Early diesel - car records

It wasn’t until the 1930s that diesel engines began to extend from the commercial vehicle, ‘bus and coach world into that of the private car. Foreseeing this, that doyen of record-breaking, Captain George Eyston, decided that he would show how fast and effective a compressionignition engine could be. Eyston was a director of the Associated Equipment Company of Walthamstow, and used one of their diesel engines, of the kind found in London ‘buses, which was installed in a Chrysler chassis at C T Delaney’s works in Maida Vale. AEC introduced the CI engine for heavy-duty vehicles from about 1920, and were no doubt pleased for Eyston to publicise their power units in this way. The engine used was an 8850cc fourcylinder weighing 14141bs.

Eyston had business associations with Chrysler Corporation in this country, hence the choice of chassis. The engine gave 130bhp and the Chrysler’s final-drive ratio was changed to 1.94:1. Eyston realized that a smart, practical-looking vehicle was necessary and he got Vanden Plas to make an impressive, streamlined, narrow saloon body for the AEC Safety 6 Special. It was roadequipped with modest mudguarding and lamp’s, and weighed 2.1/2 tons; with its louvred tail strapped down like the long bonnet, the appearance suggested a racing special. At this time, late in 1933, dieselclass records were not recognized by the FIA. But in the LIS, C L Cummings was claiming 100.75mph for a diesel car. Eyston was anxious to show that a British car could do better.

The AEC power unit at first had three branch exhaust pipes for each pair of cylinders, merging into two single pipes led outside the near-side chassis side member, but these were changed for single pipes for each exhaust port, with the two single pipes within the side-member. A second radiator was slung between the front dumb-irons, both being made specially by Galley. No doubt with bonuses in mind, Eyston specified BP fuel-oil, Castrol lubricating oil, Rudge wheels with Ewart wheel discs, Dunlop tyres, Jaeger instruments, a Dover steering wheel, a Laminex windscreen, Andre Tele-control shock-absorbers, and he sat on a Moseley “Floaton-Air” cushion.

Eyston arranged for a run at Brooldands on October 27 1933. It was a pouring wet day, people watching under a sea of umbrellas. The AEC was timed officially over the two-way flying-start km and mile after the racing tyres had been changed for ribbed ones. GET was drier than we were inside the car, the spray from it rising higher than its roof, as the back mudguards were not fitted. Though he had difficulties when one wiper blade blew off and the other lifted, he averaged 104.86mph for the km, 101.98mph for the mile. The publicity handout told us that at 100mph the AEC gave about 20mpg of diesel fuel. The FIA did not recognize CI records until 1935, but in 1934 Eyston took the AEC to Montlhery and did a lap at 115.41mph and 10km at 115.07mph. In 1936 the AEC was set to establish long-distance CI records, with co-drivers Albert Denly and Tommy Wisdom. All went well for three hours (97.64mph), with lanterns put round the track. Then, in the dark, Denly had a very narrow escape when a front wheel came off. But in 1927 the 24-hour target was achieved, at 97.05mph. Eyston, the supreme record man, then had a Ricardo-converted Rolls-Royce Kestrel aeroengine put into his special long-distance ‘Speed of the Wind’, also built by Delaney’s, and renamed ‘Hying Spray’. After an abortive winter test on Pendine Sands, he took the km and mile CI records at Utah in 1936, the former at 159mph. At the Paris track he and Denly raised 14 such records with the AEC saloon, which did over 97mph for 2330 miles, its nose-cowl cut back for better cooling.

Meanwhile, Reg Munday, of Leyland Thomas and 30/98 Vauxhall fame, had put a 2.7-litre Perkins diesel engine into a ‘flatiron’ Thomas Special. Supercharged, it seta British fs km record of 94.7mph and, with blower removed, five longer ones, with 88.25mph for the hour, round Brooldands in 1935. Back to 1937, Marchand led a team of drivers with a 1.7-litre Yacco Special at Montlhery where Eyston had left off, putting up CI figures for 5000km to 8 days, at from 70mph to over 68mph for the total 13,091 miles. In 1939 a 2-litre Hanomag driven by Haeberke set standing-start km and mile CI records, the latter at 61.3mph, and broke the fs mile, 5km and mile ones, the km record at 96.9mph.