This is the seventh instalment in a series of small bitesize pieces on interesting cars found at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the gorgeous New Forest National Park. All photos were taken by me and my potato unless otherwise referenced. Now we have that out of the way, sit back and relax it’s story time.
The subject of today’s piece is the 1927 Sunbeam 1000hp, the successor to the Sunbeam 350hp. The 1000hp was the first car to be purpose built for breaking the Land Speed Record, before this the record holders were typically race cars that had been modified to run higher speeds. As with the 350hp the Chief Engineer for this project was frenchman Louis Coatalen, Coatalan came up with a design for hugely powerful twin engined car with a streamlined body (previous record holders changed little from the racecars they were based on in terms of aerodynamics). Despite what the name suggests, The 1000hp didn’t actually produce the fabled 1000 ponies, power came from two 22.5 litre V12 Sunbeam Matabele aero engines, each rated at 435bhp at 2,000rpm, it is said that each engine produced slightly more that what they were rated at but it still fell short of four figures (the 100hp moniker likely appealed to the sponsors and public). The two V12's were positioned in line, with one in front of the driver and one behind. The power was delivered to the wheels via a three speed gearbox, through driveshafts and chains. The total weight of the completed car was well over 3 tons. Detailed design work was carried out by Captain J.S. Irving(later to design the Irving-Napier Golden Arrow), whilst Henry Segrave searched for a suitable location in which to attempt to crack 200mph.
Segrave estimated the he would require nine miles to be able to accelerate up to speed, complete the standing mile and stop again. There were no suitable sites in Britain (Pendine Sands was only seven miles) or in Europe and Segrave selected Daytona Beach in Florida. Factory testing of the engines indicated that there would be more than enough power available to break the record but the rest of the car was largely untested.
the record run was performed on the 29th of March 1927 with an estimated crowd of 30,000 spectators watching from the nearby sand dunes. The required two runs were made over the marked course with a change of tyres in between for good measure. During the outbound run excessive wind create issues with controlling the car, Segrave is reported to have driven the car into the sea in a bid to slow it down at the end of the run! The speeds achieved on the two runs were 200.668mph and 207.015mph respectively,an average speed of 203.792mph over the measured mile and a new Land Speed Record the first to breach 200mph.
The record was broken twice more before Segrave returned with a new car the Golden Arrow, to take the record again.