‘Not only is this Sunbeam the oldest car at the Silverstone Classic but it’s also the oldest car ever to have raced on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit!’ enthuses owner Nick Pellett as we enquire about his remarkable Sunbeam.
‘It’s only had four owners from new’ he continues. ‘Just three works cars were built for the TT in 1914 and they come up for sale only once in a generation if you’re lucky.’ The specification of the Sunbeam’s 3255cc motor could almost pass for something from 2014 with double overhead camshafts (a first for a British racing car), four valves per cylinder and hemispherical combustion chambers. The lack of any braking on the front wheels though does give away the car’s vintage somewhat.
This car did rather well at the TT event – which in 1914 involved racing around 600 miles over two days – it won! Kennelm Lee Guinness was the driver, although the two other works cars suffered mechanical failures.
‘It’s hugely powerful and is still good for 100mph’ Nick explains. ‘But only having brakes on the rear wheels means that racing one is all about mastering slowing it down. Besides, it’s up against much lighter cars so I won’t be featuring anywhere near the front. But the idea really is just to show the car off to the crowd because it’s so rare to see a real one racing.’
Rare, indeed. Sadly there isn’t a race for the Sunbeam at the Revival, but if you do want to catch a glimpse of it (which we’d recommend. It’s beautifully prepared) there is a a chance that Nick will bring it along to the Goodwood Autumn Sprint in October.
Full gallery at top of page.