From the Archive: A Special Spark

On the workbench in Woodcote Park’s historic garage reside several boxes of KLG sparkplugs, but did you know that there is a closer Club connection? KLG stands for Club member Kenelm Lee Guinness, a director of the brewery dynasty and Tourist Trophy Champion in 1914. The photographs from the Club archive show Guinness at the start of the 1914 race.

KLG’s spark plugs were developed as a direct result of problems encountered during the RAC’s 1912 Tourist Trophy race, which Guinness also participated in. The porcelain traditionally used on spark plugs was not a sufficient insulator at speed, so Guinness replaced the porcelain with mica, which was far more effective. The spark plugs proved popular with Guinness’s friends Malcolm Campbell and Henry Segrave, who both adopted their usage.

Segrave, Campbell and Guinness were linked via Sunbeam cars and their close friend, designer Louis Coatalen. Guinness’ association with the Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq marques began in 1907 when he drove a Darracq in the Tourist Trophy, his first race. By 1913 he was an official Sunbeam driver in partnership with Henry Segrave.

On 18th May 1922 Kenelm Lee Guinness drove a Sunbeam 350hp with a V12 engine, designed by Louis Coatalen at Brooklands. Guinness achieved a new land speed record on a track, reaching 121.54 mph from a flying start. The car was subsequently sold to Malcolm Campbell who christened it `Blue Bird’.

Kenelm Lee Guinness’ career was brought to a tragic halt in 1924 when he sustained severe head injuries at the San Sebastian Grand Prix, in a crash that killed his riding mechanic. He maintained his interest in racing and accompanied his friend Henry Segrave to Daytona in 1927, for his own land speed attempt. He also holidayed with Malcolm Campbell in 1926, with the friends utilising Guinness’ de-commissioned minesweeper as a yacht.

In 1937 Kenelm Lee Guinness took his own life as a direct result of injuries sustained in the 1924 accident. He was laid to rest near the KLG factory at Putney Vale.

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