|Manufacturer||Bean Cars of Tipton|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||land speed record car|
|Layout||twin steering front axles, single driven rear axle with twin-wheels|
|Engine||Twin Rolls-Royce R V-12 aero engines|
|Transmission||Coupled gearbox and single final drive|
|Kerb weight||7 tons|
Thunderbolt was a British Land Speed Record holder of the 1930s, driven by Captain George E.T. Eyston.
Between 1937 and 1939, the competition for the Land Speed Record was between two Englishmen: Captain Eyston and John Cobb. Thunderbolt's first record was set at 312.00 mph (502.12 km/h) on 19 November 1937 on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Within a year Thunderbolt returned with improved aerodynamics and raised its record to 345.50 mph (556.03 km/h) on 27 August 1938.
The Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely packed salt pan in Tooele County in northwestern Utah. The area is a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville and is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake. The property is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is known for land speed records at the "Bonneville Speedway". Access to the flats is open to the public.
This record only stood for a matter of weeks before John Cobb's Reid-Railton broke the 350 mph (560 km/h) barrier and raised it to 353.30 mph (568.58 km/h) on 15 September 1938, as Eyston watched. This inspired him to take Thunderbolt to a new record of 357.50 mph (575.34 km/h). Cobb had held the record for less than 24 hours.
The Railton Special, later rebuilt as the Railton Mobil Special, is a one-off motor vehicle designed by Reid Railton and built for John Cobb's successful attempts at the land speed record in 1938.
Eyston and Thunderbolt held the record for almost a year, until Cobb took it again at a speed of 369.70 mph (594.97 km/h) on 23 August 1939. This was the last record attempt before the outbreak of the Second World War. Although Cobb returned after the war and further developed his car to exceed 400 mph (640 km/h), Thunderbolt never attempted the record again.
The leading Land Speed Record cars of the period had taken two approaches to obtaining power; using either the latest and most sophisticated aero-engines available or combining multiple engines. Thunderbolt used both techniques to produce an unprecedentedly powerful car. In its day, terms like "leviathan" and "behemoth" were commonly used to describe the 7-ton car, over twice the weight of its competitors.
The engines were a pair of Rolls-Royce R-type V-12 aero engines, as previously used singly in Malcolm Campbell's Blue Bird of 1933. In fact, one of Eyston's spare engines for the record attempts was on loan from Campbell. There were so few of these engines built (around 20) that many of them had illustrious careers over several different records. One of the Thunderbolt's had already powered the Schneider Trophy winner. Each engine was of 36.5 litres capacity, supercharged, and had an individual output power of 2,350 bhp (1,752 kW; 2,383 PS). Handling all this power through a single driven axle required great innovation in metallurgy and in manufacturing the geartrain, as well as water-cooling the completed transmission.
The Rolls-Royce R was a British aero engine designed and built specifically for air racing purposes by Rolls-Royce Limited. Nineteen R engines were assembled in a limited production run between 1929 and 1931. Developed from the Rolls-Royce Buzzard, it was a 37-litre capacity, supercharged V-12 capable of producing just under 2,800 horsepower (2,090 kW), and weighed 1,640 pounds (770 kg). Intensive factory testing revealed mechanical failures which were remedied by redesigning the components, greatly improving reliability.
A V12 engine is a V engine with 12 cylinders mounted on the crankcase in two banks of six cylinders each, usually but not always at a 60° angle to each other, with all 12 pistons driving a common crankshaft. Since each cylinder bank is essentially a straight-six which is by itself in both primary and secondary balance, a V12 inherits perfect primary and secondary balance no matter which V angle is used, and therefore it needs no balance shafts. A four-stroke 12 cylinder engine has an even firing order if cylinders fire every 60° of crankshaft rotation, so a V12 with cylinder banks at 60° or 180° will have even firing intervals without using split crankpins. By using split crankpins or ignoring minor vibrations, any V angle is possible. The 180° configuration is usually referred to as a "flat-twelve engine" or a "boxer" although it is in reality a 180° V since the pistons can and normally do use shared crankpins. It may also be written as "V-12", although this is less common.
Major Sir Malcolm Campbell was a British racing motorist and motoring journalist. He gained the world speed record on land and on water at various times during the 1920s and 1930s using vehicles called Blue Bird, including a 1921 Grand Prix Sunbeam. His son, Donald Campbell, carried on the family tradition by holding both land speed and water speed records.
The chassis and bodyshell were built at the Bean works in Tipton.There were three axles and eight tyres. The two leading axles steered and were of different track, so that each tyre ran on a clean surface rather than following a rut. The driven rear axle used twin tyres to reduce the load on them, a technique already used by Bluebird. Separate panels of polished silver Birmabright, a new aluminium alloy, clad the chassis. The body never had the aerodynamic refinement of the Railton Special and was distinctly blocky in appearance. At the rear was a large triangular tailfin, flanked by a pair of hydraulically activated air brakes.
Bean Cars was a brand of motor vehicles made in England by A Harper Sons & Bean, Ltd at factories in Dudley, Worcestershire, and Coseley, Staffordshire. The company began making cars in 1919 and diversified into light commercial vehicles in 1924. For a few years in the early 1920s Bean outsold Austin and Morris.
Tipton is a town further northwest of Birmingham in the borough of Sandwell, West Midlands, England. Historically within Staffordshire, with a population of around 38,777 at the 2011 UK Census. It is a part of the Black Country, located about halfway between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands conurbation. It is 9 miles northwest of Birmingham. Most of the town is now in the borough of Sandwell, with the western fringes – including the Foxyards estate and the site of the former Tipton Town Hall – in the borough of Dudley.
