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Fast Cards

S moke on the water

and indeed a fire in the sky. I like my 1970's heavy rock and Deep Purple has to be a fair example of the breed. There was a time when I liked the music loud because it was rebellious, now it is so I can hear it :-) . It also has amusing parallels with this set. Wills, Speed [1930]. This set came out 8 years before the Wills, Speed 1938 and really the two should not be confused. The 1938 set is perfectly okay but the 1930 set has a certain something about it which gives it the edge. Mind you it better have as it is five times more expensive. They are differentiated by the 1930 set being called, Speed (title in white) and the 1938 set Speed (different). It is obvious when you know what you are looking at.

Remember that number, I'll be testing you later

Fires in the sky and smoke on the water are just some of the results of the exploits shown in this series. Apparently there is very little difference in straight line speed in Although there have been speed increases in racing cars in the intervening years. The real differences is in the stopping abilities, getting around the corners and the consequences of not doing either correctly.

The 30's are the days when cars were vast and good eyesight was needed to see to the end of the bonnet, although after a time this mattered less because engine oil was all over your face anyway. Steering wheels were about as big as the tyres and the tyres about as

cars were vast and good eyesight was needed

thin as the steering wheel. Seat belts were lunacy as being thrown clear of high speed accidents seemed the best bet. The drivers were pretty brave but the mechanics that rode next to them must have had their fear glands removed (just like those aliens in Elite, Thargoids?). Pit Stops would be too refill your pipe or have a cup of tea. Contestants died frequently but it seems spectators died even more frequently.

Card 25 to 30 deal with these wonderful beasts. What better way of starting this subset than with Old Number 1, The Bentley which won the 1929 Le Mans. Piloted by Capt Woolf Barnato (all round good egg, Bentley director and its financial saviour) and Capt HRS Birkin (both millionaires when that meant you had money rather than a house in London) they maintained an average speed of 73.62 MPH over a distance of 1,765 miles during the 24 hour period. They were followed home by three more Bentley's. Those were the days, Bentley was British and it was a winner. Six and a half litre engine in a six cylinder car. This was the last time Bentley were going to do that as Rolls Royce bought the company and they did not race under the Bentley name again until 1995. Bentley had first won in 1924, short and sweet, unlike the cars.

Of course what a chap could do in 6.5 litre 6 cylinder monsters a woman was perfectly capable of beating in her town car.

That is if you call a 4.3 litre super-charged, 4 cylinder Bentley driven by Mrs. Victor Bruce in June 1929, at an average speed of 89.57 mph for a 24 hour period a runabout. She can be seen doing this on card 26.

Card 28 shows a 12 cylinder Sunbeam Tiger. At Brooklands Jul 1st, 1929 a Mr Kaye Don set a record when he travelled a mile from a standing start at an average speed of 100.77 MPH. It is not until the card unlines the fact this means 'if a car travelling at 100 MPH had passed Mr Kaye Don while he was standing on the lineThe Tiger would have passed that car within a mile.'

The Wills set shows various methods of travelling at high speed, from the exotic, land speed record types to the more mundane, railway travel. In between it covers a lot of ground as can be seen from the above.

Recently there has been a lot of hand-wringing about the state of Britain and what it means to be British as we struggle to find a new role for ourselves in a world we created but seemed to let slip from our grip whilst napping and dreaming of vast empires.

The land speed record probably sums it up as much as anything. There is a sense of pride about it being British, the record was set in the US and ultimately there is absolutely no point to the achievement at all. But whilst we have the record it means nobody else has and that's important for no really good reason.

Now the land speed record is all about technology, computer print-outs and going blazingly fast. It seems as if in the 1930's what you looked like whilst breaking records was as important as breaking them. It is British to be flung 100 foot from a crash, break every bone in your body, spit out your broken teeth and say 'Dash poor show that, bit of vibration through the steering wheel.'

Wills has a couple of the cars which broke or attempted to break the record. These are cars you or I could get into and be reasonably capable of driving.

Card 23 is the Blue Bird driven by Capt Malcolm Campbell and card 24 is The Golden Arrow driven by Sir Henry Seagrave. These were the days when Daytona Beach was the place to seen breaking land speed records and kicking up sea spray in the process. The card mentions The Golden Arrow was not driven until the land speed record was set. Some test drive.

Before shifting on a quick mention of card 29. It shows Herr Rudolf Carraciola winning the Ulster TT Road Race at an average speed of 72.82mph. At times he was travelling at 2 miles per minute. The card describes it as 'the greatest achievment in the history of motor racing.' A six cylinder 7 litre, supercharged white monster, with an estimate quarter million pair of eyeballs seeing the event.

Lord knows how many eyeballs have looked at the card and how many have wondered why Wills managed to sell the fellows name wrong. That is one thing but almost frightening is the fact the number on the side of the '71' is not the correct number which was 70.

Planes dominate the first section of the series, with such wonders as the Spirit of St Louis which crossed the Atlantic in 1927 and serves as a reminder of just how far we have come since then. A lot of the aircraft shown are the bits of string a couple of wings and a lot of praying variety

Imagine if this is more dangerous than it looks

There was also a fair bit of innovation on show from the Germans which was later to prove rather relevant. Card 10 is the Graf Zeppelin and then card 15 was a rocket driven glider. This little beastie was launched from a trolley, running on rails and although the flight was short and ended swiftly the pilot was not hurt. Wonder what they did with that idea in the end?

Rockets with everything seemed to be a German approach, they even modified the British 'bouncing bomb' by putting rockets on it. In tests it bounced for up to 4KM, although it never saw action.

Card 17 shows the R101, largest airship of its time and later to become one of the famous air disasters.

Wills were about as succesful at picking the ships on the set, HMS Hood, The Mauretania and The Bremen all make an appearance.

The set also makes considerable play of the obsession with breaking speed records on rails. British Rail was very keen on making trains faster. The average speed of trains is at least as impressive as the average speed today, but perhaps barely surprising as todays trains are basically running on the same tracks they were 70 years ago. Makes you feel really safe.