Land Speed Record Car Returning to Southport Sands


Photo: Sunbeam

Bringing back to Southport the exact car in which Sir Henry Segrave set the land speed record is a remarkable achievement by the organisers of Southport Festival of Speed. Gracing the foyer of The Atkinson throughout the celebrations, the Sunbeam will add something special to what is already an exciting week for enthusiasts. Even more exciting is the news that the 90 year old car will not just be on static display but will once again take to the sands to re-enact the great man’s 1926 achievement.

Segrave’s record lasted for only a month, and a rivalry developed between Segrave and Malcolm Campbell, so he commissioned a bigger engined, more powerful car – again from Sunbeam – in which he later raised the record to over 200 mph.

So what happened to Ladybird?

Few cars more than 90 years old will remain true to their original specification, or younger ones for that matter. But perhaps the greatest changes came early in Ladybird’s life, when in a move not dissimilar to today’s Ferrari taking over Lewis Hamilton’s championship winning Mercedes F1 car, she came into the hands of Segrave’s arch rival. In 1932 Campbell oversaw the fitting of new bodywork and reconstructed chassis, while mechanically the car gained bigger brakes and a pre-selector gearbox1.

More fettling for later owners culminated in John Baker-Courtenay and John Merryfield rebuilding the engine for Bob Roberts’ planned attempt to again match Segrave’s record speed. Sadly, in 1989 Roberts passed away before the attempt could be made but standing in for him, Baker-Courtenay, then almost eighty years old himself, took the car to over 160 mph at Elvington Airfield2.

Turning the clock back 90 years and bringing Ladybird full circle, (now known simply as ‘Tiger’) her present owner is so keen on her inclusion in the Southport celebrations that he has had special filters fitted3 to enable the 90 year old car to once again take to the sands in a re-enaction of the great man’s 1926 achievement. Some bodywork repairs are also being made and, to return the car to its former glory, the car is being repainted4. So, at the ripe old age of 90, Ladybird, aka Tiger, is not just in fine fettle, the old lady refuses to simply act her age, and with her speed enhancing front cowl, remains capable of raising more than a few eyebrows in her dotage. Wednesday March 16th will see her dancing in the limelight on the sands. Will you be watching?


  1. Motor / Bill Body
  2. STDR / P Wignall
  3. P Cowley
  4. Mallya Collection


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