Engineer of record-breaker spotted by his great granddaughter
Staff at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest have appealed for help in trying to identify any workers who helped built Sir Henry Segrave’s Land Speed Record- breaking 1927 Sunbeam 1000hp.
The 4-ton, 23’6” car was built at Sunbeam’s Wolverhampton works with the aim of being the first vehicle to break the 200mph barrier. With Segrave driving, the car achieved this milestone on March 29, 1927 at Daytona Beach in Florida, USA with a top speed of 203.792mph over the flying mile.
The car itself was a miracle of engineering. Two 22.45-litre Sunbeam ‘Matabele’ aero engines were installed behind and in front of the driver, linked together and driven through a three-speed gearbox. Almost every part of the car was built in Great Britain, most sourced from the automotive powerhouse that was the West Midlands.
One worker has already been identified when the family of Joseph Anslow, who was Sunbeam’s chief bodyworker on the project, contacted the museum. Amanda Pettit, Joseph’s great-granddaughter, emailed Beaulieu when she saw a picture of him pushing the great car, nicknamed ‘The Slug’, out of the factory that was published to launch an appeal for funds to help restore the car.
Amanda Pettit said: “The Sunbeam project became his life and he was immensely proud of it. I think he was sad to see it go when it left the factory.
“On the day the picture was taken, his wife told him to stand in the front and put his cap on so he would be recognised.”
The family said that Joseph referred to Sunbeam as his ‘baby’ and his wife joked that he thought more of the car than her.
Amanda, aged 61, and her family took her father John Cooper to see Sunbeam 1000hp at Beaulieu for his 85th birthday – and he was shown the work being carried out on Sunbeam in the workshop.
The National Motor Museum has already started the sympathetic restoration of the car. The Sunbeam 1000hp Restoration Campaign aims to raise £300k to restore ‘The Slug’ with the ambition of taking it back to Daytona Beach in Florida for the 100th anniversary of its record-breaking run in 2027. The process, in partnership with Hampshire-based Brookspeed Automotive, will be fully documented through filming and blogs, and there will be opportunities for schools, universities and colleges to get involved in STEM workshops and activities.
National Motor Museum Chief Executive Jon Murden said: “We’d love to hear from any families of those involved in building the 1000hp back in 1926 and 1927.
“The museum exists to tell the story of motoring, and family memories can really add a personal touch to something that has such an important place in our national heritage. We’d love to uncover and record memories before they fade.”
Funds are now needed to turn back the clock and complete the full restoration project. Donations for the Sunbeam 1000hp Restoration Campaign can be made online at https://nationalmotormuseum.org.uk/sunbeam-1000hp-restoration-campaign/. Sponsors and corporate donors who would like to be associated with the campaign are urged to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.