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1933 Napier Railton aero-engined race car - 47 world speed records

Encountered on a chance visit a few days ago to the UK heritage 'Brooklands' museum, I am delighted to share these photos of this mighty and powerful beast with my fellow Gumbo'ists!

Brooklands B&W29

The Napier-Railton is an aero-engined race car built in 1933, designed by Reid Railton to a commission by John Cobb, and built by Thomson & Taylor. It was driven by Cobb, mainly at the Brooklands race track where it holds the all-time lap record (143.44 mph (230.84 km/h)) which was set in 1935. This stands in perpetuity as the circuit was repurposed for military purposes during the second World War and was never used as a racing track again.

Brooklands B&W37

Between 1933 and 1937 the Napier-Railton broke 47 World speed records at Brooklands, MontlhÉry and Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.


The car is powered by the high compression version (6.1:1) (Royal Air Force specification) of the naturally aspirated Napier Lion, a V12 of 23.944 litres (1,461 cu in) capacity, producing 580 brake horse power at 2585 revolutions per minute.

Brooklands B&W34

The 12 cylinders are in three banks of four (broad-arrow configuration), hence the triple exhaust system, and the engine has standard aerospace features such as dual ignition (magneto type) . The non syncromesh crash gearbox (aptly named for the horrible noises caused by a mis-shift) has 3 ratios. The fuel tank, located in the boat-tail behind the driver, has a capacity of 65 gallons and fuel consumption was approximately 5 mpg. Although capable of 168 mph (270 km/h) the car has rear wheel braking only.

Brooklands B&W39

The Napier Railton was purchased by Brooklands Museum circa 1997 with the support of the UK's Heritage Lottery Fund and other donors. It is maintained in fully working order and normally on display in one of the museum's 1930s motoring sheds.


The huge strength of the components reflects the very rough high-speed banked race circuits that the car encountered in the 1930's.

Brooklands B&W30

Brooklands B&W33

Brooklands B&W38



Images (11)
  • Brooklands B&W29
  • Brooklands B&W30
  • Brooklands B&W31
  • Brooklands B&W32
  • Brooklands B&W33
  • Brooklands B&W34
  • Brooklands B&W35
  • Brooklands B&W36
  • Brooklands B&W37
  • Brooklands B&W38
  • Brooklands B&W39

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."  Henry Miller

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