To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Sunbeam 1000hp breaking the 200mph barrier with a new Land Speed Record, the British National Motor Museum in Beaulieu will be breathing new life into one of its engines to make it run for the first time in over half a century. The restoration project will begin in time for the March 29 anniversary, with an engine start-up planned for later in the year at Beaulieu.
The 1927 Sunbeam’s two 22.5-liter V12 aero engines, which each produced 435bhp, are in a perilous condition, with internal corrosion having caused severe damage. By painstakingly rebuilding the rear-mounted engine, using specialist knowledge and bespoke parts, the National Motor Museum engineers will recapture the sounds, sights and smells of this groundbreaking machine and help to preserve it for future generations.
On March 29, 1927, an estimated crowd of 30,000 spectators gathered on Daytona Beach in Florida to watch Major Henry Segrave set a new World Land Speed Record by driving the 1,000-horsepower, twin-engined Sunbeam to an average speed of 203.79mph. To establish the record, he was required to complete two runs, and when strong winds on the first outward run caused the car to skid violently, Segrave was forced to drive into the sea to slow the car down. He was still able, however, to make the return journey.
The speeds achieved on the two runs were 200.668mph and 207.015mph, giving an average speed of 203.792mph over the mile to raise the Land Speed Record above 200mph for the first time.
Major Segrave had challenged established record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell the year before, setting a new world record of 152.33mph in a 4-liter supercharged Sunbeam, but with his sights set on the 200mph barrier, needed a much more powerful machine. The resulting Sunbeam 1000hp, built at the Sunbeam Motor Company’s Wolverhampton works, was one of the first cars designed and built specifically to be the fastest land-based vehicle.
The driver’s cockpit was positioned between the two V12 Sunbeam Matabele aero engines, which fed their power to the wheels via a three-speed gearbox and chain-drive transmission. The total weight of this massive car was well over three tons, while its unique streamlined bodywork earned it the affectionate nickname “The Slug.”
The Sunbeam 1000hp went on display at Beaulieu in the Montagu Motor Museum — forerunner to the National Motor Museum — in 1958. It was subsequently purchased by Edward, Lord Montagu in 1970 and now proudly sits at the heart of the For Britain and For The Hell Of It display in the museum. To follow the Sunbeam 1000hp restoration story, find the restoration blog at www.beaulieu.co.uk/news.