Speedace of the golden age of speed




J.W. White, famous American speed king, standing beside his Triplex machine which he will drive in an attempt to break the world’s automobile speed record



The White Triplex (also known as Triplex Special and Spirit of Elkdom) was a land speed record car built for J. H. White (Jim) and driven by Ray Keech. It was powered by three 27-litre Liberty aero-engines, for a total of 36 cylinders, 81 litre displacement and a claimed 1500 bhp.


A wealthy American, J. H. White of Philadelphia (unrelated to the White Motor Company), wanted to take the land speed record from the British, then shared in a duel between Henry Segrave and Malcolm Campbell. The White Triplex was born.



Circa 1928 — Ray Keech is shown here on the day that he broke the speed record at Daytona Beach, FL. In this image you can clearly see the extra rear axle that was added for record qualification purposes



No suitable engines were available to give a sufficient advantage over the British Napier Lion, so the simplest possible chassis was constructed and three war-surplus Liberty aero engines were squeezed into it. The vehicle was so simple it had no clutch or gearbox and only a single fixed ratio. Once started by a push start, it had to keep rolling. Driver comforts were minimal: the forward engine was sheathed in a crude attempt at streamlining, the two side-by-side behind were bare, with the driver perched between them.


White decided that no single engine would suffice to challenge the British Napier Lion. Taking a logical approach and using what was available he used a straight-forward and solid looking chassis, onto which three war-surplus 27-liter Liberty airplane engines were mounted – giving it a total of 36 cylinders, 81 liter displacement, and a staggering (at the time) 1,500 bhp in all.





An impressive looking bit of kit. With some refinement this could have been a safer car to drive. This could have been achieved with bodywork tapering to a tail, possibly including a tailfin - of course not generally well understood at the time.

The Triplex’s design was a brutish barebones approach – it had no clutch or gearbox, and only a single fixed ratio. Once started by a push start, it had to keep rolling. Driver comforts were minimal. The forward engine was sheathed in a modest attempt at streamlining, and the two engines mounted side-by-side in back were totally exposed. The courageous (or utterly crazy) driver was then perched precariously in the middle.


Ray Keech, an experienced Indianapolis racer, and imposing man with flaming red hair, was paid a handsome sum to drive the White Triplex in the first speed record attempt at Daytona Beach, FL. The first trial runs proved to be dangerous. No man had ever been faced with so much power, and in such crude form. Keech suffered burns behind the wheel on both runs – first from a burst radiator hose, then by exhaust flames from the front engine.

The overly simplistic design of the White Triplex posed a particular problem for the officials governing the speed record attempt. The regulations required vehicles to have a “means for reversing”, which the White Triplex definitely didn’t. White’s Mechanics first jury-rigged an electric motor and roller drive onto a tire, but it was unable to rotate against the force of the three large engines, which could not be un-clutched. An even more elaborate “solution” was tried. An entire separate rear axle was fitted, held above ground until dropped by a release lever and then driven by a separate driveshaft. The device was ridiculous, and isn’t believed to have been utilized during the actual speed record attempt itself– but it was enough to successfully satisfy the official’s needs.



Ray Keech at Daytona Beach  Ray Keech racing driver, Indianapolis 500


Ray Keech was an accomplished American racing driver





Charles Raymond Keech (born May 1, 1900 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania - June 15, 1929) was a board track and brick track racer in the 1920s. He is best remembered for winning the 1929 Indianapolis 500, and for setting a land speed record.


As an established motor-racing driver, Ray Keech, was engaged to drive. First trial runs were hazardous, Keech being injured by burns during both: first from a burst radiator hose, then by exhaust flames from the front engine.

The simplicity of the design also led to a farcical situation with the official scrutineers. The regulations required "means for reversing", which the White Triplex didn't have. Mechanics first jury-rigged an electric motor and roller drive onto a tyre, but this was unable to rotate against the compression of the three large engines, which could not be un-clutched. An even more Rube Goldberg-like contrivance was tried, an entire separate rear axle was fitted, held above ground until dropped by a release lever and then driven by a separate driveshaft. The device was ridiculous, and isn't believed to have been fitted during the record attempt itself, but it satisfied the scrutineers.

On April 22, 1928, Keech set a new land speed record of 207.55 mph (334.02 km/h) at Daytona but died 3 months after refusing to drive the White Triplex, at the Altoona 200-Mile Race in Tipton, Pennsylvania on June 15, 1929. He was buried at the Hephzibah cemetery in Modena, Pennsylvania in Chester County.



