Reviews

“When all of us sat down to read this story the first time, we thought if John Morton could make it as a racing driver, then all of us had a chance. Morton, Pete Brock and even Datsun’s legendary chief executive in the U.S., Yutaka Katayama, all seemed like regular guys to us. They were just smart guys who liked to drive fast, and they made it socially acceptable for us to be smart guys who liked small, smart and sporty cars. Little did we know that their unique enthusiasm for racing would transform a car company, give it an identity for car enthusiasts that endures today, and establish a reputation for quality in the cars of Japan.”

— Michael Jordan, Automobile Magazine

 

 “Of the thousands of motorsports books, this is the single most candid book of its kind. The level of access the author had to the team is unlike anything before or since. The result is that the book pulls no punches, there are no edits in the book due to political concerns as you see in most racing books written today. You get to know the true thoughts of the people involved whether politically correct or not. This is simply the finest racing book I have ever read.”

— Andy Reid, Classic MotorsportsGrassroots Motorsports

 

“Although this story was first told nearly 40 years ago, Sylvia Wilkinson’s insightful look at the mind of a road racer—and the chemistry of an imperfect BRE team—is as relevant today as it was in 1973. Wilkinson is a sharp observer, and she effectively captures John Morton as a die-hard racer who is introspective and refreshingly honest, yet possessing characteristics we see in other drivers and perhaps even ourselves. In short, this is a great read.”

— Andrew Bornhop, Road & Track

 

“Two things wrench my gut about auto racing: First, what happens to the hordes of great racers who don’t get headlines, don’t become heroes? Next, how do you finance this expensive racing car stuff, and why would anyone want to pay for all this?

“Neither of these two questions can be answered in less than 30 years.

“For example, the late Leon Mandel’s 1981 book Fast Lane Summer chronicled Indy winner Danny Sullivan’s struggles to get to racing’s A-list, although Leon died in 2002, so we’ll never have a chance to read the rest of the Sullivan story from Leon’s point of view.

“We now have a chance to learn the whole story of top sports-prototype racer John Morton’s struggles, with the updated and re-published Stainless Steel Carrot from Sylvia Wilkinson, an insightful and talented novelist who also understands and covered auto racing for Mandel at Autoweek magazine. Leon picked Danny Sullivan for his book, Sylvia chose John Morton for hers. Danny won Indy; John won top-tier sports prototype races, and still races vintage cars for fun.

“Even though Stainless Steel Carrot was published in 1973, even today when the question “Why race?” is presented to the general media, the answers are still superficial: Racers have a death wish, and sponsors easily convince their investors that ridiculous amounts of funding for this is worthwhile. They miss the truth.

“Here is the truth, finally. Answering auto racing’s big questions completely requires skill in writing as well as a deep understanding of human behavior, both of which Wilkinson uses to make the updated Stainless Steel Carrot offer the most satisfying story of a racer’s life.”

— Phil Berg, former senior editor at Car and Driver and Autoweek

 

“When I was 10, I found a copy of Sylvia Wilkinson’s The Stainless Steel Carrot in a used-book shop in Louisville. The book chronicles the early career of racing driver John Morton, including most of his time on Peter Brock’s BRE Datsun Trans-Am team in the late 1960s and early 1970s. You can probably guess the rest: I read the book, Morton’s exploits scarred me for life, I suddenly wanted to drive a vintage Trans-Am car more than anything… Instant hero stuff, not helped by the fact that I later reread the book roughly 4000 times.

— Sam Smith, Car and Driver blog

 

“As with wines, music and friends, when a book grows better with age you know you’ve got a good one. Sylvia’s focused study of a single race driver and his team was a strong, worthwhile read in the early 1970s, when it was new and fresh. Its inherent values remain, but today it offers something more: perspective. Four decades of frenetic evolution have changed racing almost beyond recognition; to re-read Stainless Steel Carrot is to fly back to what now seems a golden moment in time and find yourself murmuring, yes… that’s how it was.”

