We used to call them go-carts, the Scots call them bogies, those trying to be taken seriously call them gravity racers but everyone agrees they are an insanely fun way of getting down a hill. The 2013 Border Bogie Challenge celebrated the art of descent in a gruelling timed race that featured motivated drivers in sophisticated machines and Simon Kirby on “the Crapper”.
There are those that will say that the Victorians did not fully understand the concept of wind resistance and that a lavatory and cistern are not first choice accessories on a downhill racer. Simon Kirby is not one of those men, and remains undaunted by simple physics. Amongst the sleek and hi tech machines lining up for the challenge the Crapper stood out and up for a set of values that transcend the modern age.
The design concepts of the Crapper are rooted in the Golden Age of Victorian Engineering and include three simple principles:
1/British designed and made
2/Engineered well beyond purpose
3/Made from the latest and finest materials viz: solid metal, ceramic or fine hardwoods
But beyond these is a sense of “correctness” a quality rarely grasped by those who limit themselves to a merely scientific approach. There is a look to sanitaryware of this quality that is hard to imitate and those who appreciate these things are satisfied with nothing less than original Thomas Crapper loos. But not usually on a racing vehicle.
As Mr Kirby prepared himself for the race there was a far off look in his steely eye. Was it the Victorian fear that his lungs would explode if he exceeded forty miles per hour? No, personal injury is a trivial concern for one who dreams of Albion. Rather here was a chance to show that good solid British Engineering could prevail against unfeasible odds. In a world where the hordes hang on the belief that winning is simply a question of ‘coming first’ the Crapper stands for a higher principle. It carries an utter conviction in it’s own virtue such that it requires no further endorsement and is aloof to the tinsel and plaudits of conventional success.
Amongst the effeminate swept lines of the streamlined opposition the Crapper’s styling speaks of an entirely different approach to wind resistance. Rather than tinkering with wind tunnels and fluid dynamics a square shouldered rectitude is assumed: a simple refusal to accept resistance of any kind.
It’s an approach that bears many fruit:- winning however is not one of them. Not quite the slowest down the hill the Crapper acquitted itself with dignity and restraint. Whilst the competition may have descended with greater urgency none of them can boast an oak throne or a valveless waste preventer cistern let alone a vintage correct loo roll holder in polished nickel. When it comes to vitreous ceramics there simply was no competition.
So long as there are manufacturers like Thomas Crapper and men like Simon Kirby the World Gravity Racers record is safe and we can all be proud to be British.