George Eyston

Eyston (left) with fire-damaged MG Midget, 1931[2]

Captain George Edward Thomas Eyston MC OBE (28 June 1897 – 11 June 1979[3]) was a British racing driver in the 1920s and 1930s, and he broke the land speed record three times between 1937 and 1939.[1] He was also an engineer and inventor.

Early life

George Eyston was educated at Stonyhurst College and Trinity College, Cambridge. His study of engineering at Cambridge was interrupted by World War I when he was commissioned in the Dorset Regiment[4] and later served in the Royal Field Artillery. After the war he returned to Trinity College and was captain of the First Trinity Boat Club.


Motor racing

Eyston's racing career began before World War One, when he was still a schoolboy, and raced motorcycles under an assumed name.[5] After the war (in which he was awarded the Military Cross)[5] he reverted to his own name,[5] moved on to car racing and entered European road races, particularly in Bugattis, with success in races such as the 1921 and 1926 French Grand Prix [6]

Later he became well known for racing supercharged MGs such as the Magic Midget and the K3 Magnette.[7] His entries with the K3 included the 1933 Isle of Man and 1934 Northern Ireland Tourist Trophy events,[8] and the 1934 Mille Miglia[9][10]

Speed records

He fitted a diesel engine from an AEC bus into a car built on a Chrysler chassis and used it to set high-speed endurance records at Brooklands, attaining 100.75 mph in 1933 and 106 mph in 1936.[11][12]

In 1935, he was one of the first British racers to travel to the Bonneville salt flats of Utah, with his 24- and 48-hour record-setting car Speed of the Wind.

He is best known today for land speed records set in his car Thunderbolt.[13] Between 1937 and 1939 he set three new land speed records, wresting them from Malcolm Campbell's Blue Bird, but was twice bettered by John Cobb.

The rivalry was friendly, and in later years Eyston, as competitions manager for Castrol, assisted with Cobb's ill-fated attempt on the water speed record in Crusader.[14] He was also involved in the design of his Thunderbolt car at the Bean Cars factory in Tipton, Staffordshire (now West Midlands).[15]

Patents and engineering

As an engineer and inventor, he held a number of patents related to motor engineering and particularly supercharging.[16] His work on developing high-power gearboxes was important for Thunderbolt, along with his invention of the Powerplus supercharger used on MGs.

World War II

During World War II Eyston served on various bodies connected with industry and was a Regional Controller for the Ministry of Production.

Honours and awards

  • Eyston was awarded the Military Cross on 18 July 1917 - 2nd Lt. (temp Lt.) George Edward Thomas Eyston, RFA., Spec. Res. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He rendered most valuable service when carrying out reconnaissance under heavy fire. On several occasions he went forward under heavy shell and machine gun fire. He carried out his duties with great courage and determination, and was able to obtain most valuable information.[17]
  • He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1935.[18]
  • He was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1938.[1]
  • He was made an OBE in 1948.[19]

Racing record

24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Team Co-Drivers Car Class Laps Pos. Class
1928 United Kingdom Aston Martin International United Kingdom A C Bertelli Aston Martin 1½ International 1.5 32 DNF DNF
1929 United Kingdom Colonel Warwick Wright United Kingdom Richard Watney Stutz DV32 8.0 104 DNF DNF

Complete European Championship results

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 EDC Pts
1931 Sir Henry Birkin Maserati 26M Maserati 2.5 L8 ITA FRA
  • ^1 – Eyston was co-driver with Birkin at the French GP and Birkin drove with Lewis at the Belgian GP, therefore rules excluded Eyston from the Championship.


  • G.E.T. Eyston (1933). Flat Out. John Miles. foreword by Sir Malcolm Campbell
  • G.E.T. Eyston; Barré Lyndon (1935). Motor Racing and Record Breaking.
  • George Eyston; W.F. Bradley (1936). Speed on Salt. Batsford.
  • George Eyston (1939). Fastest on Earth.


  1. ^ a b c Colin Dryden (September 2004). "Eyston, George Edward Thomas (1897–1979)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31092.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ The Golden Era of GP Racing 1934-40 - Drivers
  4. ^ "No. 28918". The London Gazette. 29 September 1914. p. 7694.
  5. ^ a b c Goodwin, Colin. The Racing Driver's Pocket–Book. Conway/Anova Books. p. 8. ISBN 9781844861347.
  6. ^ "George Eyston racing at Montlhery". Archived from the original on 28 March 2008. (Commercial photo gallery)
  7. ^ Malcolm Green (1997). MG Sportscars. CLB International. ISBN 1-85833-606-6.
  8. ^ "The Supercharged Magnette". The Autocar. 11 August 1933.
  9. ^ Barré Lyndon (2 March 1934). "Number One". The Autocar.
  10. ^ compiled by Peter Garnier, from the archives of Autocar magazine (1979). MG Sports Cars. Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-36343-0.
  11. ^ "Diesel record car in 1936". .[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Diesel record car in 1936". .[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Captain George Eyston: The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1938-1939". (includes some images of Thunderbolt)
  14. ^ "John Cobb and the Crusader"., reprinted from Leo Villa and Kevin Desmond (1976). The World Water Speed Record.
  15. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  16. ^ GB 260804 , GB 375886 , GB 348524  et al.
  17. ^ "No. 30188". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 July 1917. p. 7227.
  18. ^ Segrave Trophy – Royal Automobile Club
  19. ^ "No. 38161". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1948. p. 17.
  20. ^ "All Results of Giovanni Lurani". Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  21. ^ "THE GOLDEN ERA – OF GRAND PRIX RACING". Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  • Charles Jennings (2005). The Fast Set. Abacus. ISBN 0-349-11596-6.
  • EYSTON, Capt. George Edward Thomas, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007, accessed 8 Aug 2012
  • Captain George Eyston (obituary), The Times, London, 23 November 1979, page VIII (Obituaries Supplement)