A Happy Occasion

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W.B.

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On May20th a happy occasion at the Hawker aerodrome at Dunsfold was a demonstration by the G.Q. Parachute Co.. Ltd., of Woking, of their retractable brake parachute, towed by the Napier-Railton racing car.

After an excellent lunch at the Lion Hotel, Guildford, we followed Sir Raymond Quilter’s tuned Mark VII Jaguar to the aerodrome, where he drove the Napier-Railton and convinced the aeronautical experts present of the effectiveness of his very clever G.Q. brake parachute, which after acting as effective air-brakes, are retracted automatically for re-use by a 7-lb. 2-hp. Rotax 24-volt electric motor energised by Exide aircraft batteries.

Of greater interest to us was the fact that, twenty years after Thomson and Taylor, Ltd., built it, John Cobb’s Napier-Railton, which holds the Brooklands lap record at 143.44 m.p.h. and many other records, is still in existence and, indeed, is doing work of National importance.

The old car is much as it was in the Brooklands days, although the tail bears signs of the mutilation it received at the hands of the film-people (when the car “starred” in “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”), and Sir Raymond, who always drives it and obviously loves the car, has re-fitted the protruding nose cowl used for that film, now carrying a G.Q. badge.

Otherwise, here is John Cobb’s famous Brooklands car as Cobb would like to know it is preserved. The aged Y-12 Napier “Lion” aero-engine has given very little trouble save for certain water leaks. It is run on pump grade-one Shell petrol and Castrol XX oil and uses Champion R7 plugs.

Because speeds of up to 140 m.p.h. are reached in the course of parachute testing and on the occasion of destruction tests no ‘chute remains to slow the car on the 3 1/2-mile runway, the old brakes (the Napier-Railton never had front wheel-brakes) were deemed inadequate and the problem of safe stopping was met by installing Dunlop disc brakes with Mintex linings on the back wheels.

These work perfectly and it is amusing to note that Mintex have reciprocated by putting a G.Q. parachute on their brake-testing XK120C Jaguar — clearly, G.Q. parachutes make aircraft safe but on the ground the Napier-Railton and this Jaguar make doubly sure by combining Mintex and G.Q.

Figures of 1 1/2 to 2g. are realised on release of the parachute and in cross-winds on a wet runway Sir Raymond has had “interesting experiences”! In the car’s cockpit he has had installed a special speedometer, an accelerometer, with a searchlight to illuminate these instruments if required and a cine-camera to record the instrument readings; also a mirror so that he can observe what is happening when he releases a parachute from its container above the car’s tail. Destruction tests of the parachute lines are possible at the full speed of the car.

The Napier-Railton is now shod with 7.00 by 19 Dunlop racing tyres front and back and due to wheelspin, particularly of the offside back wheel, under acceleration, these require occasional replacement. The stub exhausts evolved for the big car’s long-distance record attempts at Montlhèry and Utah are now employed.

Sir Raymond Quilter, Bt., wears a harness when driving; in his close-fitting black helmet and small-lens goggles he looks not unlike John Cobb himself. Certainly it was a sentimental occasion when we saw him extend the car at Dunsfold. It is very good to know that the Napier-Railton is in such good shape and that it will not be broken up for scrap. Anyone who has to do with the buying of parachutes should bear G.Q. in mind if for no other reason (and we have no doubt the aeronautical experts could give them some very good ones) than that Sir Raymond Quilter’s company has saved an historic racing car. — W. B.

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