Home Events Lost Bugatti meets the 24-litre Napier-Railton at Brooklands

Lost Bugatti meets the 24-litre Napier-Railton at Brooklands


Now that’s what I call a transmission system. Monster chains on both rear wheels of this rather special (and monumental) Bugatti Diatto AVIO 8C prototype. Definitely, a car to be avoided by Isadora Duncan1. Mind you, seeing this behemoth from 1919 careering towards you at 100 mph would be enough to scare anyone to death. It posesses perhaps the tallest radiator I’ve seen this side of a Scania truck.

Chain transmission, good enough reason not to dangle your finders over the door. Sadly, the car was hemmed in by other vehicles and ropes, making photography very difficult

I found this impressive bit of motoring history, known as “the lost Bugatti”, sitting in the Brooklands Museum alongside a permanent exhibit part of the Brooklands scene, the 24-litre Napier-Railton from 1933. I used to think the Napier was big until I saw it next to the Bugatti.


The Bugatti is a short-term visitor, originally expected to be at Brooklands until September 2019, but it is still there well into October. Lost for 100 years, this Bugatti was an unfinished prototype made by Diatto that combined Bugatti’s AVIO 8c engine and a Diatto chassis. The prototype was recently rediscovered in a museum in Turin and has now been finished, a century later.

Just look at that radiator. The Napier-Railton, itself no shrinking violet, looks like a low-slung sportswear alongside this behemoth
Another glimpse of that impressive transmission system, looking over the tail of the Napier-Railton which is some 14 years the Bugatti’s junior
Basic dash. A bit like a Tesla

The mighty Napier-Railton is probably my favourite vintage racer and I’ve been paying homage regularly for many years. It was commissioned by the famous driver John Cobb and designed by Reid Railton. It was built by Thomson & Taylor at their engineering works within the Brooklands race track and completed in 1933.


John Cobb and his fellow drivers set many Brooklands and world speed records with the car, the most notable being the 24-hour record of 150.6 mph on Bonneville Salt Flats in 1936 and the Brooklands outer circuit lap record of 143.44 mph by John Cobb in 1935.

This record has never been beaten, although it’s worth bearing in mind that Brooklands closed at the outset of the war in 1939 and was not reopened. All that remains is the Brooklands Museum, clustered around the original clubhouse, and an evocative section of the historic banked circuit.

The wonderful Napier-Railton in its usual spot in the museum. It’s there any time you care to visit, unlike the Lost Bugatti which will soon be moving on

After a chequered career (no pun intended) of shuttling around various museums in England and Germany, the car was purchased by a Swiss classic car dealer in 1997 and offered on loan to Brooklands. The museum trust was then given the first option to buy the car and the purchase was completed in December 1997. The deal was 75% funded by the National Lottery with the rest coming from private subscriptions.

It is absolutely fitting that this stunning vehicle should be on permanent display less than a mile from where it was built 86 years ago.

A Napier-Railton outing

The Napier-Railton gets exercise on high days and holidays and it is a great opportunity photograph the car without all the surrounding museum bits and pieces

The indoor shots were taken last weekend by Mike Evans with the Leica Q2. The out-door images of the Napier-Railton were captured on 23 May 2014, again by Mike, with a Leica M240 and 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M

  1. Angela Isadora Duncan (May 26, 1877 or May 27, 1878 – September 14, 1927) was an American and French dancer who performed to acclaim throughout Europe. Born in California, she lived in Western Europe and the Soviet Union from the age of 22 until her death at age 50, when her scarf became entangled in the wheels and axle of the car in which she was riding.(Wikipedia)

……and receive free weekday updates. Your address will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purpose. You may unsubscribe at any time.


  1. Ah, I get it; that’s the “photography” link: “..It was commissioned by the famous driver John Cobb and designed by Reid Railton. It was built by Thomson & Taylor..” being akin to “..the Leica IIIa copy was built in Leicester by Reid & Sigrist, with the lens by Taylor & Hobson”. Got it!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.