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SNAPSHOT 180: 1929 Golden Arrow Land Speed Record Car

The car in this week’s Snapshot is already very famous – but this advertisement from the 1930 Times of India Annual illustrates just how much publicity could be extracted from its record-breaking achievement.

Castrol naturally linked its oil to the success of the Golden Arrow – but that is far from all.  Firstly, we see the smiling face of Sir Henry Segrave, who has clearly put his trust in Castrol XL.  Segrave set three land records and one on water, and was the first person to hold both titles simultaneously and the first person to travel at over 200 miles per hour in a land vehicle. He was knighted in 1930 for his many record-breaking feats, but was killed a few months later on Friday 13 June, attempting a third run after breaking the world water speed record on Windermere in Miss England II with two runs averaging 98.76 mph.

We can also see that the oil’s manufacturers, C C Wakefield & Co., held the royal warrant from His Majesty the King Emperor (King George V) and were by appointment to His Excellency the Viceroy of India (Lord Irwin).

And finally we can gain some idea of the international scope of C C Wakefield’s activities: they announce Indian offices in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and an enigmatic “etc.” (wherever that was), and an agency in Rangoon, Burma.

The founder of C C Wakefield & Co. is worth a mention in his own right.  Charles Cheers Wakefield was born in Liverpool in December 1859.  He began working for an oil-broker and travelled extensively around the world.  His eponymous firm dealt initially in lubricating oils and appliances for locomotives and steam engines, but he had the foresight to plan for a rapid expansion of the automobile market.  The brand name of his products, Castrol, was chosen because early motor lubricants contained a considerable proportion of castor oil.

Highly relevant to our Snapshot was his passion to act as benefactor to daring pioneers.  He financed Sir Alan Cobham’s return flight to Australia in 1926 and gave funds for Amy Johnson’s flight to Australia in 1930, as well his strong support to motor sport in general and to the exploits of Henry Segrave in particular.  He presented the Wakefield Gold Trophy for the world land speed record.

Despite its great fame, we should not finish without a few words on the car itself.  Built to take the Land Speed Record from Ray Keech, Golden Arrow was one of the first streamlined land speed racers, powered by a 23.9-litre W12 Napier Lion VIIA aero engine producing 925 bhp at 3300 rpm.

The car was designed by ex-Sunbeam engineer, aero-engine designer and racing manager Captain John Samuel Irving (1880-1953).  It featured ice chests in the sides through which coolant ran and a telescopic sight on the cowl to help avoid diagonal running.  The Rootes brothers, friends of Segrave and Irving, provided the Irving-designed aluminium body panels from Thrupp and Maberly.  After the successful record-breaking run on March 11 1929, Golden Arrow never ran again.


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