Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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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 and Taylor (Brooklands).

It was driven by Cobb, mainly at Brooklands race track where it holds the all-time lap record (143.44 mph) which was set in 1935 and now stands in perpetuity since the track fell into disuse during the Second World War.

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 a naturally-aspirated Napier Lion, a 12 cylinder engine of 23.944 litres (1,461 cu in) capacity, producing just over 500 brake horse power at 2,200 revolutions per minute. The 12 cylinders are in three banks of four, hence the triple exhaust system. The crash gearbox has 3 ratios. The fuel tank has a capacity of 65 gallons and fuel consumption was approximately 5 mpg. Although capable of 168 mph the car has rear wheel braking only.

Postwar owners included Patrick Lindsay and Victor Gauntlett and later it 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 is normally on display in one of the museum's 1930s motoring sheds. The car is run regularly and is usually present at the Goodwood Revival motor race meeting every September.

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