Birmabright is a trade name of the former Birmetals Co. for various types of lightweight sheet metal in an alloy of aluminium and magnesium. The alloy was introduced by the Birmid Group in 1929 and was particularly noted for its corrosion resistance. Birmal Boats was created in 1930 for the building of light-alloy boats. Birmetals Ltd was formed in 1936 and during the war produced both copper bearing aluminium alloys and the Birmabright magnesium bearing alloys, mainly for aircraft production.
When first built there was a large eight-sided cooling air intake at the front, replaced by a smaller oval intake for the 1938 season. Another improvement for this second attempt was to paint a matt black arrow onto the side of the car. During the first attempts, the new photo-electric timing equipment had failed to detect the polished aluminium car body against the brilliant white salt.
For the 1939 attempts, the streamlining was increased further. Cooling was now by a tank of melting ice rather than a radiator (as used first by Golden Arrow ). A rounded nose now filled the previous radiator air intake and the stabilising fin was removed, all leading to an appearance more like Cobb's Railton.
Thunderbolt was displayed in the British Pavilion at the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition in 1939-40, it also toured New Zealand during the Second World War, but is thought to have been destroyed by a fire in a Rongotai warehouse.
Another surviving engine can be seen in the Science Museum in London.
Craig Breedlove is an American professional race car driver and a five-time world land speed record holder. He was the first person in history to reach 500 mph (800 km/h), and 600 mph (970 km/h), using several turbojet-powered vehicles, all named Spirit of America.
Spirit of America is the trademarked name used by Craig Breedlove for his land speed record-setting vehicles.
John Rhodes Cobb was an early to mid 20th Century English racing motorist. He was three times holder of the World Land Speed Record, in 1938, 1939 and 1947, set at Bonneville Speedway in Utah, U.S.A.. He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1947. He was killed in 1952 whilst piloting a jet powered speedboat attempting to break the World Water Speed Record on Loch Ness water in Scotland.
Bonneville Speedway is an area of the Bonneville Salt Flats northeast of Wendover, Utah, that is marked out for motor sports. It is particularly noted as the venue for numerous land speed records. The Bonneville Salt Flats Race Track is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Wingfoot Express was Walt Arfons and Tom Green's jet-powered land speed record car, driven by Green to a record on October 2, 1964, after Walt suffered a heart attack just prior. The Express was powered by a Westinghouse J46 engine and hit the 413 mph record mark.
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 & Taylor. It was driven by Cobb, mainly at the Brooklands race track where it holds the all-time lap record which was set in 1935. This stands in perpetuity as the circuit was appropriated for military purposes during the Second World War and was never used as a racing track again.
Reid A. Railton (1895–1977) was a British automotive engineer, and designer of land and water speed record vehicles.
The Mercedes-Benz T80 was a six-wheeled vehicle built by Mercedes-Benz, developed and designed by Ferdinand Porsche. It was intended to break the world land speed record, but never made the attempt, the project having been overtaken by the outbreak of World War II.
David Abbott "Ab" Jenkins was the 24th mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah from 1940 to 1944 and was a professional race car driver. Jenkins' interest in motorsports began with racing motorcycles on dirt tracks and cross country. He then became interested in land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He was instrumental in establishing Bonneville as a location for such events, and in attracting overseas drivers such as George Eyston and Sir Malcolm Campbell to compete there.
Ernest Arthur Douglas Eldridge was a British racing car driver who broke the world land speed record in 1924. His was the last land speed record set on an open road.
Captain George Edward Thomas Eyston MC OBE was a British racing driver in the 1920s and 1930s, and he broke the land speed record three times between 1937 and 1939. He was also an engineer and inventor.
The Bluebird-Proteus CN7 is a gas turbine-powered vehicle that was driven by Donald Campbell and achieved the world land speed record on Lake Eyre in Australia on 17 July 1964. The vehicle set the FIA world record for the flying mile at 403.1 mph (648.7 km/h).
The Campbell-Railton Blue Bird was Sir Malcolm Campbell's final land speed record car.
Speed of the Wind was a record-breaking car of the 1930s, built for and driven by Captain George Eyston.
The Magic Midgets were a number of record-breaking 750cc "midget" MG cars of the 1930s. They were most notably, but not always, driven by George Eyston.
The Mormon Meteor I and III were two land speed record cars built in the 1930s by Ab Jenkins.
Project '64 is the name of the attempt to break the car land speed record for vehicles with an engine capacity of between 751 cc and 1000 cc in a 1964 Mk1 Mini Cooper 970 S. The Project '64 team was successful in 2012, setting a record of 146.595 mph (235.922 km/h) at the SCTA Speed Week at Bonneville Salt Flats. The Project '64 team had planned to attempt to raise the record in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 their car was not complete in time to ship to Bonneville due to delays manufacturing specialist engine components and in 2015 Speed Week was cancelled due to poor track conditions. They now intend to compete at Speed Week 2016.
An aero-engined car is an automobile powered by an engine designed for aircraft use. Most such cars have been built for racing, and many have attempted to set world land speed records. While the practice of fitting cars with aircraft engines predates World War I by a few years, it was most popular in the interwar period between the world wars when military-surplus aircraft engines were readily available and used to power numerous high-performance racing cars. Initially powered by piston aircraft engines, a number of post-World War II aero-engined cars have been powered by aviation turbine and jet engines instead. Piston-engined, turbine-engined, and jet-engined cars have all set world land speed records. There have also been some non-racing automotive applications for aircraft engines, including production vehicles such as the Tucker 48 and prototypes such as the Chrysler Turbine Car, Fiat Turbina, and General Motors Firebirds. In the late 20th century and into the 21st century, there has also been a revival of interest in piston-powered aero-engined racing cars.