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.
The BBC Top Gear track has been laid out on the main runway of the former WWII RAF and RCAF air base. The perimeter roads used for Gambon and the finish line were laid over the route of original B-Roads that were ripped up when the airfield was constructed in 1941. One cottage, Broadmead, was situated where the TopGear FollowThrough is now, but in 1941 the cottage was lifted in whole and winched half a mile on rollers to the otherside of the airfield.
Dunsfold in 1942 immediately after construction
Top Gear Track on original runway in 1943
Track layout on current runway - note VTOL tethering pads next to "Hammerhead"
The main runway has the unique Vertical Take Off Grids, known as VTO Grids or Hover Grids – used for the tethering of jump jets such as the Harrier whilst hovering. These are located on aprons that adjacent the main runway and are within the Operational Readiness Platform [ORP]. Beneath these gratings is a large void chamber to take the hot air, condensation and gases from the downdraft of the jet engines of the aircraft. Within the eastern Engine Testing Pen there is a similar arrangement that is a unique feature to Dunsfold.
The Bomb Stores Site has two access roads with seven concrete hard standings in between and earth banks separating each hard standings or bays. These bays were used to store the bombs which were placed on wooden frames. The earth banks that separated each bay gave a degree of isolation should there be an accident and these are still visible.Continue reading →
It is a rare feature that all three runways survive at their original lengths and are connected with a complete perimeter track with at least 75% of the aircraft hardstanding.
Two runways are much rarer than others elsewhere in the UK as they have a large number of the Mk II airfield lighting fittings intact, together with the cast-iron drains and French drains along each side of the runways.
The runways were constructed for a Class ‘A’ bomber airfield. The white concrete of the runways and perimeter track were sprayed with a mixture of tar and wood chippings. This dark textured finish was optically non-reflective and from the air closely resembled grass. The chippings also added extra surface grip without damaging the aircraft tyres.