The Slug that slithered to a 200mph record on beach

The 1927 Sunbeam 1000hp.                                                                                                                   Picture: National Motor Museum
The 1927 Sunbeam 1000hp. Picture: National Motor Museum
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To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Sunbeam 1000hp breaking the 200mph Land Speed Record, the National Motor Museum will be breathing new life into one of its engines to make it run for the first time in more than 50 years.

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Sunbeam 1000hp breaking the 200mph Land Speed Record, the National Motor Museum will be breathing new life into one of its engines to make it run for the first time in more than 50 years.

The restoration project will begin in time for the anniversary on March 29, with an engine start-up planned for later in the year at Beaulieu.

The 1927 Sunbeam’s two 22.5-litre 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 ground-breaking machine and help preserve it for future generations.

On March 29, 1927, an estimated crowd of 30,000 gathered to watch Major Henry Segrave set a new World Land Speed Record by driving the iconic car at an average speed of 203.79mph at Daytona Beach in Florida. They stood in the nearby sand dunes to watch the high-speed runs along the beach.

The supreme Sunbeam                                                                                                                                         Picture:Beaulieu National Motor Museum

The supreme Sunbeam Picture:Beaulieu National Motor Museum

To set the record, Major Segrave had to complete two runs. Strong winds on the first outward run caused the car to skid violently, forcing him to drive into the sea to slow the car. 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 and setting a new Land Speed Record – the first over 200mph.

Major Segrave had challenged established record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell the year before, by setting a new World Land Speed Record of 152.33mph in a 4-litre supercharged Sunbeam.

However, with his sights set on breaking the 200mph barrier, he had needed a much more powerful machine. The resulting Sunbeam 1000hp, built by the Sunbeam Motor Company at its Wolverhampton works, was one of the first cars designed and built to be the fastest land-based vehicle.

Seagrave in the Sunbeam 1000 at the Wolverhampton factory                                                                   Picture: Beaulieu National Motor Museum

Seagrave in the Sunbeam 1000 at the Wolverhampton factory Picture: Beaulieu National Motor Museum

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 more than 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, the forerunner to the National Motor Museum, in 1958 on loan. It was 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.

The display features some of the world’s most iconic Land Speed Record breakers. The 1920 Sunbeam 350hp made a commemorative run at Pendine Sands in 2015 on the 90th anniversary of its 150.77mph World Land Speed Record. The distinctive 1929 Golden Arrow paved the way for two decades of unbroken British success after Major Segrave sat at the wheel to set his 231.36mph World Land Speed Record when he returned to Daytona in March 1929.

Donald Campbell broke through the elusive 400mph barrier to set a new record in 1964 in Bluebird CN7 at Lake Eyre in Australia.

All of these stunning cars are on display to fire the imagination of visitors.

To follow the Sunbeam 1000hp restoration story, find the restoration blog here