An impressive view of Mr Jack Field in his £20,000 racing car Silver Bullet looking out on the sunset during a trial run on the sands at Southport where he is preparing for an attempt on the British Empire record of 217.5 M.P.H.
The Sunbeam Silver Bullet was the last attempt on the land speed record by Sunbeam of Wolverhampton. It was built in 1929 for Kaye Don. Powered by two supercharged aero-engines of 24 litres each, it looked impressive but failed to achieve any records.
Sunbeam’s 1927 200 mph land speed record won with the Sunbeam 1000HP had been broken by 1929, and the company decided to build a car capable of reaching 250 mph (400 km/h) so as to recover it. Only aero engines offered enough power to do this, and such a car would also provide a test bed for developing a new generation of Sunbeam aero-engines.
Competition for the land speed record in between Segrave’s Golden Arrow and Malcolm Campbell’s new Blue Bird was fierce, so the car was built quickly, working around the clock in shifts. This left little time for thorough static testing of the engines, made even worse as only two engines were ever built and so the only engines available for testing were the race engines themselves. Silver Bullet first appeared in public on 21st February 1930.
Following the other teams, the first record attempt was to be made on Daytona Beach, in Florida, with Kaye Don driving. The car arrived at Daytona on the 8th March and Louis Coatalen himself on 16th. The record attempts went poorly though, with engine reliability problems and the car proving difficult to control. The fastest speed attained was 186 mph (299 km/h), well below Sunbeam’s own record of three years earlier.
After the team returned home, further attempts were made to improve the car with testing on Pendine Sands.
Sunbeam aircraft engines had never recovered from the financial effects of the end of the Great War. Coupled with the Depression of the 1930s, Sunbeam simply could not afford a competition program of this scale. Although other uk car companies even did well in this period, Sunbeam did not and went into receivership in 1935.