Here’s another fascinating read from our friends at Panther Publishing.
It’s the story of a veritable 20th Century Renaissance man of the sort that no longer exists, from the days when “ships were wood and men were iron”.
Sidecar racing is one of the most exciting sports on the planet, and for some strange reason, it has also remained one of the most obscure.
Stan Dibben may be most famous for his exploits in the “chair”, as the sidecar is called, but his was a very full life indeed, with more adventure packed in to his multiple careers than any half-dozen “normal” lives.
So although this is a story about his sidecar racing exploits, it’s also a very interesting look back to a time when, with a little bit of luck and a lot of guts, the whole wide world was an open book and destiny was something you made for yourself.
Dibben was a young 14 when the war started, and it was still going when he rather inadvertently joined the Royal Navy. He was working as an electrician’s apprentice — a “reserved occupation” that would have kept him out of the fight — but he volunteered for what must have seemed a romantic stint in the Royal Air Force. He was quickly rejected, but since he volunteered, he was now fair game for a call-up.
In the meantime, his motorbike career was launched by a visiting soldier-motorcyclist who gave him rides and then taught him to pilot his 250 cc OK-Supreme motorbike.
Next was a brief stop in Canada, a career as a trumpet player and then a return to England and a chance trip to the Isle of Man TT races forged his next move into the motorcycle industry.
A job with BSA building a racing bikes; then as a test rider putting on an incredible 400 miles per day (back in the days of two-lane roads) and a request to lay in a sidecar to check the suspension started his famous career as a sidecar rider.
The book includes some great photographs from Dibben’s collection, including many photos of racing across Europe in the post-war years. Sidecar racing is one of the most incredible motorsports to witness, but anyone who enjoys hanging untethered off the chair is beyond brave. Curbs flashing by inches from your skull at 100+ MPH is not my idea of fun!
Connections brought Dibben a job with Donald Campbell and the Bluebird land speed record racer. There are some great color photos of that project included in the book.
From there it was on to yet another career, this time promoting and distributing a new product in the UK: NGK spark plugs. And he wasn’t done yet — after that, he designed, of all things, a new type of supermarket shopping basket wheel mechanism; got his ride in an airplane; rode the sidecar again in 2007 — at age 82! — and his current goal is to do the 50m breaststroke in 60 seconds.
Pretty amazing stuff in this easy-to-read, 128 page book. Dibben had many opportunities and some luck and created a swashbuckling life of the sort that just doesn’t seem to happen in our homogenized 21st Century economy. His refreshing and optimistic outlook on life is definitely something to consider.