An early race driver

An Early Race Driver

Selwyn Edge was born in 1868 in the town of Concord, near Sydney, Australia. When he was three years old, his parents relocated to England. As a young boy, Selwyn was interested in bicycling and won his first bicycle race when he was nineteen years old. Later Selwyn was employed by Dunlop Tire Company as an office manager. Edge bought his first car, a De-Dion Bouton in 1896. By 1897 Selwyn had started to become interested in automobiles. In 1899 he, along with Charles Jarott and Herbert Duncan, formed De Dion-Bouton British and Colonial Ltd. to import automobiles.

Edge had also made friends with Montague Napier of Napier & Sons, as both men were avid cyclists. In 1898, Edge asked Napier to make some improvements to the Panhard car. Then in 1899, Edge and Harvey de Cros organized the Motor Vehicle Company, Ltd to sell the improved Napier cars. Unlike any other British dealer of the time, Edge recognized the value of auto racing as a marketing tool. He realized that the publicity provided by auto racing would increase sales. In this he was ahead of his time.

Edge started entering Napiers in various races. The Napier that he entered in the Automobile Club’s 1900 Thousand Miles Trial won in her class as one of thirty-five finishers out of sixty-four starters. His Napier won again in the Gordon Bennett 1902 cup race. In the meantime Edge learned that Sir Hugh Locke-King was constructing a closed circuit motor racing track at Brooklands. At that time British law imposed a strict twenty-mile speed limit on automobile drivers. Edge quickly realized the potential value of Brooklands and started to encourage Locke-King in his endeavor. He made a public commitment to drive one of his cars for twenty-four hours without stopping at 65 mph.

Edge had also hired a secretary named Dorothy Levitt who quickly picked up his enthusiasm for cars. He taught her to drive and she won several titles in Britain. When Brooklands opened, Edge came with his team of drivers as he had promised and Levitt was one of them. She was denied the opportunity to race as Brooklands would not allow female drivers on the course. However, Edge then employed her as a works driver and sent her off to Europe to promote Napier.

Edge had prepared well for his race at Brooklands. He had engaged in a program of physical training to build his personal endurance. At the same time he had equipped the Napiers to stand up to the rigors of the race He had installed a special fuel tank, a special windshield, canvas mudguards, and removed some bodywork. When the race began Edge easily made good on his promise, driving the course for 24 hours at 65 miles per hour without a rest stop. The other two drivers on the team did stop to rest. It would be thirteen years before any driver would break the record Edge set at that race.

In 1912, Edge sold his dealership to Napier and signed an agreement promising not to get involved in automobile manufacturing for seven years. At the end of this time, Edge acquired AC Cars but the company folded in 1929. After that, Edge had no further involvement with motor cars. He died in 1940.

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