1929: Irving Special driven by Sir Henry Segrave

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Irving Special driven by Sir Henry Segrave

Irving Special

United Kingdom
12 cyl. Napier Lion Aero
23,948 cc
930 bhp @ 3500 rpm
3 Tons
Top Speed:

231.44 mph

Irving Special
The World Land Speed Record was held, in 1929, by Ray Keech, with his monster 81-litre, triple-engined Triplex Special. Keech's car was probably the crudest record breaker ever built, where the designer obviously thought that brute force in the end would overcome the need for aerodynamics.

The car that was due to take the 207.55 mph record from Keech was a revelation. It was streamlined, smooth and looked the part of a record-breaking car, rather than an over-powered monster. The fact that the car could play the part, as well as look it, was justly proved when, in March 1929, Major Henry Segrave took the car to a speed of 231.45 mph; all on a 'mere' 23.9 litres of single W12 Napier Lion engine.

The Irving Special or Golden Arrow

Captain J. S. Irving, who had also designed the previous 1,000 horsepower Sunbeam, was responsible for the Irving Special, or Golden Arrow, one of the prettiest record breakers made. A new idea which was tried and worked was a telescopic sight so that the driver could aim the car without taking his eyes off the oil-slick ahead.

Irving had left Sunbeam by the time he was asked to design the car, and this time decided to use a Napier Lion aero engine of the 900 horse-power Schneider Trophy type as used by Malcolm Campbell at one stage of Bluebird's development. This engine, as used in the Supermarine S.5, ran on a 10-1 compression ratio, and British Petroleum (BP) supplied a special alcohol fuel, used at the rate of three miles to the gallon.

Thrupp and Maberley

Most today refer to the car as 'The Golden Arrow' (named after the Arrow-configuration engine and the gold aluminium coachwork), the body being built by Thrupp and Maberley. The car's engine had a capacity of 23,970 cc and it produced 900 bhp. Segrave's earlier car, the Sunbeam Slug, which took the record, at 203.79 mph in March 1927, produced 1000 bhp, again proving the efficiency of the Golden Arrow shape. The car's slab sides housed cooling surfaces for the engine: if the water in the engine boiled, ice chests built into the bodywork would make contact with the coolant, the procedure being controlled by a thermostat device. Segrave sat only nine inches from the ground inside the aluminium shell, in a car 27 ft 8 in long, only 3 ft 9 in high, and weighing 3 tons 12 cwt.

Sir Henry Segrave
Segrave took the Golden Arrow to Daytona in March of 1929 and with just one practice run behind him, set out for the 1 mile record. The car was equipped with a telescopic sight mounted on the long bonnet. The idea of the sight was that the driver could use it to aim at a centre point at the end of the run, and so not running diagonally.

On the 11th March, the car took the record at 231.45 mph - with consummate ease. Two days after the successful attempt, the Triplex Special was brought out again, this time in the hands of Lee Bible. Unfortunately, the car went out of control at 200 mph and turned over throwing the driver out; Triplex Special careered on and killed a photographer who was standing at the end of the run.

Death at Lake Windermere

Segrave, who was knighted later that year, decided to give up land-record attempts for the time being, after the fatal crash and turned his attentions to the water-speed record. On 13 June in the following year, 1930, Segrave was attempting the world record on Lake Windermere in the Lake District when his craft, Miss England II, struck a log and capsized, killing the pilot. This meant that after one record run, the Golden Arrow had to be retired. It then went on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, UK.

Pictured left, Major Sir Henry Segrave receives a diplioma from the Founder of the 'Auto mobile Club de France' in Paris in October 1929. Handing over the diploma is Baron Zuylen De Nyevelt De Haar, who was also celebrating 25 years as president of the club.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Golden Arrow
Golden Arrow
Major H. O. D. Segrave's Irving Special, also known as the Golden Arrow, flashes beneath the timing wires on a wet Daytona beach in 1929 to win back the World Land Speed Record for Britain. In this Sunbeam built car, Segrave took an enormous leap into the unknown when he raised the record from 174.88 miles per hour to 203.79 mph. On his first run he ran out of brakes and had to run the car into the ocean to stop it. Strong side winds also gave him some anxious moments.
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