Legendary Ladies Of Motorsport: Violette Cordery
How does driving in reverse for 25 miles sound to you? Mental? Maybe, but there was method to Violette Cordery’s madness.
It’s all thanks to Violette’s sister Evelyn, really. Evelyn married the car manufacturer Noel Macklin. Jacklin saw a motoring enthusiast in Violette and deciding to keep business in the family chose her as the driver that would test Invicta cars to their limits.
The 1920s for Violette were roaring, literally. A year after the launch of the Invicta marquee, Cordery lead a six-strong team round Italy’s Monza’s circuit in a for 10,000 miles, averaging 56.47 mph before doing the same thing but for 5000 miles longer to take the record at an average speed of 55.76mph. Cordery picked up the most unimaginative nickname ever of ‘The Long Distance Lady’ but only after she drove 5000 miles around Montlhery, averaging 70.7mph. Take a moment to feel bad for the RAC who had to supervise the whole thing. But they couldn’t have been too bored because they awarded Violette with the Dewar Trophy, celebrating her achievement as “the most meritorious observed performance” of that year. Golly.
Just clocking up the miles by the thousands round a track ad nauseam seems like a pretty insane way to test a car that’s for a commercial market. But not if what you’re doing is stress testing it for the coolest publicity stunt of the time. It seems that these tests of endurance were in preparation for a mammoth challenge in 1927: circumnavigating the globe. Accompanied by a nurse, an RAC observer and a mechanic, Cordery set off from her home in Cobham, Surrey on the round-the-world, bone shaking 10,266 mile journey. Over five months, Cordery drove across five continents. The journey attracted a huge amount of publicity and, we imagine, an incredibly sore rear.
If you think that this heralded the indisputable resilience of Invicta cars in Violette’s mind, think again. A year later in 1928 the Cordery sisters teamed up to beat another record. Over 21 days and nights the sisters drove 30,000 miles round Brooklands circuit, averaging 61.57mph. Still not satisfied with displaying the marquee’s indestructibility, Violette drove from London Monte Carlo and back in third gear, from London to John O’Groats in second gear and finally, from London to Edinburgh in first gear. It was then that Violette had the idea of driving in reverse. We’re disappointed to report that RAC officials believed that the car would not be able to withstand such a feat. Instead, the test driver completed fifty laps of the RAC’s Traffic Route averaging 11.9mph. Unimpressed? She did it in top gear.
Violette Cordery’s announced her retirement upon marrying the future winner of the 1935 Le Mans 24-Hour Race, John Hindmarsh. But her intention was not to shrink like her name suggests; she was to devote her attentions to aviation. Sadly, the death of her husband in 1938 while test flying a Hawker Hurricane meant her retirement from public life, possibly out of fear of leaving their two young daughters as orphans. Fortunately a love of motoring continued in the family as one of her girls married the F1 racer Roy Salvadori. Violet died in 1983.
Violette’s mania for pushing the Invicta to its limits was fun, whimsical and unorthodox. In the face of working in an undoubtedly dangerous profession her appreciation and respect for the value of life is something to be admired.
How would you test your car to destruction?