Sleek and Fast

Railton, Brooklands, klemcoll

In front of the famous Thomson & Taylor showroom at Brooklands in April 1938  stands the equally famous Railton Special, here with its wheel tops exposed. Created by Reid Railton to attack the land speed record, the Special was powered by a pair of Napire Lion W12 engines. In his description of the Special in his book about photographer Louis Klemantaski, Paul Parker writes as follows.

“To overcome the problems of finding a transmission and tires capable of handling the power of two aero engines, the innovative Railton split the drive from each engine to a separate axle, thus giving the car four wheel drive. It was Brooklandds; klemcoll; Railton28 feet 8 inches long, 8 feet wide, 4 feet 3 inches high… It weighed over three tons and its sleek body was nicknamed The Bun. The car cost approximately £10,000 to create and build.”

The Special broke the Land Speed Record twice in the 1930s with the final record set on August 23, 1939 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah by driver John Cobb at a speed of 369.70 mph. Reid Railton stands on the right in the photos on the left

Parker continues, “In September 1947 Cobb returned to the salt with the further developed Railton Mobil Special to set the mark at 394.19 mph which was to stand until July 17, 1964 when Donald Campbell finally went faster with the gas turbine-powered Bluebird.” On one run in his 1947 Bonneville attempt Cobb became the first driver to exceed 400 mph on land.

Railton was the technical director at Thomson & Taylor and also designed Campbell’s prewar LSR contender, as well as an earlier Napier-powered Brooklands racing car for John Cobb. He also designed the Crusader jet boat in which Cobb was killed on Loch Ness in 1952 when attempting to set a new water speed record.

Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

To see more photos from our archive go to:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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

%d bloggers like this: