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John Rhodes Cobb - The Fastest Man on Earth

Posted by Deco London on

John Rhodes Cobb
John Rhodes Cobb the 'fastest man on earth'

Born in 1899, John Rhodes Cobb was a British racing driver who made his name 1920s and 1930s during the heyday of British motor racing and, who held the World Land Speed Record for over 25 years.  

Fascinated by motor racing as a child, John would cycle from his home in Esher, Surrey to the Brooklands race course in Weybridge, to talk to the racing drivers and watch the racing. 

In 1925, Cobb secured his first win at Brooklands and by 1932, he achieved 133.9mph on the Brooklands track in a 10.5-litre Delage. In 1932, Cobb approached Reid Railton to design a super-car, the Napier-Railton, which was to become the most successful British competition car of the pre-war era. Cobb won the Railton’s first race at Brooklands in August 1933.
John Cobb's Napier-Railton in action in the 1930s
John Cobb's Napier-Railton in action in the 1930s

Cobb, the Railton and his team headed for Utah and its Bonneville Salt Flats in 1935 and, driving on a 12-mile circular course, set a new 24-hour record of 134.85mph. On 7th October 1935, Cobb set 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).
Model of the Railton Special - 1930s Supercar with an 'Art Deco' streamline design
Model of the Railton Special - 1930s Supercar with an 'Art Deco' streamline design

Driving the Railton Special, he broke the land speed record at Bonneville on 23 August 1939, achieving 367.91 mph (592.09 km/h). After the War, Cobb raised the record to 394.19 mph (634.39 km/h) in 1947. This record stood for 25 years.

John Cobb died tragically in 1952 attempting to break the Water Speed record at Loch Ness in Scotland, in the jet boat 'Crusader', travelling at over 200mph.
John Rhodes Cobb Blue Plaque in Esher
In 2017, a blue plaque to commemorate John Rhodes Cobb was unveiled at the site of his former home in Esher.  In attendance was Richard Noble, who held the land speed record from 1983 to 1997 and is the project director for the Bloodhound supersonic car, which aims to reach 1,000mph later this year.
Napier-Railton Car Brooklands Museum
Brooklands sent Cobb's Naipier-Railton car to the ceremony.  The Naipier-Railton is on permanent display at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge.
1920s 1930s art deco brooklands deco london history jazz age John Rhodes Cobb land speed record london motor racing napier-railton railton special

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