The Brooklands Society
know your cars and drivers section

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John Cobb

Known as the Gentle Giant, John Rhodes Cobb was a taciturn and sometimes unnerving man who other drivers respected greatly for his achievements but were also wary of on account of his enigmatic manner.

He mad his money as a fur trader and lived in his youth near the Brooklands Track which inevitably led to an interest in fast cars - preferably very large ones. He cut his teeth in a 1911 10 litre Fiat in which he won his first race in 1925.

In 1926 he debuted the ex-Count Zborowski Higham Special at Brooklands which Parry Thomas had transformed into Babs, having bought it with the express intention of creating a low cost Land Speed Record breaker with which to take on Malcolm Campbell, who was spending vastly more on the constantly evolving Bluebird.

More racing followed in various cars including the old Fiat which was showing its age and in 1928 he purchased via Thomson & Taylor one of a pair of 10 litre Delages which they imported from Paris directly from the manufacturers. He raced this car successfully at Brooklands from 1929 to 1933, taking the over 8,000 c.c. flying start outer Circuit lap record on three separate occasions, ultimately to 133.88 m.p.h. on 2nd July 1932. Unfortunately Birkin’s smaller engined red ‘Blower Bentley’ had taken the up to 5,000 c.c. record at 137.96 m.p.h and Cobb was well aware that he was outclassed in the outer circuit races.

He therefore commissioned Thomson & Taylor to build the Napier Railton for which he is best known, taking the ultimate lap record in this car on 7th October 1935 at 143.44 m.p.h. as well as many other land speed records.

His next project was the car which became known as the Mobil Railton, a futuristic looking twin engined car powered by two unblown Napier Lion engines. In 1938 he took the Land Speed Record in this car to 350.20 m.p.h., raising this in 1947 after the war at Utah to 394.19 m.p.h. exceeding 400 m.p.h. one way and thus becoming the first man to do so.

Like many other famous record men, he turned to the water speed record. He lost his life at Loch Ness in 1952 when his jet powered boat Crusader disintegrated at high speed.


| Introduction | Race 1 | Race 2 | The Cars | The Drivers | Track Photos |
| Performance Parameters | General Data |

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