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White Triplex reverse gear

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#1 Arieb

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 11:27

Hello everyone,

An occasional reader/lurker on the forum, I am currently trying to order the information I have on the "Triplex Special" (or "Spirit of Elkdom") as driven by Ray Keech in 1928 and Lee Bible in 1929.


My biggest problem is to try and ascertain what exactly happened with the reverse gear that the car initially did not have (noclutch, no differential and no reverse gear) for which it was barred from officially going for the LSR on 15th February 1928.

The car was allowed to tun to prove it was able to develop speeds that could possibly better the then existing speed record as set by Malcolm Campbell earlier in 1928. When the car proved it could do that, J.M. White was given time to install a reverse gear and so get approval.


A lot of photographs show the vehicle with 6 wheels on 3 axles with the middle set of wheels actually being slaves that butted up against the rearmost wheels enabling the car to crawl backwards slowly to qualify. This seems to have satisfied the A.A.A. at the time, but when I look at a Richard LeSesne picture of the Triplex during the record attempt, there are only 4 wheels on 2 axles on the car!

At that point the nose is also sporting a broad horizontal white stripe which was not there during the February or March 1928 and 1929 runs.


There is one newspaper article that claims that the car was disqualified as it had 6 wheels instead of 4, but that is a statement I have only seen in the one article!


I have tried to find archives of the motor press of the time (The Motor, Automobile, The Autocar etc...) but have been unable to find much online.


Does anybody have some more information and/or could point me to where I might be able to find more? 


Any help will be very much appreciated!




#2 Tim Murray

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 11:49

I expect you will have already found this article on the car, but just in case:


The link to it was originally posted in this earlier thread on the White Triplex.

#3 Roger Clark

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 15:03

An article in Automobile quarterly, Vol 3 number 3 by Charles L Betts, Jr quotes ray ketch:

“We finally succeeded in reversing the car under its own power at a maximum speed of thirty-six feet a minute... fast enough to satisfy the AAA regulations. Here’s how we worked out the problem: on one of the engines a worm gear was mounted. Above this worm gear was a worm wheel that could be put in mesh or raised out of mesh by a lever operated from the driver’s seat. In this way one engine was turned backward through this reduction of 500 to 1. Naturally the other two engines, being permanently geared to the rear axle had to back up also. But the car would reverse under its own power, and we were ready to try for the record..”

Betts goes on: “ Keech’s explanation required some modification for the reverse reduction gearing was actually connected to an ancillary axle mounted ahead of and just below the level of the main driving axle. Wheels were mounted on this second axle; they could be brought in contact with the ground when the driver moved a lever-which also raised the regular driving wheels a few inches off the ground. It was a clumsy, albeit daring, expedient but it satisfied the officials, even though the extra set of wheels had to be removed before the car made any speed runs”.

#4 Arieb

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Posted 12 February 2019 - 15:18

Thanks Tim and Roger,


I had indeed seen the article on "The Old Motor" website, and I think I saw the Charles L. Betts quote from Ray Keech in a newspaper article, at least as far as the mounted worm gear is concerned. I cannot recall the comment of the extra set of wheels having to be removed before the speed runs. I will have a look at getting my hands on that AQ issue


It does make sense, although in a You Tube movie on what is purportedly the record run, the initial footage is of the car be push-started while it still has the extra set of wheels though the later footage shows a couple of times relatively clearly that it no longer has that extra set.

I therefore assume that the A.A.A. no longer had any objections in 1929 as I do not assume this was among the "minor modifications" the car underwent for the 1929 attempt.

I have in the meantime seen an article in the motor describing the reverse gear's extra axle and wheels, but also failing to mention it was removed during the runs.


Anybody any idea as to the colour of the Triplex Special in 1928?

In newspaper articles the 1929 Triplex is repeatedly called "the black car", but I cannot find something similar for the 1928 version.

The colour postcards I have seen show the car in green as well as blue. The comment of the car "disappearing in a blue haze" in a number of articles does not necessarily mean it was blue in colour!


I have seen postcards of the 1927 1000HP Sunbeam "Slug" (or Mystery car) with it being blue, so postcards are dangerous to go by!

Fred Kaesmann mentions the stays of the chassis being a dark green, but nothing else and no other mention I have been able to find!

Cyril Posthumus' book has a colour plate with the car in blue! 


Thanks again for your help, but I am still looking for a bit more information to get the story complete.

#5 D-Type

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 14:13

This article  https://www.firstsup...record-triumph? features another picture of gthe extra wheels and says that the "reverser section" being removed for the record runs

#6 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 23:31

So nothing is new,, odd cheats to 'beat'. the rules.

The car has reverse of a fashion but then removed to actually be driven on record runs.

#7 D-Type

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 21:14

This article  https://www.firstsup...record-triumph? features another picture of the extra wheels and mentions the "reverser section" being removed for the record runs

#8 Arieb

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 18:28

Thank you D-Type!

I have in the meantime received the AQ with the Charles L. Betts article, which explains the two set-ups for the reverse gear (the first did not work) quite clearly and it also states the extra axle and wheels were removed for the record runs.


Still trying to find a confirmation of the colour of the Triplex Special in 1928. Apparently that was not something journalists mentioned in their articles when describing a car to the reading public.
Was it blue or was it green? When were the white stripes added to the nose? It could not have been for the photocells as they did not yet use those in "them" days. I did read that it was done to make the car recognizable, and set apart, from the Campbell Blue Bird.


I have the same problem with the 1905 Flying Dutchman: no colours are mentioned in 99% of the articles, but someone told me it was light green!


Oh well, back to the books/archives!