The Gulbenkian problem

Not the title of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, although I am perhaps guilty of writing the first of these, in Motor Sport, when I had the great consulting detective solve the mystery of which of four 1908 GP Austins was which. The present problem relates to two of the 2521 BARC Certificates issued between 1907 and 1938.

Certificates were issued to all sorts of drivers and cars, for all manner of achievements, from record-breaking to merely having the accuracy of your speedometer checked. I listed these in my Brooklands book, but could not read the driver’s name on two of them. It looked like that of the well-known millionaire, Nubar Gulbenkian. I took a chance and accepted that he had done a flying-start km at Brooklands in 1928 at 100.40mph in a 36/220hp Mercedes-Benz coupe. But could this be the man who used a Rolls-Royce-engined London taxi for commuting?

I have never found the answer; but in Alan Clark’s book Back Fire, he describes a race in his SS100 from Estoril to Sintra with Gulbenkian’s Buick when the millionaire and his lady were in the back, urging his chauffeur to take on the SS. This gives me a mite of confidence in thinking he liked fast cars and was maybe trying out that Mercedes with a view to buying one.