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 John Rhodes Cobb

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John Rhodes Cobb

  • Birth 2 Dec 1899 Esher, Elmbridge Borough, Surrey, England
  • Death 29 Sep 1952 Inverness, Highland, Scotland
  • Burial Esher, Elmbridge Borough, Surrey, England
  • Memorial ID 11852492

Racing enthusiast-1st Person to exceed 400 mph on Land & 200 mph on Water. Born in Esher, Surrey, England near the Brooklands race track. This proximity inevitably led to an interest in fast cars. He was a Director at fur brokers Anning, Chadwick & Kiver. This position allowed him the finances to specialize in large capacity motor racing. He won his first race in 1925 driving a 1911 10 litre Fiat. In 1926 he debuted the ex-Count Zborowski Higham Special at Brooklands racetrack. In 1928 he purchased one of a pair of 10½ litre Delages through Thomson & Taylor which they imported directly from the manufacturers in Paris. He raced this car at Brooklands from 1929 to 1933, taking the flying start outer Circuit lap record on three different occasions and ultimately reaching a top speed of 133.88 mph on 2nd July 1932. Still being outclassed by Birkin's 'Blower Bentley' by over 4 mph, he commissioned Thomson & Taylor to build the Napier Railton, the car for which he is best known, and in which achieved the ultimate lap record on 7th October 1935 at 143.44 m.p.h. as well as many other land speed records. His next project car, known as the 'Mobil Railton' was a futuristic looking twin engined car powered by two unblown Napier Lion engines. In 1938 he took the Land Speed Record at 350.20 mph. During WWII, he served as a pilot in the RAF and then in the Air Transport Auxiliary from 1943-45, reaching the rank of Group Captain. After the war, he eventually raised his existing land speed record again on September 16, 1947 at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah reaching an average speed of 394.19 mph. (he exceeded 400 mph on one of the two runs, becoming the first to do so and earning him the title; "Fastest Man Alive", this record remained unbroken until narrowly surpassed in 1963 by Craig Breedlove driving the jet-powered Spirit of America) He then set his goal to achieve a new water speed record and began experimenting with a jet powered watercraft named 'Crusader', built by Vospers LTD based at Temple Pier, Drummandrochit. For the record attempt, Loch Ness in Scottland was chosen due to it's length and straightness. Over a six week period, he made several runs but could not get the weather and water conditions to cooperate with his attempt to break the 178.4 mph record held by American; Stanley Sayres. Around 12pm on the 29th of September, he made his first of what was to be two, one-mile runs needed for a new world record. After reaching the end of the first run, the Crusader hit a wave causing it to bounce twice, appear to recover, then disintigrate in a large splash of spray and foam. Cobb reached a top speed of 206.89 mph just before the crash according to the official timekeeper. He was retrieved by the rescue boat 'Maureen' and taken to Temple Pier. Accounts vary as to whether he died on impact or on the way to the hospital. His wife observed the tradgedy from a point above the measured mile. There is a memorial erected on the shore of Loch Ness in his honor by the people of Glenurquhart.

Bio by: db





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: db
  • Added: 30 Sep 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11852492
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Rhodes Cobb (2 Dec 1899–29 Sep 1952), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11852492, citing Christ Church Churchyard, Esher, Elmbridge Borough, Surrey, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .