Malcolm! The Autobiography Review
If all you knew about Malcom Smith came from his role as a co-star with Mert Lawwill and Steve McQueen in Bruce Brown’s documentary film On Any Sunday, you’d say he is a pretty remarkable guy.
After all, he not only appeared in what is arguably the most entertaining and quite possibly the most popular motorcycle documentary film ever made, it showed him to be an incredibly talented motorcyclist able to ride nearly anything in any kind of competition and win—all while wearing his legendary grin.
All of that is quite a story in itself, but it is but a tiny fraction of the remarkable story of Malcolm Smith. To get the whole story, you’d need to get a copy of Smith’s autobiography compiled with veteran moto-journalist Mitch Boehm and featuring a foreword by the late Bruce Brown: Malcolm! The Autobiography.
Indeed, the book is as big as the story itself, spanning Malcolm’s life literally from his birth in British Columbia in 1941 through the book’s publication in 2015. (We previewed Malcolm! prior to its publication).
In its 401 lavishly illustrated pages, the story unfolds, revealing not only Smith’s versatility as a racer with nearly anything with wheels, it provides rare insights into his personal life and reveals some startling facts. Many of the images in the book have appeared nowhere else; including some of his personal x-rays!
For example, in 1959 Smith very nearly became a non-motorcyclist for life. Indeed, it could be safely said that he very nearly lost his life that year. Only days before he was to graduate from high school, Smith crashed suffering compound fractures—three to his lower leg and two more to his femur. The crash left him literally up a pepper tree. Multiple surgeries and long months of recovery lay ahead.
In those days of immobility and discomfort with a half-body cast in place between the reconstructive surgeries, Smith recalls telling his mother he “was through with motorcycles forever. And I meant it, too. We’d both been badly traumatized by the accident, and I couldn’t imagine going through this sort of thing again.” How different things would have been had he followed through on that sentiment!
Another revelation about a landmark event that nearly didn’t happen in his life was his role in On Any Sunday. Smith explains:
“Bruce Brown, who’d made the classic surf movie The Endless Summer in 1966, was one such surfer-rider. Brown was more than a motorcyclist, though: he was a customer of mine, and a Husky owner. One day while Bruce was picking up his bike at my shop, he said, ‘Hey Malcolm, I’m just starting work on a motorcycle movie, a documentary similar to The Endless Summer. Interested in working in it?’ Of course, I was interested, and told him so. Showing off my riding skills to moviegoers everywhere would be a neat thing. A few months later, Bruce called to tell me he wanted to start filming soon, and was I in for sure.”
“Sadly, I told him no. I had just purchased the entire K & N Motorcycles operation outright—the sales and parts department in addition to the service department, which I’d bought months earlier—from Kenny Johnson and Norm McDonald. Ray King, my stepfather, made it all possible, loaning me half the down payment. Kenny and Norm trusted me to pay off the balance through monthly payments. I told Bruce I was overwhelmed with setting up my new business and could not do it,” Smith recalled.
Fortunately, Brown didn’t give up on having Smith in the film and, when he checked back with Smith a week or two later, things had settled down for Smith and he decided to do the film after all. It wasn’t until later that he learned his co-stars in the film would be Steve McQueen and Mert Lawwill.
The book covers Smith as successful businessman, family man, philanthropist, upstart TT racer, desert racer on two wheels and four—including events around the world such as the Baja 1000, Mint 400, Australia Enduro, Hokkaido Enduro, Incas Rally, Dakar and Roof of Africa Rally, ISDT team competitor and medal winner and more.
Malcolm Smith has led what he appreciates as a wonderful life and he’s not through yet. Indeed, that is where he begins telling his story—with a poignant statement of thanks for the amazing life he’s led. Through his superb autobiography, he takes us all with him on his long, spectacular ride.
- Title: Malcolm! The Autobiography
- Author: Malcolm Smith with Mitch Boehm. Foreword by Bruce Brown
- Published: 2015 Hardcover. 401 pages. Measures 11.0” x 11.0.”
- Publisher: Malcolm Smith Motorsports, Inc. 7599 Indiana Ave., Riverside, CA 92504
- ISBN: 978-0-578-16405-2
- MSRP: U.S. $49.95