In 1910 motorcyclists, looking for somewhere to stretch their machines, found just what they were looking for in the sinuous and steep Kop Hill road that climbs to the top of the picturesque Chiltern Hills.
Within a year cars joined the motorcycles and the event quickly became The Kop Hill Climb – one of the major events in the Motor Sport Calendar. As speeds increased so too did the roll call of famous cars, bikes and their intrepid pilots. The greats of the day like Malcolm Campbell in BlueBird, Raymond Mays in his Bugatti, Henry Seagrave in his Sunbeam and the wonderfully named Count Zborowski in his 8 cylinder Ballot were regular competitors.
In fact the Count recorded the fastest time for a car in his monster aero engine Ballot climbing the narrow winding hill in 26.8 seconds. But in 1925 one motorcyclist went even quicker – the legendary Freddie Dixon. Riding his highly tuned Douglas he averaged an astonishing 81 mph from a standing start to put the record out of reach forever. Fate was to step in at that event when a spectator who refused to back away from the course, despite the best efforts of the marshals, was struck by a competitor and broke his leg.
The RAC stewards stopped the meeting and within a week declined to grant any further permits for high speed contests on public roads in the UK.
And that was that – until a change in the Road Traffic Act allowed Kop Hill Climb to come roaring back. Today it’s no longer a competition, but a moving celebration of the history of the car and the motorcycle. A chance to marvel at over a hundred years of pioneering, mechanical progress powered by steam, gasoline, electricity, eccentricity and innovation.
The Kop Hill legend lives on ….