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Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 11:16 UK
Star car celebrates anniversary
Burney Streamline Car
Burney Streamline Car, 1930. The car was marketed towards the rich

It's 80 years since an East Yorkshire invention hit the roads.

The Burney Streamline Car was an aerodynamic vehicle that was designed for the road by Sir Charles Dennistoun Burney in 1929.

The car's revolutionary design was inspired by the principles of the Airship Guarantee Company in Howden, where Burney was managing director and responsible for constructing the R100 Airship.

"Burney saw the design emerging for the [R100] Airship, which was intended to have a maximum speed of 70 mph through air," said Dr Bernard Nield of Howden Civic Society, a vintage car enthusiast who has authored a book about the Streamline Car.

"He concluded that if the Streamline shape of the Airship was good for the Airship, then it would be good for a motor car and reduce aerodynamic drag that cars of that period were all experiencing."

The prototype of the Streamline was built in Howden out of scrap materials including aluminium and balloon fabric, all taken from the airship station. The vehicle had caused quite a stir in the town when it was road tested.

Sir Burney and son
Sir Burney with son in front of the prototype

Marketed towards the rich and famous in London, just 12 cars were manufactured at a factory in Maidenhead, with the intention of encouraging the motoring industry to license the use of his patented principles.

"Burney saw the car as a promotional item," said Dr Nield.

"As far as we can judge, he never intended to put that car into mass production. What he wanted was to expose it in the most interesting way to the people who were rich and famous."

However, with only a few purchases including one by the then Prince of Wales, the motor did not receive commercial success.

Later, the model was further developed by the Crossley motor company and 25 more similar vehicles were built under their name.

Crossley Streamline car
Crossley Streamline car: as seen at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu

Today only one Crossley Streamline exists which is owned by Lord Montagu and kept at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.

Born in Ayrshire in 1888, Sir Dennistoun Burney's inventions included sea planes and military weapons. He also contributed to the invention of the sonar device. The inventor died at his home in Bermuda in November, 1968.


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