Book Review:
Man and Machine

This book review appeared in the June 2006 Falco Builder Letter.

Book Review:
Man and Machine

by Stephan Wilkinson
The Lyons Press, ISBN 1-59228-812-X $16.95 Paperback, 196 pages


They sit on a spur of test track outside General Electric’s locomotive factory in Erie, Pennsylvania, panting and grumbling like two old lions half asleep. The ominous, muttering rumble is the idle of 8,800 horsepower—24 cylinders with pistons big as buckets, turbochargers the size of washing machines, two V12 engines driving alternators five feet in diameter. For here are two units of the most advanced diesel-electric locomotives in the world: a pair of GE Evolutions.

Stephan Wilkinson
From “Do the Locomotion” in Man and Machine


If you’ve been in mourning ever since Steve Wilkinson sold his Falco, then your latest grief therapy session awaits you at your favorite bookseller. Man and Machine is a collection of articles, about ‘the ways men entertain themselves when no one is telling them what to do.’

Steve takes you into his sphere as an ambulance driver and the high speed world of vintage jets, race cars and speedboats. You’ll find the Falco all through the book though the article about a hawk is about Steve’s personal raptor, capable of 247 mph in a dive and incapable of compassion for its prey.

For me, the most poignant part of the book is the tribute to “the three grandest editors” Steve has worked for: Scott Mowbray of Popular Science, George C. Larson of Air & Space Smithsonian and the late James Gilbert of Pilot magazine in England. It was James Gilbert who introduced the western world to Stelio Frati and his airplanes, and thus begat the Falco kits, Steve’s Falco, his articles, and all of you reading this book report.

Who else but Steve would chase down the guy in California who is a world’s expert on the DB-601 engine that powered the Me-109 and then into the working of the engine and why it was a year or so ahead of the American and British engines at the time of the Battle of Britain. Or into the factory that makes Steinway Model D concert grand pianos in New York City. Or to a contest by car audio systems to produce the loudest noise for a burst of two or three seconds—something called “dB Drag Racing.”

For me, the most appealing thing about Steve’s writing is his willingness to go on his own, off the beaten track of conventional thinking and standard wisdom, into the world of eccentrics and their obsessions. Perhaps that’s what brought him to the Falco, and which draws all of us to his writing.

So don’t get over it, get with it and dive into Man and Machine, and hope that in another couple of years we will all have another adventure into the grease pits, desert garages, and machine shops that draw Steve into their world.—Alfred Scott