Pete Lyons

 

“This book tells the story of John Morton when he was on the cusp of the big time but held back, ironically, by his consummate skill in smaller cars. Sylvia Wilkinson’s mastery of dialogue puts you behind the scenes and brings supporting characters such as team owner Pete Brock and arch rival Horst Kwech to life with an honesty that at times is almost painful. This is authentic stuff – a must-read for Morton fans – and for anyone who likes a tale told with accuracy and passion. ”

— Sam Posey

 

“This is one of the most innovative motorsports books ever written.  From the clever title to the introspective look at what road-racing is all about, Sylvia takes us into the inner sanctions of a driver.  This is an extraordinary book that should be even better received today than in 1973.  Sylvia also wrote one of the best stock car racing books – Dirt Tracks to Glory.”

— H.A. (Humpy) Wheeler, The Wheeler Company

 

The Stainless Steel Carrot is one of the most incisive books ever written about professional motorsports. Sylvia Wilkinson’s reporting is scrupulously honest, and she captures the highs and lows of racing with sometimes painful accuracy. Besides shining a light on Trans-Am’s often overlooked 2.5 Challenge, Wilkinson also brings a fascinating cast of characters to life, most notably the book’s reluctant but ultimately winning hero, John Morton. I’m glad to see the book back in print, and I’m looking forward to reading it again.”

— Preston Lerner, contributing editor, Automobile Magazine

 

“Sometimes, after time, some thing’s lose their meaning. But like a baseball glove that becomes a lifetime purchase, The Stainless Steel Carrot has become a valued and sought after treasure for lovers of auto racing.

“With the eye and style of a master, Sylvia Wilkinson tells a tale of the behind-the-scenes of auto racing. And not just anybody in auto racing, but the top team of the day, competing in the Trans Am 2.5 Challenge Series. Set during the 1971 – 1973 seasons, Sylvia peels away the public image and reveals the inner workings of the BRE Datsun team, along with driver John Morton and others. The politics, disagreements and everything else is part of this compelling story. Nothing is held back.

“This book gives a good perspective on the transition from a sport to a full blown business in auto racing. But don’t think it’s not relevant to today’s auto racing world. Yesterdays and today’s politics and drama are still the underlying beat of auto racing and thankfully the beat goes on. Not many books become classics, but this is one.”

— Ed Justice, Jr., President, Justice Brothers, Inc. and former Host of Road & Track Speed Radio

 

The Stainless Steel Carrot is an insider’s view of road racing when it was a sport, not a business. It covers the rise of John Morton, a name that is still feared on the vintage racing circuit today. In a facile style that confirms the many writing awards she has received from her peers, Sylvia Wilkinson tells the story from a fly-on-the-wall point of view. Racing and non-racing conversations are included as are insights into the main players’ motivations.

“Perhaps the best part of the book is the depiction of the golden era of the under 2.5-liter Trans Am Challenge in the early 1970s, a series for smaller production cars of the day. The theme is intriguing, the battle between the patrician, double overhead camshaft Alfa Romeo GTAs and the upstart pushrod Datsun 510s. Sylvia has an extended section on the greatest race of the series, the season-ending battle at Laguna Seca in 1971. The book is as gripping today as when it was written in 1973 and includes new material as well. Get into your favorite chair with an adult beverage and prepare for a great ride.”

— Michael T. Lynch, Author, Historian and Motor Press Guild Dean Batchelor Award Winner

 

“As a rule, racing books can be pretty saccharine, full of facts, back slapping and all the good chapters of a driver’s career. But the Stainless Steer Carrot was one of the first stories that truly laid out the thrill of victory, agony of defeat and just how challenging it is to try and make it as a professional driver.

“John Morton was the perfect subject, a racer to the core who wasn’t afraid to take on any challenge, and Sylvia Wilkinson gave us an excellent 300-page introspective of a little guy trying to make it in the big, bad world of motorsports.

“Thrilled to hear she’s adding another chapter because John finally made it all the way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

— Robin L. Miller

 

“Sylvia Wilkinson is one of the best auto racing authors in the business and she beautifully captured the fascinating behind-the-scenes drama, competition and the characters involved back in the ‘70s in Stainless Steel Carrot. The new edition, with her updated stories, should be a great read. I expect nothing less.”

— Judy Stropus