A wealthy American, J. H. White from Philadelphia,
was behind the successful attempt to take the land
speed record for the USA with the biggest motor car
ever built, the White Triplex, which boasted an enormous
81 liter engine.
Ray Keech, a red-haired giant, was
a ranking Indianapolis driver hired by White at an
enormous fee to drive his brutal monster.
on the scene at Daytona Beach when a whole gaggle
of drivers were after top honours, and the Segrave-Campbell
duel was at its height.
Keech had his troubles, apart
from the obvious one of trying to tame more horse-power
than had ever before been assembled together in one
chassis in such a crude form.
When he came to the line,
officials pointed out that his car was not equipped
with the required "means
for reversing". White, who had invested a great
deal in the project, was annoyed but not defeated.
His mechanics devised brackets to mount a large electric
motor on the chassis in such a position that a roller
attached to the motor's shaft would rub on a tire and drive the heavy chassis backwards.
was a snag, the compression of three aero engines
proving to be a little too much for the electric
But White, like Eldridge with his chains so many
years before, would not give up. A second rear axle
was fitted to the car, behind the normal driving
axle and clear of the ground until Keech operated
Then the axle dropped to contact the ground,
and a special drive from one of his engines pushed
the car backwards at something less than walking
pace. It seems unlikely that this contrivance was
actually in place when the record run was made, but
Keech's 207.55 mph was accepted and stands to the
honour of the U.S.A. in the official international
One title must go to the Triplex: the weirdest
record-breaker of them all. The strange device consisted
of a normal but naturally large and strong chassis
on which were mounted three Liberty aero engines of
a total capacity of 81 liters (give or take a few cc).
This 36-cylinder machine was alleged to produce 1,500
horsepower and White said it would do 220 mph with
the power from its ten-or-more-year-old engines.
was not a great deal of finesse about the Triplex.
One engine stuck out in front with a homemade cover
on it. The other two were one either side of the driver
out in the open air without benefit of any wind-cheating
device. The driver crouched in the middle of his cylinders,
protected by a cowling with a glass panel to peer through.
There is said to have been no clutch or gearbox, so
it must have been a split-or-bust affair once it had
There were brakes on the rear wheels
as some kind of concession to convention. First time
out a water-hose burst and scalded Keech, necessitating
a trip to hospital. He was given more protection, but
next time flames from the front engine got at him and
burned his arm, after a 50-foot leap in the air.
But he got his record.