Historic Car Brands
Railton was a marque of British-branded automobiles made by Noel Macklin’s Fairmile Engineering Company in Surrey, between 1933 and 1940. The name was revived in the late-1980s by Bill Towns, but only two cars were produced.
1934 Railton Terraplane – Tim Sheerman-Chase – Brooklands Museum
Railton was started by Noel Macklin, who was looking for a new car-making venture after he sold his Invicta company in 1933.
Developed in conjunction with talented British designer, Reid Railton, the concept was to build sporting British-bodied cars, based on the chassis and mechanicals of the American Straight-8 Hudson. The brand ‘Railton’ was chosen, because of the designer’s motorsport fame.
Reid Railton had designed a series of cars for John Cobb, the first of which was the celebrated 24-litre Napier Railton, which took many endurance records. Later came the Railton Mobil Special that held the World Land Speed Record several times, finally collecting the record at 394.2mph.
Railton was also involved with Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird car in the 1930s and later with his water speed record boats.
In 1933, he was responsible for the design of the successful ERA Voiturette class racing cars with Raymond Mays, before joining forces with Macklin.
The Railton cars
1935 Railton Straight-Eight University saloon – Charles01
The first 1933 Railton Terraplane model had a British two-door tourer body, made by coachbuilder John Charles Ranalah, mounted on a 4010cc, 100bhp, eight-cylinder Hudson Terraplane chassis.
Being lighter than the original, it went like hell, with a 0–60mph time of 13 seconds. A saloon-bodied version was soon added to the range and both cars were priced at Stg£499.
In 1935 the Terraplane chassis was replaced by the one from the Hudson Eight and the engine grew to 4168cc, producing 113bhp. Bodies from at least seven coachbuilders, including; Ranalah, REAL, Carbodies and Coachcraft were available.
Two special lightweight models were made in 1935 and, with a 0–60 time of 8.8 seconds, were claimed to be the fastest production cars in the world. There were 1379 Railton 8s made.
A total of 1460 Hudson-based Railtons had been completed when production ended with the onset of World War II.
The smaller Railton Cobham six-cylinder 16.9 was added in 1937 using a 2723 cc Hudson six-cylinder engine and chassis. Pricing for saloon or drophead coupé bodywork was Stg£399, but only 81 were made.
An even smaller Railton 10, with only 10hp (RAC), joined the range in 1938. It was coach-built on a Standard Flying Nine chassis and with either saloon or drophead coupé bodywork. Billed as ‘a famous name in miniature’, only 51 were made and sold, at Stg£299.
1936 Railton Straight-Eight – Martin HansV
Noel Macklin turned his attention to powerboats in 1939 and sold his company to the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, who obviously saw a profitable future in continuing this trans-Atlantic partnership. However, they didn’t factor in Adolf Hitler and the outbreak of war in 1939 stopped production.
After World War II a few cars were completed using pre-War parts and a new model was built and shown at the 1949 London Motor Show. However, at nearly Stg£5000, the car was uncompetitively expensive and never went into production.
Reid Railton passed away in 1977, at the age of 82.
The name was revived by a new company called Railton Motor Company, founded in 1989 in Warwickshire.
The reborn Railton concept was developed by Bill Towns, an automobile designer and engineer, who worked first with the Rootes Group, then Rover, before joining Aston Martin in 1966.
Towns was responsible for the Aston Martin DBS V8 and its Lagonda equivalent, and later the Volante convertible and the Lagonda ‘Wedge’ of 1976.
One idea he’d been kicking around for several years was a rebodied XJ-S. During the mid-1980s, Towns met John Ransom – a propane-selling, self-made millionaire.
Towns’ idea was to fit new panels over the existing steel. It was a concept he’d used before for the Series 3 E-Type-based, Guyson E12 in 1974, but that car had glass-fibre panels, while the Railton would have aluminium panels.
Railton Claremont F29 – Silverstone Auctions
Two convertible models, the F28 Fairmile and the F29 Claremont were released in 1991, priced at Stg£105,000. The idea was that Jaguar dealerships would sell and service the vehicles.
The F28 Fairmile was painted burgundy and featured exposed oversized rear wheels and the F29 Claremont was done in blue with full rear fender skirts. The distinctive bodywork was created by Park Sheet Metal.
The two hand-built examples were the only new Railtons ever produced.
In 1994 the rights and tooling were purchased by an entrepreneur, Graham Pierce, but the firm was officially reported as a dormant the following year and fully dissolved, somewhat ironically, on 4th July 2000.