Whistling Billy to soothe the Stoneleigh crowds

| 24 Jan 2013

A reconstruction of 1904 steam-powered racer Whistling Billy will be one of the star attractions at Race Retro from 22-24 February.

The original car was built by the White company and fitted with a 20bhp compound steam engine, which was powered by a gasoline or kerosene-fuelled burner. The motor’s Stephenson link motion, which can be traced back to 1841, was soon modified to have a piston valve in favour of a side valve.

Racing on dirt tracks usually used by horses, in 1905 the machine knocked four seconds off the mile record – with Webb Jay in the driver’s seat – recording a time of 48.35 secs and a peak speed of 74mph.

Six weeks later, Jay was seriously injured when the car hit barriers, coming to rest in a pond.

He never raced again and the White company pulled the plug on its racing ambitions.

Wealthy sheep farmer Charlie Bair persuaded the firm to rebuild the car, however, and he steered it to 29 race wins, before an accident in 1910 left it beyond repair.