John Rhodes Cobb (2 December 1899 - 29 September 1952)
John Rhodes Cobb
(2 December 1899 - 29 September 1952)
Cobb's was a British racing motorist. He made money as a director of fur brokers Anning, Chadwick and Kiver and could afford to specialise in large capacity motor-racing.
He was born and lived in Esher, Surrey, near the Brooklands race track.
He held the ultimate lap record at the Brooklands race track, driving the 24-litre Napier Railton at an average speed of 143.44 mph (230.84 km/h) achieved on 7 October 1935, having earlier overtaken the 1931 record set by Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin driving Bentley Blower No.1, and regaining it from his friend Oliver Bertram.
Driving the piston-engined, wheel-driven Wiki Link he broke the land speed record at Bonneville on 23 August 1939, achieving a mark of 367.91 mph (592.09 km/h). Without this being beaten he raised the record to 394.19 mph (634.39 km/h) in 1947.
During the Second World War he served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, and between 1943 and 1945 in the Air Transport Auxiliary. In 1941 he made an (uncredited) appearance in the wartime propaganda film Target for Tonight. He reached the rank of group captain.
The memorial to John Cobb He died in 1952, attempting to break the world water speed record at Loch Ness in the jet speedboat Crusader at a speed in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h). The boat hit an unexplained wake. Nearby, there is a memorial to him erected by the people of Glenurquhart. He is buried at Christ Church, Esher.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are the remains of a prehistoric lake of about 19,000 square miles area. Although it is perfectly flat, it is 4,000 feet above sea level, imposing a consequent loss of power on the engines due to reduced oxygen. The temperature on the salt runs up to more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade and this too imposes problems for adequate cooling of engine and tires. The flats offer a straight run of about 13 miles, which is actually more like the minimum run for acceleration, the timed run, and braking from 400 miles per hour, Cobb's ultimate target.
Railton overcame all these problems and Cobb was to be the fastest man on wheels three times before his death. Cobb made his first run in September 1938, when the world record was 345 mph and at that time, Cobb had never driven faster than 170 mph at Brooklands. The world record changed hands several times. Land speed racing was suspended during World War II.
In 1947, Cobb came back to Bonneville with a thoroughly redesigned car. The vehicle was so futuristic in appearance that he was profiled on the cover of LIFE Magazine.
Reid Railton used many unorthodox methods to achieve his result. He started with an S-shaped backbone chassis, and used two second-hand 1928 Napier Lion aero engines from a motor boat, but set them at an angle, one driving the front wheels and the other the rear wheels.
Railton pared weight from the supercharged Lion engines until they scaled only 1120 lb each yet still delivered a total 2500 horsepower. There were neither flywheels nor clutches, and Cobb sat up front ahead of the power plants, as in a modern racing car.
The special lightweight body shell was made in one piece and had to be taken off for refueling and tire changes between the two runs necessary for the record. The streamlined shell could be lifted off by six men. Like the Golden Arrow, ice was used for cooling, saving the weight of a radiator. The melted ice was also used to take heat away from the drum brakes and had to be replaced between runs. Wheelbase was 13 ft 6 in. Overall dimensions were: Length: 28 ft 8 in; Width: 8 ft wide; and Height: 4 ft 3.
A truck was used to tow-start the Railton. In order to avoid stepping on the delicate aluminium shell, Cobb entered the cockpit from a ramp on the truck. On September 15,1947, he became the first man to drive at more than 350 mph. On his last run, he clocked 394.20 mph on the North Leg and 403 mph on the South Leg, becoming the first man to exceed 400 mph in a wheeled vehicle.
Only a few weeks later, he was killed while attempting to break the water speed record, eerily meeting the same fate as Segrave..
Cobb's car held the land speed record until 1963, a remarkable 16 year run.