Not sure if you are like me, but I’m not ashamed to admit that the Railton name is one that I’ve long heard, but quite frankly knew almost nothing about. That’s why I was so pleased when our man in Australia, Patrick Quinn, emailed me to say that he would be test-driving a significant Railton-Terraplane. Truth be told, I had no idea what the car even looked like until I received the photos! Now, thanks to Patrick’s insightful Profile in this issue (Glorious Bastard), I now have a much better understanding of Railton’s many contributions to road and racing history. Prior to reading Patrick’s treatise, my only mental association with Railton was with land speed record cars. And, while this is certainly true, this connection inspired me to delve even deeper into another fascinating character in the Railton story. One of the main reasons the Railton name is indelibly associated with land speed record attempts is due to one extraordinary—but impossibly modest—man, John Cobb.
Cobb was born on December 2, 1899, in Esher, Surrey, not far from the location where, in 1906, the Brooklands circuit would be built. As a young man, growing up on his family’s farm, Cobb seemed irresistibly drawn to the automobile. So much so, in fact, that at one point he is reported to have taken the local doctor’s car for an unauthorized test drive, while the good doctor was making a house call at the Cobb Farm! Over the ensuing years, Cobb would spend a good deal of time spectating at Brooklands’ famed banking, which may explain why, later in his life, he would be more drawn to speed records than circuit racing.
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