Talking Motors: Sir Henry’s Tiger is ready to roar again

Sir Henry Seagraves Sunbeam Tiger
Sir Henry Seagraves Sunbeam Tiger
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To hazard a guess, most people would probably think of the Campbells when speed records are mentioned.

Malcolm Campbell and son Donald are still household names, generations after grainy footage of record attempts first fired-up the imaginations of our parents and grandparents – even discounting Donald’s crash in front of the TV cameras in 1967, which took his life when attempting to break his own water speed record.

Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Defender

Malcolm broke the land speed record in a Sunbeam 350hp in September 1924 and July 1925, before taking the famous Blue Bird to the USA’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1935 and reaching a speed of 174.88mph over one mile.

And sticking to records on land, Donald continued his family’s dynasty by nudging 403.10mph in Bluebird CN7 at Australia’s Lake Eyre in 1964.

Other names which may crop up in coffee table books are Henry Ford (91.37mph in 1904) and current record holder Andy Green, who arguably sapped the appetite for aspiring record attemptees by gaining the first supersonic land speed record when he drove ThrustSSC to 763.343mph in 1997 – a moot point backed up by the fact the record hasn’t been broken in nearly 20 years.

But next week, the 90th anniversary of Sir Henry Seagrave’s record on the sands at Southport will be celebrated with a re-enactment with the four-litre Sunbeam Tiger he broke the record in.

German car manufacturer BMW presents the 'Vision Next 100' concept

German car manufacturer BMW presents the 'Vision Next 100' concept

Sir Henry’s record, 152.33mph only lasted a month before it was broken by JG Parry-Thomas – but Seagrave regained it in 1927 in a 1,000hp Sunbeam called Mystery.

But next week is all about Sir Henry’s 1926 record, when the Tiger will be the centrepiece in a full re-enactment of the attempt on Southport beach in full view of the public.

Obvious excitement from a certain member of my household was met with scepticism over what actually constitutes a land speed record.

There will always be arguments about whether jet and rocket propulsion vehicles satisfy certain purists.

Indeed, Craig Breedlove’s 407.447mph set in September 1963 aboard Spirit of America was initially considered unofficial.

This was because the car breached FIA regulations on two grounds – it only had three wheels and was not wheel-driven, seeing as the jet engine didn’t supply power to the axles.

I obviously had this explanation ready before my conversation partner pointed-out that they thought the fastest person on land was actually Usain Bolt.

It appears the only fuel acceptable in their book is food.

But whatever your take on the legitimacy of land speed records, the next week in Southport will be great for car fans. There will be talks about Sir Henry’s life as a racing driver and record breaker, a calling which would eventually take his life as he crashed on Lake Windermere on Friday, June 13, 1930 - perhaps ironically given his surname.

To top off Southport’s week of Car Christmas, a classic car parade will take place next Saturday along Lord Street, though my vehicle will be going through MOT prep and won’t be ready in time to take part.

Barely a month after the last Land Rover Defender was brought into the world and already signs of their value rising is proving a problem for owners.

One of the signature features of a Defender is that they can be fettled in a field, in the rain, by a person wearing wellies with limited tools at their disposal.

Whole panels can be removed with a squirt of WD40 and a vigorous thump of a spanner, meaning in theory thieves can strip a Defender down to its tyres in the time it takes the owner to nip inside to make a 
brew.

And it is this take-apart-ability which is causing the police to warn owners to be vigilant.

Although I should imagine most Defender owners already are when it comes to their 
vehicles.

There have been reports of owners waking up to find various Defender parts 
missing.

A spokesman for Gloucester Police, an affected area, said: “These are organised teams who work very quickly in stealing the machinery and shipping it to Eastern Europe.”

In Hampshire, police have recently reported at least three Defenders which have had their bonnets stolen and seats, front grilles, doors and headlamps have also been the target of 
thieves.

Police warn owners that as these parts are not numbered they are completely untraceable once removed from the original 
vehicle.

In fact the complete shell from one car can be transferred to another in a matter of hours.

To help combat the problem, owners have been advised to datatag body panels as with many Defenders, even classics, seeing regular service, the problem is not vehicles being left in lock-ups unchecked as is the case with so many other cherished 
cars.

Concept cars have been around for nearly as long as the car itself, offering a view into what the future might be like. Their main function is to get people talking.

So as BMW begins to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Tuesday seemed a good time for the company to unveil the Vision Next 100 concept in Munich.

There are all sorts of ideas thrown about with the development of the car which create arguments which will probably never be settled: How to power our cars, should we use self-driver technology and so on… once upon a time people were divided on the issue of seat belts, which suggests one day the stuff we’re arguing about now will seem silly.

On to the Vision Next. There’s a BMW in there somewhere, though it does look more like how Robert Zemeckis saw cars of 2015 when he directed Back to the Future II.

Of course, most of the car is nowhere near production ready but it’s interesting to see what BMW thinks is in store over the next few decades.

An early eye-catcher is that BMW have evidently not taken sides on the self-drive issue.

What looks more like a joystick for playing an arcade machine pops out of where the dashboard should be when you want to drive by engaging ‘Boost’ mode. A driving line appears on the windscreen, which also displays everything which would be on the dash had there been one.

Alternatively, there is an ‘Ease’ mode in which the car takes over, the steering joystick thingy retracts and those drivers inclined to let technology take over can relax and use the windscreen for entertainment. BMW have also managed to envisage probably the last thing many drivers would want in a car. Something they call ‘Companion’.

The company says ‘Companion’ learns about the owner over time and can eventually “perform routine tasks” and “offer advice.”

Why would drivers want a device to offer advice when most of us have an analogue version in the passenger seat which works just fine?