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Steam-powered racer to debut at Chateau Impney Hill Climb

Whistling Billy, a well-known steam-powered racer from 1905, has been re-built ready to take on the Chateau Impney Hill Climb in July

Following the MSA’s decision to end its 100-year ban on steam-powered cars competing in historic racing events, Whistling Billy – a well-known ‘steamer’ from 1905 – is set to make its racing debut at the Chateau Impney Hill Climb on 9-10 July.

For many years the MSA denied any changes to the rule, stating that ‘iron wheels’ and coal residue would not be suitable during motor racing events featuring more conventional vehicles. Dr Bob Dyke, an expert in steam cars, has been campaigning along with other members of the Steam Car Club to make this rule change happen, and last year the hard work paid off.

2016’s Chateau Impney will be ‘Whistling Billy’s’ inaugural run, following an epic build that started back in 2003. The original car was known for winning numerous events in the USA from 1905, as well as the distinctive whistling sound that comes from burners. Following a crash in 1912, Whistling Billy was written off, and left to rot in a farmer’s field.

A company approached Dr Dyke to find and rebuild the original car, but it was never going to be quite so straightforward – as nobody even knew whether or not it was still in existence. After Bob discovered a number of original parts while in the USA, he offered to re-build it for them.

‘It’s a faithful, accurate rebuild using mainly correct, original parts from White steamers,’ commented Bob. ‘I had nine or ten photographs of Whistling Billy at the time, which were very helpful in figuring out how to put it all together, and allowed me to get the exact dimensions.

However, it was impossible to find everything and some parts needed to be new for competition, so I have manufactured some parts in order to get it into a useable state.’

Currently, Whistling Billy’s top speed stands at about 70mph, although Bob admits there is still some tinkering to be done before the event, and it’s capable of a lot more.

The Chateau Impney Hill Climb is set to feature 200 pre-1967 racers, battling to take the overall fastest time at the up the hotel’s hill climb course, which made a return last year. Find tickets, and further details at www.chateauimpneyhillclimb.com

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