This is an unusual subject in our model car series and not just because it is the first ever tinplate model we have ever featured. In the 1920s and 1930s when man was pushing the boundaries to go ever faster on land, water and in the air, it was a halcyon time for enthusiasts. In fact everything to do with upping the speed was done with piston-engines and this caught the fancy of many a small boy and grown man alike.
Gunning for the land speed record was very much a Britain versus the U.S. thing then and in the late 1920s a major project was underway in England to build an entirely new land speed record challenger. This was the Irving-Napier Special, so named because it was devised, designed and developed by one of England’s best known automotive engineer’s – J S Irving and it was powered by 930bhp Napier twelve cylinder aero-engine. However, it was its striking bodywork, done by none other than noted coachbuilder Thrupp and Maberly that caught the eye. Finished in an all gold paint job and its strikingly beautiful engine manifold shrouds, the car came to be known as the Golden Arrow, probably the most beautiful LSR car ever.
About five years ago, thanks to the efforts of the LSR society in the UK, specialist model maker Schylling made a tinplate model of the Golden Arrow. Just as striking as the real thing and in a large scale – almost 18 inches plus and with the raw beauty of the original encapsulated therein, enthusiasts lapped it up in no time. This model has been an absolute sell out and examples are commanding twice the price of what it sold for five years ago! I was lucky to lay my hands on one when I was at Brooklands last month, the museum shop having the last unit, which I purchased for the original asking price of £90/00. The car is superbly crafted, has that drama around it and also includes a figurine of Sir Henry Segrave in the cockpit. Being a tinplate model, it also has a wind-up spring motor though I have not put it to the test for the simple reason the model is brilliant to behold and I do not want to show any scars on its sleek bodywork!
Getting back to this history of this glorious car, the prime objective it was built for was to set a new LSR and with Malcolm Campbell having pushed the LSR to 206mph in 1928 with the first of his Bluebirds, Major Henry Segrave knew that in the Golden Arrow he could better this. However, just a couple of months after Campbell had set his record was it broken again, this time by American Ray Keech driving the Triplex Special who set 207mph.
Segrave was the first man to break the 200mph barrier in his Sunbeam so he was smarting to get it back. March 11, 1929 was the day Segrave wheeled out the Golden Arrow on the 20km long sand beach between Daytona and Ormonde in Florida. A quick run at 100mph for a systems check and he was ready to stroke it. After doing the mandatory two runs (in opposite directions as all LSR records specify) in under the hour, he shattered the LSR by no less than 25mph! The new record set by him in the Golden Arrow was 231.44mph and after that the car never ran in anger ever!
Sadly for the speed junkie that was Segrave, his competitive instincts meant he was perennially challenging all rivals on land and water and he died the next year trying to wrest the speed record or water. He was just 34. The Golden Arrow though survives intact, housed at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu in England, probably the most efficient and effective of LSR cars ever!