This 1907 Wolseley-Siddeley is one of three works cars built to take on the Coppa Florio race in Brescia, Italy. At a time when most cars could achieve a top speed of around 50mph, this purpose-built racer was capable of 110mph. It was the Bugatti Veyron of its day – and then some – but didn’t have any front brakes! That’s not the most remarkable aspect of this car’s specification, though. That honour goes to the 10-litre, four-cylinder engine that lurks beneath the huge bonnet.
The chassis was constructed from a combination of two existing Wolseley-Siddeley designs; usually this engine would use chain drive, but that was thought to be vulnerable on the dusty unpaved roads of Italy, so the Coppo Florio cars have shaft drive.
With the lack of front brakes and gravelly roads, drivers would throw the cars sideways to scrub off speed. That must have been a spectacular sight given their vast size. In the Targa Florio, this car had been lying in third place before a serious crash pushed it down the field. It was still one of the 14 finishers from 34 starters.
It has been owned by Ken Prichard-Jones since 2001 and, following his full restoration, he’s not afraid to take the car on track. Rain on the morning of the Spring Sprint meant that he exercised caution, but as he confesses to spinning the car on a previous occasion at Silverstone we’re not surprised!
Main gallery photos: Paul Melbert