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The appeal of primitive cars, the Daimler and the Itala

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Birkin's track record car
George Daniels Master watchmaker
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It was a most extraordinary thing. I didn't really want to buy that supercharged car but I did because I wanted my name to go in the logbook with all those famous names like Birkin and Barnato, they were all in this logbook. So I very proudly wrote my name in the bottom and signed it so it's part of the history of the car. And to my astonishment Birkin's track record car, which was also a four and a half litre supercharged racing car single seater was offered to me. Telephone rang and I answered and it was Jack Seers, a very famous race driver sports car champion, and he said this car was for sale and he thought it would suit me. Well, I wasn't very pleased because I was going to have to make a hard decision. I can't go without my name being on it at some time. So eventually I said we might come down and have a look at the car. In don't know why I had to look at it, I mean I know it's a very famous car, but I was stalling a bit and not committing myself too early and I went down to see it in Surrey, and there it was in all its glory. Jack Seers was looking after the sale and he put a price on it and I said, I can't afford that, I haven't got that much money, so therefore there's no sale. And well he said, how much could you pay? So I made him an offer and he said, well what about all the spares? Well I said you know if they don't go with the car, I can't buy the car because there's no point if I don't have the spares. And then Audrey West Turner who owned the car, her husband having died in it while racing it at Silverstone, that was my inheritance you see to drive this car in which my friend had died, and Audrey piped up and said, well Jack, I want George to have that car. So that was it, I got it and at a price I could afford, and I've been racing it ever since. It's a wonderful car, very fast, and Birkin took the lap record at Brooklands in it in 1932 at 139.65 miles an hour, which was a very high speed at Brooklands, which was notorious for its rough surface which would slow the cars down. But Birkin described the race in which he got with that record and he said that he was racing against John Cobb who had a much bigger car, he had a 24 litre car, Birkin's was four and a half litres, and yet Birkin won. And Birkin describes it, he says as I came into the bend, I felt the car shudder at the crossroads, which was a notorious place for sliding about, but he says I was resolved to keep my foot flat on the floor, which he did and he won the race. He won it by a fifth of a second, but that gave the car that record, which it still holds because you couldn't take any more lap records. So I've still got that car

George Daniels, CBE, DSc, FBHI, FSA (19 August 1926 - 21 October 2011) was an English watchmaker most famous for creating the co-axial escapement. Daniels was one of the few modern watchmakers who could create a complete watch by hand, including the case and dial. He was a former Master of the Clockmakers' Company of London and had been awarded their Gold Medal, a rare honour, as well as the Gold Medal of the British Horological Institute, the Gold Medal of the City of London and the Kullberg Medal of the Stockholm Watchmakers’ Guild.

Listeners: Roger Smith

Roger Smith was born in 1970 in Bolton, Lancashire. He began training as a watchmaker at the age of 16 at the Manchester School of Horology and in 1989 won the British Horological Institute Bronze Medal. His first hand made watch, made between 1991 and 1998, was inspired by George Daniels' book "Watchmaking" and was created while Smith was working as a self-employed watch repairer and maker. His second was made after he had shown Dr Daniels the first, and in 1998 Daniels invited him to work with him on the creation of the 'Millennium Watches', a series of hand made wrist watches using the Daniels co-axial escapement produced by Omega. Roger Smith now lives and works on the Isle of Man, and is considered the finest watchmaker of his generation.

Tags: Surrey, Silverstone, 1932, Brooklands, Tim Birkin, Henry Birkin, Woolf Barnato, Jack Seers, John Cobb

Duration: 3 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008