Go back to Marques and Men pageSilver Bird

Robert Nellemann built his first car the "Nellemann" in 1947. The Silver Bird, of 1949 was the second special to be raced by Robert, but it was only this car that carried the name of Silver Bird, due to its polished aluminium bodywork. The Silver Bird was built on a Fiat 500 chassis, stiffened   by a welded-in channel-section sheet steel floor pan stretching from the front suspension portal frame to rear chassis cross-member and had a 500cc JAP engine and 4-speed BSA gearbox. The styling of Silver Bird may have been inspired by the Swedish Effyh but Silver Bird very much differed from the Effyh, both structurally and mechanically. Unlike the Effyh, which featured quarter elliptical springs arranged so as to effectively form double wishbones at both ends, the Silver Bird used the standard FIAT ‘Topolino’ front suspension, modified to accept telescopic dampers.

The rear suspension is highly individual: The engine, gearbox and rear axle are solidly mounted to an articulated sub frame, the banjo housing of the Topolino live axle being cut open and bestowed with additional bridging members in order to accommodate the final drive sprocket. This sub frame was located by a ball-and-socket joint on the centreline of the chassis rear cross member and the Topolino trailing quarter-elliptical springs and lever-arm dampers, the sub-frame thus effectively forming a rather short central radius arm. Although a simple solution for the avoidance of flex of the chain drives, the resulting rear suspension geometry must have been less than ideal, and with the rear un-sprung mass constituting a very significant proportion of the car’s total mass, ride on anything but the smoothest surfaces, which were definitely not the norm when Silver Bird saw active service, must have been quite harsh. Which is probably one of the main reasons for the car being equipped with a lap belt. Wheelbase was 2000 mm, track was 1110 and 1100 mm front and rear respectively, while the car weighed in at 230 kilos. All four wheels had hydraulic brakes, while a hand brake was mounted to the rear wheels.

Robert Nellemann in action in the Silver Bird.

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Robert Nellemann debuted the car on May Day in 1949, when he won at Aalborg, while later in the same month he rolled at Jägersro and came second in Stockholm. Nellemann finished second in that year's championship and thereafter he notched up several race wins, the most notables being the 1950 Korsør street race as well as the 1950 and 1951 Danish F3 Championships.

Silverbird now 1.jpg (38647 bytes)In 1952 Nellemann had acquired a contemporary Cooper Mk VI, so the Silver Bird was mainly used for races at trotting courses and speedway circuits. However, Nellemann did this to good effect, as he claimed the 1953 and 1955 Danish titles which were settled on the trotting courses of Amager and Skive respectively. Nellemann also had the honour of winning the first ever F3 race held at Roskildering,  the circuit was yet to receive a tarmac surface, but at the end of the 1956 season he had his last race with the car there, finishing third.

The Silver Bird stood idle for several years until 1965, when Bernhard Jespersen entered the car in the last ever Danish 500cc F3 Championship held as a four race series on speedway circuits. The car was beaten by Robert Nellemann, himself, who won the title in a red Cooper Mk XII, and thus ended the story of the car which had the longest spanning racing career in Denmark. Now, the Silver Bird is exhibited at the Egeskov Museum on Funen alongside Nellemann's Cooper.

Cockpit of Silver Bird.

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Engine bay showing JAP power and BSA gearbox.

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Our sincere thanks to Anders Bonde, Morten Alstrup and Vagn Nielsen of midgetracer.net for their research and pictures.

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