they wouldn’t be great if their surroundings and struck of luck would put them in a specific area with a specific need. He got early shots at designing complete cars, which turned out to be very good. He got the opportunities and he delivered. The first half of the book is the most interesting. How he got from team to team, designing the first cars. The thinking and philosophy behind it all.
The second half, or in particular the last few chapters are just words to fill up space. Sure some interesting stuff about the inner workings of Formula 1 is said, and some shots were taken at previous employers but mostly pretty dull.
The book is not very technical, there are some design concepts drawn but not more than that. So if you think you will be Adrian Newey after reading this book you will be disappointed. However its a nice insight into his life and how things became to be. I swallowed this book in a day or two and even if I didn’t learn so much about engineering it gives a good picture of a Race-car designer in Formula 1.
Score: 7/10

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