We frequently take our seven-year-old, who loves to read to our local Barnes & Noble to pick out a new chapter book. Though it’s been sadly reduced to a single bookshelf I always stop to peruse the Transportation section for something interesting to read while we’re there. I’ll often preview a chapter or two of an automotive book, and once in a while take something home. Such was the case with The Fast Times of Albert Champion: From Record-Setting Racer To Dashing Tycoon, An Untold Story of Speed, Success, and Betrayal by Peter Joffre Nye.
You may never have heard of Albert Champion, but you know the companies he founded, partnered with, and helped to build. Even the most casual auto enthusiast will also recognize the early automotive power brokers Champion rubbed elbows with and the historic milestones he witnessed and participated in.
Much of Champion’s story occurs prior to the rise of the automobile. The book chronicles Champion’s early success as a French bicycle racing champion, amassing a fortune in race winnings he would later invest in companies supporting a burgeoning auto industry. The author follows Champion around the world at a time when bicycles were the primary mode of personal transportation, and crowds filled stadiums to capacity to witness daredevils pumping pedals around board tracks at dizzying speeds. Bicycle racing evolved to motor pacing with the advent of internal combustion engines, which lead to Champion’s fascination and involvement with motorcycles and automobiles.
As Champion’s fortune and fame grew, so did his ego and willingness to take risks. While the story culminates with anticipated karmic justice, Peter Joffre Nye takes readers on a wild ride through the life of a subject who might be the most influential man you’ve never heard of, using Champion’s own scrapbook as a guide. The Fast Times of Albert Champion is a great read for any enthusiast interested in the early years of American car companies, and the people who built the industry.