Happy Chanukah: Car Jews Two – Dorothy Levitt, Pioneering Female Motorist, and Siegfried Bettmann, Founder of Triumph

Dorothy Levitt, in a 26 hp Napier, at Brooklands, 1908

The Jewish festival of Chanukah started yesterday night. The traditional observances on the eight day festival involve lighting a special 8 branched candelabra, lighting one flame on the first night and adding another candle each night. As this is the second night, we’ll feature two Jewish automotive personalities and hopefully we’ll do three tomorrow, four the next day, etcetera until the eighth day.

Siegfried Bettmann on an early Triumph motorcycle

Today’s selections are Dorothy Levitt (1883-1922), one of the first female motorists in the UK. She held women’s land and outright water speed records and was known as “the fastest girl on earth”. In her guide to women motorists, The Woman and the Car,  she combined fashion advice with instructions on how to rebuilt a carburetor. Joining Ms. Levitt is Siegfried Bettmann. Bettmann had a major role in both the automotive and motorcycling worlds in that he was the founder of Triumph, originally a bicycle firm. He emigrated from Nuremberg, Germany to Coventry, where he started out selling sewing machines, later switching to bicycles with his partner Maurice Schulte. Bettmann might be better known had he named his company after himself, but worried about anti-semitism, he decided on a name that had no ethnic connections. Wisely he deliberately picked Triumph which could be pronounced and understood in most languages.

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