IN THE VINTAGE YEARS THE QUICKEST-EVER
Armstrong-Siddeley, and the only one to race at Brooklands, was that of Capt Denis E B K Shipwright. He was later to come back to the Track in 1936, heading his notepaper “Brooklands Expert 15 years”, to be associated with the ‘water-fuel’ demonstration of Baron Coreth zu Coredo, and form a drivers’ instructional school with little flags stuck in a map of Brooklands, to indicate the rough bits. But in 1928 he was busy with a 30hp Armstrong Siddeley two-seater, one of those massive cars with a 5-litre six-cylinder pushrod engine at £775 for the chassis which competed, pricewise, with the Austin 20, Daimler Light 30, Vauxhall 25 and Wolseley 20. Its mascot was a Sphinx, to suggest the silence and power of this legendary figure. To prepare his for racing, Shipwright removed the heavy mudguards, fitted two Claudel-Hobson carburettors, put in larger valves, changed the back-axle ratio, and used 880mm instead of 820mm tyres. It was entered for five races at the BARC Autumn
Meeting and dubbed the ‘Baby Tank’, but the handicappers were unkind to it, although it lapped at 72mph, when a standard car was good for only just over 60mph.
Before competing at the May 1921 Meeting, Shipwright had driven from Hyde Park Corner in London to St Ives in Cornwall at a running average of 33.7mph and at 34%mph for the return, a distance each way of 275 miles, good on the roads of those times. At the Track the car was unplaced but at the Summer 1921 Meeting, in spite of a sober standing-start lap at 66.85mph, it built up to lap at 7769mph and, flagged away four seconds before Birkin’s DFP, it won from a IT Vauxhall and the DIP the 100mph Long Handicap. It was never as quick again, and after many abortive attempts it faded away. For 1922 Shipwright ran a 3-litre SPA, with a smart polished aluminium Hawker body said to have cost £500. He drove it in 12 events, its best lap speed 7781mph, but with no results, in spite of kind handicaps. But this was part of the attraction of Brooklands, all those years ago.