1922: Sunbeam driven by K. L. Guinness

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United Kingdom
V12 Aero
Bore x Stroke:
120 x 135 mm
18,322 cc
350 bhp
1,550 kg
Top Speed:

133.75 mph


Guinness, known in racing circles as K.L.G., is only the third British driver to appear on the list of World Land Speed Record holders. K.L.G. was the younger brother of Sir Algernon Lee Guinness, who had made an un-recognised run at 117 mph. in the 200 horse-power Darracq as far back as 1906, and so came from a motor-racing family.

K.L.G. made his successful attempt at Brooklands on May 17, 1922, driving the 350 horse-power racing Sunbeam prepared for the purpose under the direction of Louis Coatalen. (Incidentally, this very car is still in running order at the Montagu Motor Museum).

Guinness had to wait all day at Brooklands because the wind was too strong to drive at high speeds on the steep banks, and it was not until evening that he was able to make his attempt.

He was timed over both the mile and the kilometre in opposite directions, and the average of the kilometre runs was 133.75 mph. and the mile runs 129.17 m.h. International agreements provided for the run to be made in both directions over the kilometre.

K.L.G.'s car was another of the aero-engined specials which had become fashionable for land speed record attempts at this time.

It was a narrow single-seater with a V12 Sunbeam engine of 18,322 cc., designed to produce 350 horse-power at 2,100 r.p.m.

The engine had aluminum pistons, three valves per cylinder (two exhausts), single-overhead camshafts to each bank, twin plugs and dual magnetos, and only two carburetors.

There were eight main bearings and a giant flywheel almost two feet across. This cumbersome affair was persuaded into a narrow but massive chassis with a 10ft 7in wheelbase, the outfit weighing nearly 32 cwt. The four-speed gearbox had to be separate since it was mated with an aero engine, and the drive to the rear wheels was, of course, by shaft.

The short tail concealed the fuel tank, and the radiator was hidden by a cowl as was the practice on many of the fast Brooklands cars. Another indication of the car's track-racing ancestry was that the long semi-elliptic springs were tightly bound with cord to restrict their movement on the notoriously bumpy Brooklands concrete. It was the last car to take the land speed record at Brooklands.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource