Land speed record breaking had become a huge part of the then-confined – but rapidly growing – British motor sporting scene. British challengers like Sir Malcolm Campbell, post-war his son Donald, Sir Henry Segrave, John Cobb, Captain George Eyston, Lt Col Goldie Gardner, Ernest Eldridge and J.G. Parry Thomas had really “done a number” on the nation’s psyche from the 1920s into the 1960s. Record breaking was regarded very much as a desperately dangerous journey into the unknown and the men who were ready and willing to commit themselves to the attempt – effectively strapping themselves, or even eschewing anything so pansy as straps, sitting themselves in one of these amazing rocket projectiles and blasting off towards the far horizon, were national heroes… no question.
One of the most pleasant and durable of all these British ‘Speed Kings’ was George Eyston. And back in August 1937 – eighty years ago now – ‘Motor Sport’ magazine announced that “Great Britain has produced yet another car with which to attack world’s flying start short distance records, or, in the eyes of all the non-technical world, to attempt to further raise the “motor car speed record” held by Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Rolls-Royce engined car, for this country, at 301mph. The new car is the work of Capt. George Edward Thomas Eyston and never before has anyone kept so stupendous a task so quiet. The daily press news hawks, who are usually quick to send motoring stories, even if not accurate in their presentation, only managed to get pictures of the partially-completed monster as Eyston sailed for America to inspect the Utah salt-lake course.
Eyston aims to raise the record to around 350mph, and as ‘Bluebird’ the present holder would require 50 per cent extra horsepower to realise this speed, in theory, the new car has ben given two engines of the make and type used by Sir Malcolm, so that double the power is available – or approximately 4,800 to 5,000bhp. It seems likely that to accommodate these two engines will necessitate a greater frontal area than that of the present record holder, but against this must be set the 100 per cent additional power. Cant. Eyston has chosen the make of engine that has figured in recent speed attempts of this nature on land and water and which is accepted as best for our control of the sky – Rolls-Royce…”.
This unassumingly patriotic piece continued to describe how the two Rolls-Royce V12 engines were mounted side by side behind the driver, and how they powered a central three-speed gearbox via a train of gears. The gearbox drove a bevel box mounted on the chassis frame and how the rear wheels were driven from that box by jointed shafts. Four wheels featured up front, all inter-connected for steering – like some of the famous four-wheel steering Foden lorries. Inboard-mounted drum brakes could slow the wheels via drive shafts to keep unsparing weight – already massive of course – to a minimum and to protect the vulnerable Dunlop high-speed tyres from the heat stress of hot brakes. Air brake flaps also featured at the great car’s tail.