Napier-Railton parachute test vehicle

In 1951 the Napier-Railton was purchased by the GQ Parachute Company of Woking to test aircraft parachutes at Dunsfold airfield. GQ had the car modified with the addition of specially made disk brakes and fitted with test equipment capable of deploying an aircraft braking parachute at high speed, and then retracting the parachute when the speed had dropped to about 30 knots. The car was normally driven by Sir Geoffrey Quilter but also other members of the company. When the testing work had been completed, the car was sold on to be raced in VSCC meetings.

Dunsfold runway – view of Napier Railton w parachute open©Brooklands Museum

The car is now part of the Brooklands Museum collection.

The full history:

Commissioned by the Brooklands driver John Cobb, and designed by Reid Railton, the car was built by Thomson and Taylor at their engineering works within the Brooklands Track. The car was completed in 1933 and first appeared in a race at Brooklands in August of that year.

John Cobb and his co-drivers achieved many Brooklands and World speed records with the car. Probably the most notable of these are the 24 hour record of 150.6mph set on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1936 and the Brooklands Outer Circuit Lap Record of 143.44mph set by John Cobb in 1935, which was never beaten.

The Napier-Railton’s racing days at Brooklands came to an end in 1937. In 1949 the car was hired from John Cobb by the Romulus Film Company and was used in ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’, a film about a racing car driver.

In 1951 the car was sold to the GQ Parachute Company of Woking. GQ had the car modified and fitted with test equipment capable of deploying an aircraft braking parachute at high speed and then retracting the parachute when the speed had dropped to about 30 knots. These experimental trials were carried out on Dunsfold airfield and proved to be most successful.

Sir Raymond Quilter in the Napier-Railton ©Brooklands Museum

After the parachute testing trials, the car was acquired by Patrick Lindsay. It was overhauled by the engineering company Crosthwaite and Gardner and then used by Lindsay in VSCC races. While the car was in Lindsay’s possession, it spent some time on display at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

Napier Railton in Car Trials at Dunsfold being Worked On By Crew ©Brooklands Museum

The car was later acquired by Mr T.A. ‘Bob’ Roberts to form part of his Midland Motor Museum collection at Bridgnorth in Shropshire where it was kept in running order. In 1975 the car was completely overhauled, except the engine, by Hodec Engineering at Old Woking in Surrey.

In 1989 Bob Roberts sold the Napier-Railton to Victor Gauntlett, one-time chairman of Aston Martin. The car was put up for auction in 1991 and bought by a German industrialist to add to his private collection of classic cars in Leipzig. In 1997 the car was discovered by a Swiss classic car dealer who purchased it and offered it on loan to Brooklands Museum.

Brooklands Museum was then given the first option to buy the car and it was consequently purchased by the Trust in December 1997, partly funded by a 75% Lottery grant, the shortfall being met by private subscription.

Since the acquisition of the car by the Museum, it has been demonstrated at many venues including Brands Hatch, Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival meetings, the Farnborough International Air Show, Dunsfold Wings and Wheels, and regularly at Brooklands Museum events including the Double Twelve Motorsport Festival. It is usually on show in the Speed Record Exhibition in the Motoring Village at the Museum.

Visits: 194

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.