1929 Land Speed Record Setter: Irving-Napier Golden Arrow

Illustration for article titled 1929 Land Speed Record Setter: Irving-Napier Golden Arrow

Okay, let's be honest, we only brought up the subject of Sir Henry Segrave's Sunbeam 1000 and his push through the 200 mph barrier in 1927 so we could tell you about this car. After Segrave made his record-setting run, the competition predictably responded, though not for nearly a year. In February 1928, the dastardly Malcolm Campbell retook the title at 206.95 mph in his Blue-Bird. The following April saw an American, Ray Keech, best Campbell at 207.55 mph. Noteworthy advancement, but Segrave was developing a car to blow those records away.


In the shops back in England, work was progressing on a long, low spike of steely resolve called the Golden Arrow. Segrave, having shattered the records, set his sights on doing it again with a totally different approach. Instead of only brute power and mechanical fortitude, the new J.S. Irving design focused more on slicing a clean hole in the air. Of course, brute power didn't leave the scene. The engines in the Sunbeam 1000 produced a combined 1000 hp, whereas the single 24 liter, W12 Napier Lion aero engine in the Golden Arrow would produce 930 horsepower on its own. The body may have been the first to take advantage of aerodynamics by way of underbody shaping, generating 450 lbs of downforce at speed. When completed, the car was packed up and shipped to Daytona Beach. Segrave made two test runs at up to 180 mph and set his hood's telescopic sights on a record attempt. On March 29, 1929, in front of 100,000 spectators, Segrave crushed Keech's record with a run of 231.56 mph. With only about 20 miles under its belt, the car had set a record that would stand for nearly two years. Upon returning to England, Segrave was Knighted for his feats of daring. Unfortunately, this would be the last land speed record Sir Henry would ever attain. After this triumph, he turned his eyes to setting speed records on the water. He died shortly thereafter, in an accident in that pursuit—during which, of course he had achieved a run of 96.76 mph. In 1930, the Segrave Trophy was established in his memory. It is awarded annually to the Briton who demonstrates the most outstanding achievement on land, at sea or in the air.

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Jeff Glucker

@Mike the Dog: Ha! I was getting the same vibe... Written in a very "D.I." manner.