Kenelm Edward Lee Guinness MBE (14 August 1887 - 10 April 1937) was a racing car driver and automotive engineer,
Early Life Kenelm Edward Lee Guinness was born on 16 August 1887. He was the son of Captain Benjamin Lee Guinness and Lady Henrietta Eliza St. Lawrence.
Racing and Engineering Kenelm's interest in motor racing began whilst at Cambridge University, as his elder brother Sir Algernon Guinness's riding mechanic. His first major race as a driver was the 1907 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. His Darracq retired early, owing to axle failure. This involvement with the closely related Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq marques continued throughout his career. In the same year he also took part in the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit des Ardennes. Around this time he acquired space in a disused pub, 'The Bald Faced Stag' in Putney, London as a base for his motor-racing exploits. From 1913 he was an official driver for Sunbeam, along with Henry Segrave. Sunbeam's engine designer, Louis Coatalen, became a friend and assisted his motor-racing career, driving Sunbeam or Talbot cars. KLG spark plugs KLG mica-insulated spark plug, dismantled As for many racing motorists of this era, he had commercial interests in automotive engineering; in this case being the inventor of the KLG spark plug, a brandname surviving today. His experience in the 1912 Manx Tourist Trophy led him to develop a more reliable spark plug. The innovation of the KLG spark plug was its use of mica as an insulator. This mica was stacked in sheets and compressed by the centre electrode being tightened on a thread. These insulators gave more reliable performance than the porcelain ceramics used by others. Production of these plugs began in a small way at 'The Bald Faced Stag', supplying other racers including Segrave and Campbell. KLG plugs developed a particular reputation for reliability in aircraft use and were in great demand during the First World War. At the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Navy, but his work on spark plugs was considered to be more valuable to the war effort and he was asked to resign. In 1919 he sold world distribution rights to Smiths, then sold up completely in 1927. He remained as a consultant.KLG's reliability was particularly attractive to the land speed record contenders and their many-cylindered aero-engines, often with dual ignition systems. Segrave's 1,000HP Sunbeam required 48 spark plugs, a mis-fire amongst which could be very difficult to detect and replace on a windswept beach. In time, KLG out-grew their pub and a fine building was constructed in the most modern of styles. At one time 1,500 people were employed there. Sadly the building is now demolished and replaced by an Asda store.
Yachting Guinness' First World War Naval aspirations were assuaged a little in 1919, when he purchased a surplus minesweeper, the 'Samuel Green' that had been converted to a fishing trawler. He renamed her the 'Ocean Rover' and had her refitted as a gentleman's yacht. Guest accommodation was provided, together with a hold equipped to transport racing cars to foreign events. In 1926, after his retirement from motor racing, he and his friend Malcolm Campbell went on a treasure hunting trip to the Cocos Islands.
1924 Crash Guinness crashed on 27 September 1924 in the San Sebastian Grand Prix and his riding mechanic, Tom Barrett was killed. After his accident, Guinness withdrew from record-breaking as well as track competition.
Marriage He married Josephine Strangman, daughter of Sir Thomas Strangman, in 1928. They divorced in 1936.
Death After the 1924 crash, Guinness suffered head and other injuries. These other injuries may have been enough to end his racing career on their own, but the head injuries and the trauma of Barrett's death also changed his personality. In his final months towards 1937, he was described as suffering delusions and was admitted to a nursing home. On 10 April 1937 he was found dead in a bedroom at his home near the KLG factory, having apparently gassed himself. At the coroner's inquest, his brother Sir Algernon Guinness produced a letter that indicated the likelihood of suicide. The coroner's verdict was, "Suicide, while of unsound mind". He was buried on 14 April at Putney Vale Cemetery, adjacent to the KLG factory.
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