Mechanics building the Triplex special, including Lee Bible  Lee Bible





This record was raised to over 230 mph by Henry Segrave in Golden Arrow on March 11, 1929. Keech was asked by J. M. White to drive again, this time at Ormond Beach, and to re-break the record in the Triplex. Keech wisely declined, considering the car to be too dangerous. White then hired their team mechanic Lee Bible, a garage owner with no experience driving at these speeds.


Lee was born on a farm near Midway, Tennessee, on 26 May 1887. He was the son of William Bible. By 1920 he was living in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his family, and was working as an auto mechanic. Sometime later he moved to Daytona Beach; by 1929 Bible was said to be living in that town "for some time".


To Bible driving the Triplex was the opportunity of a lifetime, but many questioned his lack of experience behind the wheel of such a machine. Nevertheless, in practice runs Bible had done well enough to be declared eligible by officials for a record attempt.

Bible's first record attempt began in the mid-afternoon on Wednesday, 13 March 1929. His first run was clocked at less than 186 mi/h, quite far from the record. In the return run he set 202 mi/h, but just past the time trap the car suddenly swerved, probably because Bible released the gas pedal too quickly. The machine crashed into the dunes about one hundred feet past the timing trap and rolled, coming to a rest two-hundred feet farther. Bible's body was thrown from the car. 

This was the second accident in less than a year on the sands of Volusia County. On 26 April 1928 Frank Lockhart was killed in a Stutz while attempting to set a new speed record.



Wreckage of the White Triplex on Ormond Beach 


The tragic death of Lee Bible and the wreck of the White Triplex reminds us of Parry Thomas and his death in Babs at Pendine Sands.




Henry Segrave helped at the scene of Bible's accident. Segrave had made plans to attempt another run for the record because he believed that with better beach conditions he could reach 240 mi/h. But after the tragedy he changed his mind and turned his attention to the water speed record, starting the "Miss England" venture. Henry Segrave lost his life at Lake Windermere, in England, fourteen months later, trying to better his own water speed record.

Lee Bible's survivors included his widow, Anna, and their daughter, Grace S. Bible, residents of Daytona Beach, Florida. He is buried in Sinking Springs Cemetery, Midway, Greene County, Tennessee.

On his first two runs, Bible was timed at first 186 mph (299 km/h) and then 202 mph (325 km/h), both below the Triplex Special's previous best and well short of Golden Arrow's standing record. At the end of this second pass, Triplex ran off the track and into the sand dunes, causing it to roll over and finally come to a stop 200 ft (60 m) further on. Bible was thrown from the car, killing him instantly. A Pathé newsreel cinema photographer spectator, Charles Traub, was also killed. Some blame Bible's driving and excessively fast deceleration, others Triplex's lack of stability. There is controversy about both of those deaths, as it is also unclear whether the photographer was in an area expected to be safe, or if he approached the running line too closely to get more dramatic footage.



 Ray Keech, Frank Lockhart and Malcolm Campbell


Three of the most famous drivers at the time: Ray Keech, Frank Lockhart and Malcolm Campbell - on the occasion of Frank testing his Stutz Black Hawk Special




Complete name: Conway Lee Bible
Birth date: 26.May.1887
Birth Place: near Midway, TN, United States
Death date: 13.Mar.1929
Death Place: Daytona Beach, FL, United States
Nationality: United States
Gender: male
Age at death: 41

Event date: 13.Mar.1929
Series: American Automobile Association [no further details available]
Race: Land speed record attempt
Event type: speed record attempt
Country: United States (Florida)
Venue: Ormond Beach
Variant: speed trials straight on beach




Liberty V12 aircraft engine 


The Liberty V12 aircraft engine featured an overhead camshaft on each bank of 6 cylinders.







Ray Keech (United States)


White Triplex Special (United States)


28th April 1928
207.552 mph (m)


Daytona Beach, USA

Power Source


81,188cc 3 American Liberty aircraft engines 1 front, 2 rear, 36 cylinders (3 V12's). No clutch or gearbox.

Max power

1,200-1,500 bhp

Weight (approx.)

4,068kg (8,960lbs)




Ray Keech in the race winning Simplex


Ray Keech in the race winning Simplex with Firestone tires and special piston rings





White Triplex article


White Special






Wikipedia White_Triplex

Wikipedia Ray_Keech


Thrust SSC Triplex


Unique cars and parts world_land_speed_record


Motorsport Memorial Lee Bible








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