The Racing Years

Because Edward Lisle had been a keen and successful competitor in local cycle races during his earlier years, it was almost inevitable that Star cars would take part in competitions and trials. His sons Dick and Joseph became keen racing drivers and achieved a number of victories in the company’s cars.

The first major road race held in England was the 1,000 Miles Trial in April and May 1900 which included a Star-Benz. The car successfully completed the course and was praised in the motoring press. Star-Benz cars also competed in hill climbs organised by the Wolverhampton and District Automobile Club, where they met with some success.

The first major international competition was the Gordon Bennett Race in which cars competed for the Bennett Trophy. The races, held between 1900 and 1905 were sponsored by Gordon Bennett junior, son of the Scottish journalist who founded the New York Herald.

Gordon Bennett junior’s main interests in life were cars, planes, and women. He used his inheritance to sponsor the trophy and the races, and in 1906 established a hot-air balloon race.

One of the rules of the race was that the winning car’s country of origin would be the venue for the following year’s race. The 1902 event, held in June of that year, was over a 350 mile course between Paris and Innsbruck. Three French cars and one British car competed for the trophy, which was won by Selwyn Edge in his British Napier. As a result the 1903 race would be held in Great Britain.

The chosen route consisted of several laps of a figure-of-eight course, starting and finishing at the town of Athy, about 40 miles south of Dublin. Covering a distance of 327.5 miles.

An advert from 1903.

Fired with enthusiasm, Star rose to the occasion and built the company’s first racing car, powered by an 80hp. four-cylinder engine, with overhead inlet valves and side chain drive. The car was to compete in the eliminating trials for the race, at Dashwood Hill, Buckinghamshire, and in the grounds of Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire. The aim of the trials was to select three British-made cars for the Athy race. On the day, the Star car, driven by Joseph Lisle, was unsuccessful against the faster Napiers.

All was not lost however. Edward Lisle offered the car, now fitted with a four-seater body, as a course car. Unfortunately things went wrong when the crew got lost, took the wrong route, and the car broke down.

The following year saw the introduction of the ‘Little Star’. Two of them competed in the small car trials in August and September 1904. The trials took place over a hilly course in the area around Hereford, and were organised by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, later to be the RAC. The two Stars, driven by Joseph Lisle and
F. R. Goodwin were quite successful, finishing in 4th and 5th place in their respective classes.

Harry Goodwin at the wheel of one of the 70hp. Stars that took part in the Gordon Bennett eliminating trials on the Isle of Man in 1905. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.
Edward Lisle hadn’t given-up on the idea of competing in the Gordon Bennett race. The eliminating trials for the 1905 race were to be held on the Isle of Man, and the company set about building two almost identical cars for the race.

They were based on the successful 60hp. Mercedes car that had won the Gordon Bennett race in 1903.

The cars had four-cylinder, 10litre, 70hp. engines and were driven by two brothers, F. R. and H. G. Goodwin.

Unfortunately the cars were underpowered, and much slower than the competition, and so were eliminated.

In 1906 the company decided to compete in the Isle of Man T.T. and entered two 18hp. cars, driven by Joseph Lisle and George Prew. All cars entering the race were only allowed to carry a certain amount of fuel, calculated using a fuel consumption formula.

The two Stars each carried 6½ gallons, but both ran out of fuel during the 160 mile-long race. Prew succeeded in travelling 104.57 miles and Lisle achieved 98.57 miles.

Star also entered two different 18hp. cars in the following year’s T.T. driven by Harry Goodwin and George Prew. Again they were unsuccessful.

As in the previous year’s event the amount of fuel carried was restricted, and with this in mind Goodwin drove very carefully to conserve fuel.

The race had a 5p.m. deadline, by which time all competitors had to have crossed the finishing line. At 5p.m. Goodwin was still on his 5th lap and so was disqualified.

George Prew suffered a much worse fate. His car collided with Quarter Bridge during the second lap and was badly damaged.

One of the 70hp. Stars begins a run in the 1905 Gordon Bennett eliminating trials on the Isle of Man. Courtesy of Peter Lisle.
Peter Lisle at the wheel of a 1905 Gordon Bennett Star.

The car was rebuilt after the mechanical parts were discovered in India. The body is an accurate reproduction.

Courtesy of Peter Lisle.

Dick Lisle and a streamlined 12hp. Star racing car outside the works.

Courtesy of Peter Lisle.

Dick Lisle and the 15hp. Star that won a gold medal in the Wolverhampton Automobile Club's meeting on October 2nd, 1909.

It also won the 1909 October Senior Handicap at Brooklands.

Courtesy of Peter Lisle.

During the pre-war years Star cars enjoyed many successes in reliability trials, sprints and hill climbs throughout much of the world, competing in Australia, New Zealand, the Transvaal, Holland, Ireland, Scotland.

1909 turned-out to be an extremely successful year in trials and competitions. In the 1909 Irish Reliability Trial, a Star car achieved the fastest time on some of the hills. In the 1909 Scottish Automobile Club Trial a 12hp. Star won all of the hill climbs in its class, and achieved maximum points in the fuel consumption contest. In the same trial the new 15hp. model won a special medal, and in the 1909 October Senior Handicap at Brooklands, Dick Lisle finished in first place, lapping at 63.75m.p.h. in his 15hp. Star.

In the 1910 Raglan Cup Races at Brooklands a Briton car driven by Dick Lisle lapped at 68.47m.p.h. to beat Coatalen’s Sunbeam.

