By Gary Doyle
Book Review

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Book Review- King of the Boards, The Life and Times of Jimmy Murphy
Jul 26, 2003 07:35 am - Posted by Ed Hollowell, Administrator

Review by "Special Interest Autos" by Jim Donnelly

King of the Boards

More than anything else, Gary Doyle wanted to see his distant relative finally get recognition 80 years after his death. Most knowledgeable race enthusiasts know that Jimmy Murphy was the last American to win a European Grand Prix with an American car in 1921….Aside from that, Murphy’s early demise left him in obscurity, especially compared to the Twenties sports titans like babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Bobby Jones.

Murphy was raised by Doyle’s great-grandparents after he was orphaned in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. “Labor of love” doesn’t come close to describing what Doyle accomplished in resurrecting his memory: more than 330 pages of text and appendices, some 300 photos and beautifully reproduced artwork from the likes of Peter Helck, Walter Gotschke and Robert Williams. In those days, a sophomoric and sensationalist press largely ignored racing, so Doyle compiled an exhaustive bibliography of many older publications, aided well by Internet searches and the great automotive collections.

They enabled him to recount Murphy’s early days as a garage owner and riding mechanic, who was working on engine development with Harry Miller as early as 1914 before commencing on his driving career. He went on to battle Tommy Milton for the land speed record at Daytona Beach, won in France in a Duesenberg, re-powered the car and gave Miller his first Indy win in 1922. What Doyle has abundantly documented was Murphy’s fearless near-domination of the terrifyingly lethal board speedways until his own death at Syracuse , New York , in 1924.

“King of the Boards” is a magnificent, scholarly work by a very determined author. It’s not just a racing book, or even an automotive history book, it’s a work of American history about an era of change when great athletes, now including Murphy, were all but deified.   

Review by Old Cars

Old Cars

Weekly News and Marketplace

 King of the Boards—This breathtaking assembly of fresh facts, unpublished photos, and newly commissioned paintings studies the heavy hitters in racing’s Golden Age of the 1920s, a time when just surviving the race was an accomplishment. The author, Gary D. Doyle, has a strong passion for the subject as a relative of the era’s hero, Jimmy Murphy. It shows through his painstaking original research that works to correct previously published fallacies and bring the human side to Murphy and other racing idols. Doyle discusses in detail Murphy’s exploits at the Indianapolis 500, the 1921 French Grand Prix, The Italian Grand Prix, and more.

As a relation to Murphy, Doyle had access to materials that were kept by the family since Murphy’s death in 1924. These documents have been coupled with photos from other notable collections and with newspaper accounts and race programs to deliver information on board track racing that cannot be found elsewhere.  

Lovers of fine research will enjoy the new information and a comprehensive, 23-page bibliography, while photo fanatics will droll over the quantity of race stars discussed like Eddie Rickenbacher, Tommy Milton, Ralph DePalma and others posed in Millers, Duesenbergs, Frontenacs and Packards to name just a few. Famous characters Fred and August Duesenberg receive their due attention since Murphy piloted the brothers’ magical machines.  

This book is absolutely necessary for automotive historians, race fans, and collectors with an interest in the performance history of their favorite marque. The hardcover, 346-page book sells for $90 with a high-quality dust-cover or $110 with a slip case, a wonderful bargain considering just one or two unique racing photos from this era will cost more than $100 in an on-line auction – and this book has hundreds of them! To purchase King of the Boards, contact author Gary Doyle at 602-636-0471, via his website at or e-mail at The mailing address is 914 E. Osborn #302 Phoenix , AZ 85014. You will be very pleased you did!

Review by Road & Track

Review by MotorTrend

Reveiw by Motor Sport

Review by Casey Annis of Vintage Racecar Journal

From:  Vintage Motorsport  Jan/Feb, 2003

Review by: Jack Juratovic for the Journal of the Automobile Fine Arts Society

For more information contact Gary Doyle