The duels between the two knights, Sir Malcolm Campbell
and Sir Henry Segrave, for the title of fastest man
on wheels thrilled the schoolboys of the late twenties. For speed was then the great unknown, much as space
is today. Tragically, Segrave lost his life in June
1930 trying to improve on the world water speed record.
H.O.D. Segrave had made his name, like Campbell,
as a racing driver and was chosen to drive a special
Sunbeam built by Louis Coatalen in 1925-6 to attack
the land speed record.
He took his car to the seven-mile
stretch of sand at Southport used for racing in those
days and beat Campbell's existing record by 1.46
mph. with 152.33 mph. Thus the battle begian, with
the two knights (as they became) building faster
and faster machines and looking for places to drive
them. The cost of speed was rising.
This car, first
called Ladybird and then “The Tiger”,
was specially commissioned and built by the Sunbeam
company, but took the record only once before it
was obsolete. Louis Coatalen is credited with the design
car, it incorporating the lines of a racing car of
its day with a supercharged V12 engine of 67 x 94
mm giving a capacity of 3,976 cc.
It was supposed
to produce 300 horsepower at 5,300 rpm., an interesting
comparison with Guinness's 350 horse-power Sunbeam
of 18 litres. But The Tiger weighed only 18 cwt and
was much more like a normal racing car than the aero-engined
specials which were expected in record runs.
were disposed in two banks at 75 degrees blown by
one Roots-type supercharger working off the front
of the camshaft. Segrave had already won the French
Grand Prix driving a two-litre Sunbeam, and it appears
that The Tiger had as the basis of its power plant
two Grand Prix units suitably mated.
The scheme worked
except for constant trouble with the supercharger,
whose rotors hit the casing at peak revs and split
six times during preparatory runs. But it lasted long
enough to take the record. Segrave used Ladybird only
once, and then asked Coatalen for an even faster car,
which was provided by using two aero engines, one at
the front and one at the back.
Segrave asked Dunlop
to make special tyres, guaranteed to last 4 minutes
at 200 mph, and headed for the 23 mile stretch of sand
at Daytona Beach in Florida, a favoured spot used by
during the US “Speed