Southeby’s invited us up to Elvington Air Museum on May 8 to see what their hand-out described as a “World Land Speed Record attempt” by the 1925 Sunbeam “Tiger” (which should have made 633 mph Richard Noble raise an eyebrow!) They went on to say that “Remarkably, the car has full road equipment.” That was just auctioneer’s hype . . . .
What Michael Barker of the Midland Motor Museum was attempting was to see if the famous 4-litre V12 supercharged Sunbeam, which has had such a versatile and successful racing career, could still equal or better its 1926 152.33 mph kilometre LSR, made by Segrave on Southport sands nearly 65 years ago. In fact, the car is not the same as it was then. T & Ts of Brooklands rebuilt it for Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1932, giving it a new chassis, a pre-selector gearbox, large hydraulic brakes and a new body. After the war it was resuscitated for Sir Ralph Millais, Bt and it has quite recently been further modified by John Merryfield and John Baker-Courtenay for the late Bob Roberts.
So this attempt to re-create the old record speed could have been quite pointless had the Sunbeam’s last owner, Bob Roberts, who died last March, not expressed a wish to see if it could still reach 150 mph. Thus this “record run” was really a touching tribute to Bob, who had raced the old car so effectively in VSCC events up to the age of 77. On July 2 it will be auctioned by Southeby’s, who estimate it to be worth more than £1,000,000; no doubt their Malcolm Barber hopes that, with the target speed having been achieved, it will help to raise the bidding . . . .
In fact, officially observed by VSCC timekeepers, John Baker-Courtenay did the kilometre at the remarkable two-way speed of 157.48 mph, the “Tiger” reaching 160.70 mph in one direction, from a run-in of only one kilometre. Through the 1/4-mile speed trap, on the first separate run, the two-way speed was timed at 158.73 mph with a one-way speed of 163.33 mph. Baker-Courtney took the engine up to 5500 rpm in top gear (Segrave used 5000 rpm). The “Tiger” was using Castrol oil, Dunlop tyres and was on an 80/10 petrol/ methanol fuel mixture.
The Sunbeam “Tiger” which accomplished these splendid performances can be seen at the Midland Motor Museum, Bridgnorth until towards the end of June.