There were also successes abroad. A Star car won a gold medal in the Dutch Reliability Trial, and another was successful in the Australian fuel consumption tests.

An advert from 1909.

From 'The Motor'. 4th July, 1911.

One of the company’s greatest racing achievements was when a 15hp. Star won the 277 mile-long 1911 RAC Standard Cars Race at Brooklands, for four-cylinder standard cars of up to 15.9hp. There were 24 entries. Cecil Cathie’s Star won the race at an average speed of 56.5m.p.h. A second Star driven by Dick Lisle also entered the race and finished in third place.

In 1912 the company entered a 20.1hp. car in the race. Sadly it was barred on a technicality, but the car, driven by Dick Lisle soon returned to Brooklands to capture twelve records in the Class ‘E’ event, including an average speed of 66.82m.p.h. over a period of 12 hours.

On 30th August, 1912 Dick Lisle achieved a 12 hours record at Brooklands in a standard 15.9hp. Star, driving continuously for 801 miles, 1,513 yards.

The 15.9hp. Star being serviced during the 12 hour endurance test.

Courtesy of Peter Lisle.


The 15.9hp. Star in action at Brooklands on 30th August, 1912.

The car is refuelled and checked over.

Another stop for refuelling, tyre-changing and a check-over.

The 15.9hp. car gets underway after a quick service.

Another view of the service.

In 1914 Star entered two cars in the Isle of Man T.T.

They were driven by Dick Lisle and Richard Crossman but were unsuccessful.

Crossman’s race ended during the fifth lap due to water pump trouble.

Lisle’s also ended in the same lap, when his car crashed at Ballaugh Bridge.

The 15hp. Star that won the Class 'E' event at Brooklands in 1912. Driven by Dick Lisle. Courtesy of Peter Lisle.

Dick Lisle and his 20.1hp. Star 'Comet' racing car.

Courtesy of Peter Lisle.

Dick Lisle and a different version of his 'Comet'.

Seen outside the works in Nelson Street.

Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

The later 11.9hp. car, introduced in June 1921 became a successful competitor in club events and at Brooklands. Two 11.9hp. Stars were entered in the 1922 Scottish Six Days Light Car Trial and outclassed the competition. They were driven by Dick Lisle and Cecil Cathie, one winning the gold medal, the other coming in second. Cecil Cathie was Star’s chief tester and works driver. The gold medal winning car went on to be much-travelled after being sold to a gentleman in Australia. Once there it was driven for about 11,000 miles, and then purchased by a New Zealander, who entered it in numerous competitions in New Zealand and broke many records previously held by larger cars.

A few of Dick Lisle's many cups and trophies from before the First World War:

The Routen Cup won by a 12hp. Star at Saltburn Speed Trials, 25th June, 1910.
The Du Pré Cup won by a 15hp. Star in 1909 at the Leicestershire A.C. Hill Climb.

The Malaga Cup won by a 12hp. Star at Malaga Auto Fetes.
The Brooklands Senior Handicap Cup won by a 15hp. Star, 16th October, 1909.

The Henry Edmunds Trophy won by a 12hp. Star at Shelsley Walsh on 2nd July, 1910.

A few of Dick Lisle's medals.

The Yorkshire Automobile Club Challenge Trophy, won on 25th June, 1910 at Saltburn Speed Trials by a 12 hp. Star.

A well known Star enthusiast was Malcolm Campbell, an ex-Star agent. He raced a special single-seater 11.9hp. narrow-track Star and was successful in the Easter 1924 meeting at Brooklands, winning the 75m.p.h. Short Handicap at 73.25m.p.h. and lapping at 79.3m.p.h. He also entered his Star in the 75m.p.h. Short Handicap (75 Short) in the autumn meeting at Brooklands later that year. As previously, he finished in first place, crossing the finishing line at 79.5m.p.h.

Cecil Cathie driving his Star racing car in Belfast. Courtesy of Peter Lisle.

An advert from 1927.

In 1923 the 12/25hp. Star, an updated version of the 11.9hp. car appeared. In May the following year it evolved into the 12/40hp. car, powered by a pushrod overhead valve engine, and using the reliable 4 speed gearbox from the 18/40hp. car.

It was marketed as Star’s sports model and could achieve 65 to 70m.p.h. with a fully loaded touring body.

Around 1926 R. H. Millington had some success racing his 12/40 on the sands at several locations, including Southport.

A two-seater 12/40 owned by Stuart Marr of Glasgow was entered in the Monte Carlo rally in January 1928 and finished well up the field after a trouble free run.

12/40s had numerous successes in trials and speed events. Two of them, owned by Donald Monro achieved 70m.p.h. over half a mile at Brooklands.

Another successful 12/40 belonged to Mr. Coulter who ran Coulter & Company, the Star agent in Belfast. He acquired his 12/40 in 1926 and drove it at a number of racing events in Ulster until he was severely injured, loosing an arm when the car turned over. He later had the car repaired, and his employee Billy Connolly took over the driving. The car had a very successful racing and trials career at hill climbs in Ballybannon, and Craigantlet, sand races at Magilligan, and competitions elsewhere. At one time it was fitted with the single-seater body from Malcolm Campbell’s Star. The car still exists today and is now owned by Brian Rollings.

Read Brian Rollings'
history of the Coulter Star

Possibly the last car to be built by Star was a 14hp. chassis that still survives. It is known as the McEvoy special and is fitted with a Jensen two seater sports body. The car was used for the development of the Zoller supercharger. It is believed to have been raced by Freddie Hatton at Donnington.


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