1928: White Triplex driven by Ray Keech

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White Triplex

3 x Liberty 12 cyl. Aero
81,188 cc
1,500 bhp (approx)
4 Tons
Top Speed:

207.55 mph

Napier Campbell

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.

Keech appeared 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.

But there was a snag, the compression of three aero engines proving to be a little too much for the electric motor.

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 a lever.

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 records.

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.

There 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 been tow-started.

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.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource