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7th November 2005


Books: Mechanic's Tales By Trevor Hilditch

"The vibration on the handlebars was so bad that I couldn't leave go to pull the clutch lever to change into a higher gear." Frank Westworth reviews the autobiography of a former RAF mechanic and motorcycle shop owner... Mechanic's Tales By Trevor Hilditch - might be in stock at Amazon

Every so often a book comes along which is so obscure, but at the same time so compelling, that you just have to give it a good big plug. Graham Ham's Daisy's Diary (Zen And The Art Of Riding An Old Triumph?) is one such, and so is Mechanic's Tales, by one Trevor Hilditch.

Trevor introduced himself the RC stand at a recent show, and we were immediately struck by his easy humour and good nature. He is - or rather was, for he's now retired - an actual genuine mechanic. In other words, he fixes things which lesser folk - folk like me - break. This is a rare talent, and I applaud it.

Trevor decided that once he had retired he would write his autobiography; unlike most of us he actually did so, and this fine little book is it. It's a 165-page softback, with two sections of black and white photos so you can put faces to the names of the people who feature in the text. 'Mechanic's Tales' is a glorious view of a long-lost world, a world where worn-out bikes, cars, lorries and the spares to keep them going were available, affordable and attainable by humans on ordinary incomes. Trevor started work as a motor mechanic at the age of 15, did his National Service in the RAF's vehicle support section, and bought a motorcycle business in the late 1960s.

But that's only part of what the book is about, and it is not the best part. Too many autobiographies decline into a long list of Vehicles I Have Owned, Folk I Have Known and What I Think About Everything. These books are very dull, sadly. This book is not like that. It is packed with anecdotes, the kind of short stories which enliven any bar chat, stories like the one where a fellow mechanic, a Noted Joker, nipped the bum of another mechanic with a set of molegrips. The snag was that the grips promptly locked, pinching tight several cubic inches of backside… Priceless.

The author also competed in grasstrack and other events, and there are some splendid tales there, too. 'My first race was a disaster. The vibration on the handlebars was so bad that I couldn't leave go to pull the clutch lever to change into a higher gear, and finished the first heat near the back of the field. When I returned to the pits I tightened a couple of loose frame bolts before going to the starting line for my second heat, and this time I only completed one lap before the lower frame bolt sheared and the front of the frame dug into the track - throwing me headlong over the finish line!'

Do you get the impression that we liked this little (it's A5, the same size as most club magazine but a lot thicker) book? Yes, we did. Buy it now. In fact, buy two copies and send one to a friend.

Frank W

It was six hours before Trevor finally untangled his beard from the steering linkage.

******

Sorry: This book is no longer in print.

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