header image
Parts
Homepage. This page: John Cobb demonstrates his land speed record holder, the Railton Mobil Special.

The Railton Mobil Special, Silverstone, 1949.

The two photographs shown below, which I think were developed from a single negative, capture the moment that John Cobb took to the Silverstone motor racing circuit in 1949, to demonstrate his futuristic-looking land speed record holder to the spectating crowd.
The streamlined projectile, powered by two Napier Lion W12 engines (supercharged), is shown negotiating the airfield circuit, a short time after motor racing had commenced at the venue. Note the straw bales, lining the circuit. For a long (28 foot 8 inches in length) car designed to go in a straight line at high velocities, negotiating the twists and turns of Copse, Becketts, Stowe and Club corners must have been interesting, even at demonstration speeds only.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
John Cobb drives the Railton Mobil Special
The second image better shows the airfield environment at Silverstone, in the background are two of the hangars (presumably alongside the Hangar Straight) from its wartime days. Two spectators, possibly members of the Press, watch from the edge of the track as the sleek speedster motors by, its near-48 litres of engine, which produced some 2,500 bhp, straining at the leash to be freed. The prodigious power produced by both engines required some deft management of the car's controls. To give the driver a chance of harnessing the epic power, and importantly transmitting it successfully and reliably to the surface beneath the slim tyres, the design enabled one engine to power the front wheels, the other to power the rears.
The Railton Mobil Special at Silverstone in 1949

Cobb's achievements in this car.

Prior to the war, the car was called the Railton Special. Driving the car in September 1938, John Cobb achieved a new land speed record of 353.30mph. Arch rival Eyston, in his car Thunderbolt, re-took the record the following day. On August 23rd 1939 Cobb upped the record to 369.70mph, where it remained for the duration of the war. On 16th September 1947 he returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats with the (rebuilt and renamed) Railton Mobil Special, where he raised the bar to a heady 394.20mph average, achieving 400+mph on one of his runs in the 3+ ton projectile. He would keep his stake on the title until 1964, when Donald Campbell took over Cobb's crown as the current land speed record holder, with his run in Bluebird at Lake Eyre, in Australia. Campbell was the last Englishman to hold the record until Thrust 2, and then Thrust SSC, returned the title to these shores, the record currently standing at 763.035mph.
In the 1930's streamlining became all the rage with car designers. An article published in Practical Motorist, on August 12th 1939 (ie just eleven days before Cobb re-took the speed record) referenced both Blue bird and the Railton Special, as ultimate examples of the streamliner's art. The cover features both cars, while in the article itself, Cobb's car is referred to as "... very near to the true streamline shape".
The Railton Special LSR car in 1939
A children's book of the late 1940s also pays its respects to Cobb's achievements, including within it an illustration of the Railton Mobil Special at speed on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1947.
The Railton Mobil Special at Bonneville in 1947
Return to Page 15 in the gallery of vintage cars and vehicles.

Custom Search
www.oldclassiccar.co.uk (C) R. Jones. Content not to be reproduced elsewhere.
Website by ableweb.
Privacy Policy, Cookies & Disclaimers