Before the Great War, Brooklands racing driver, Kaye Don had worked for the Avon Tyre Company. While engaged in motorcycle trials he met Charles Newton Cooper, who was to become his racing engineer after the war. In the early twenties the two lived close to each other in Kingston Upon Thames, Don in Anglesea Road and Charles Cooper, with his new family, in Fassett Road.
In 1921, Don bought the A.C. track car that had been owned by Harry Hawker, who also lived in the Kingston area and who unfortunately died that year in an air crash at Hendon. Soon after, Don acquired the Wolseley Viper track car. Don and Cooper both lived near the Waggon And Horses public house. There was a builders yard next to the pub and this was leased for garaging purposes. Their neighbour was Harold Welham and many will remember Welham Motors from the 50s and 60s, when it was a Renault dealership.
Kaye Don was a works driver for Sunbeam and set outer-circuit lap records of 131.76, 134.24 and 137.58 mph. He was the only driver to achieve a 130 mph lap in the 1920s. In 1928, he used three Sunbeams - the Cub, the Tiger and the Tigress - and also drove a 2.3 litre Bugatti. One of the Sunbeams was raced on the Continent, in partnership with Jack Dunfee, later of Bentley Boys fame. In 1929, Sunbeam built a World Land Speed Record car called Silver Bullet, but this 24-litre giant never ran properly and the project was abandoned. The photo shows one of the Sunbeams in 1929.
Don was best known for the big cars and the Bugattis, so it is easy to overlook that he set several class records, driving the Avon-J.A.P. Special.
In 1930, Charles Cooper travelled to Molsheim to assemble the 4.9-litre, straight-eight Bugatti that Kaye Don is most famous for driving. This car was prepared for racing at the garages next to the Waggon And Horses. In 1934, Don went to prison for manslaughter and, at about this time, Cooper went into partnership with Brooklands Driver "Ginger" Hamilton and business was started at Wyckham Mansions, Ewell Road, Surbiton. The garages at Waggon And Horses Hill were used by Cecil Whelan, but later, Harold Welham took over the whole site. Kaye Don briefly returned to racing at Donington in 1936. The photo shows Don with Charlie Cooper.
a page about Charlie Cooper
In 1957, Brooklands held a Golden Jubilee reunion meeting, inviting the showing of some of the old racing cars, several of them accompanied by their original drivers. The following information is taken from the programme.
1924 - 6 cylinder 1,988c.c. supercharged Sunbeam "The Cub" - shown by Rootes Motors
Developed from the 1923 unblown Sunbeam which is the only British car to have won the French G.P., 'The Cub' is one of the 1924 team cars afterwards raced with great success at Brooklands by Kaye Don and others. Don won the Gold Vase in 1927 at over 118 m.p.h. This car was third in the 1930 500 Mile Race and it broke records in the hands of Resta, Segrave and Don. Now an inmate of the Montagu Museum, it used to be driven from Wolverhampton to Brooklands on ordinary petrol. On petrol/benzole it gave 145 b.h.p. and lapped at over 126 m.p.h. in Don's hands - Mrs. E. M. Thomas being only 6 m.p.h. slower. The car will, very appropriately, be driven in the parade by Kaye Don. (1957! editorial comment 2009.)
1925 - 12 cylinder 3,978c.c. supercharged Sunbeam - shown by Sir R. Millais
A truly renowned Track car, this Sunbeam was built to attack the Land Speed Record, which Segrave took at over 150 m.p.h. at Southport. It was raced at Brooklands by Kaye Don, who won many notable victories with it and repeatedly broke the lap record, leaving it at 137.58 m.p.h. The Sunbeam was then modified for mountain circuit racing by Sir Malcolm Campbell and later driven by Cobb and Brackenbury. Before this, Don took many Class C International records with it, including the kilometre at nearly 141 m.p.h. The car is as modified by Campbell except that the compression-ratio has been raised for post-war racing. The driver, R. C. Symondson, was second with the car at a Vintage S.C.C. Silverstone race meeting earlier this year. (1957! editorial comment 2009.)