Car: Burney Streamline, 1930

Sir Dennistoun Burney was a respected defense inventor during World War I. He designed what was held to be the finest British airship of all, the R100.

Don’t be deceived by that radiator grille—it’s a fake. The Burney Streamline’s engine was in its tapering tail and, regrettably, prone to overheating
Don’t be deceived by that radiator grille—it’s a fake. The Burney Streamline’s engine was in its tapering tail and, regrettably, prone to overheating

But airships rapidly fell from favor after the fatal crash of the later, governmentsponsored R101 in 1930, which killed 48 people. Instead, Burney applied his expertise to motoring. He found backing for his models of the car Burney Streamline from his friend Stephen Courtauld, a textile magnate with an interest in technology. With “streamline” the 1930s buzzword equivalent of “digital” today, Courtauld was eager to own an airship-inspired car himself.

1930 Burney Streamline

The fabric-covered body frame of Burney’s “R100 on wheels” was built like an aircraft fuselage, a sort of inverted truss steel girder, cross-braced by strainer wires, with a completely flat underside.

Rear-engined, the Burney had all-round independent suspension, and a spare wheel was concealed inside the rear door. Seven passengers could be carried and, despite appearances, the Burney was said to handle well and 80mph touch (129kph).

1930 model car Burney Streamline

A twin-cam, straight-eight engine provided the power. Yet despite being housed in a projecting case with massive air scoops, it overheated badly and was even prone to catching fire. It was also so expensive that only a few novelty crazed patrons—for that’s what Burney Streamline buyers were, the Prince of Wales among them—bought one.

“[I want] to show that a properly streamlined car would score over its more conventional competitors.”

Sir Dennistoun Burney

Video model of the car Burney Streamline

Specification model of the car Burney Streamline

  • YEAR REVEALED: 1930
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK
  • HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
  • ENGINE: eight-cylinder, 180ci (2,956cc)
  • MAXIMUM POWER: unknown
  • LAYOUT: rear-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
  • BODYWORK: four-door seven-seater sedan
  • TOP SPEED: 80mph (129kph)
  • NUMBER BUILT: 12