The Campbells are famous for driving fast and crashing hard - Is that par for the course, or just bad luck




The end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end?





Lord Montagu purchased the Sunbeam Blue Bird in 1957 by way of an addition to his car collection. The car was restored to working order when it was taken to motoring venues in the UK, Europe and as far away as South Africa. Its last outing was at the British Automobile Racing Club Festival of Motoring at Goodwood in July 1962 when Lord Montagu took it on a 3-lap demonstration run and Donald Campbell did a lap d’Honneur.


What fun then to have the car working for another run at Pendine Sands on the 21st July 2015, albeit at very low speeds, and driven by Sir Malcolm's grandson, Don Wales. Apparently, the Museum went all out to re-create some of the historic photographs that are now circulating free of all copyright on the web. It was a good effort, but the poses were not quite up to par, which you might have expected if (for example) this was for a movie. Also, the slow speed of the car meant that the wheels were not the same distinctive oval shape as when the Sunbeam is traveling fast. What they needed was a director like Spielberg or Scott at the helm of some authentic movietone cameras.


Interestingly, in 1993 during a test firing of the V12 lump, disaster struck when a blocked oil way in the block prevented lubricating oil from reaching bore, etc., caused a seizure, when the engine threw a connecting rod, and put a piston through the block, like many an ancient rotovator. For several years after that, the car was on display at Beaulieu with a sizable hole in its engine where the piston and con-rod had punched their way out.







The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is home to many famous vehicles and from time to time hosts special events to bring home some of the best and worst moments in British motorsport.


Donald Campbell set many records, including a record number of crashes - one might think almost a death wish - and possibly a lesson that his family have learned from, as following Gina Campbell's high speed flip, no member of the Campbell dynasty has come forward to attempt an outright land or water speed record, and who can blame them. The odds are not good, with yet another family member hurtling off course on Pendine Sands at relatively low speeds. Is this a pattern?


Donald had already survived a spectacular crash at Bonneville, when he beat that with one of the most horrific high-speed crashes to create one of the defining images of the 1960s. We all know the story backwards, because the media, museums and authors by the dozen have milked the story to death.


We were all waiting for another Campbell to shake off the curse, but it never came. No more giant jet powered vehicles, just a parade of insignificant attempts and records, that would not have been entertained by the two great stars of daredevil speeding from 1924 to 1964. And that is why those forty years were the glory years. They will never be repeated by a member of this family - and it's probably best left there as we remember it.




Where's the grass and is that mower red?




Bluebird was hurtling across Coniston Water when it crashed at more than 300mph, killing Donald Campbell in front of horrified observers watching his world water speed record attempt from the shore.

Campbell nearly lost his life in another accident seven years earlier in 1960. He was attempting to set a new land speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in Bluebird CN7 when the high-powered vehicle crashed during a test run. Campbell suffered a fractured skull and a perforated ear drum in the 360mph drama.

Bluebird was subsequently rebuilt at tremendous expense and went on to achieve a record speed of 403mph on salt plains at Lake Eyre, Australia, in 1964. The problem with this record is that the car was already out of date, as Goldenrod showed when it took the record for a fraction of the cost in a truly remarkable design leap away from the monsters that were by then the norm.



The nose panel from the original crash vehicle is set to go on show at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, in 2014 where it will form part of a tribute to Campbell and other speed aces. Beaulieu is already home to the redesigned CN7, which has been on show at the award-winning attraction for more than 40 years.

Andrea Bishop, director of collections, is quoted as saying: “It’s a real privilege for the museum to acquire this link to the vehicle’s early history.
The panel bears the scars of what must have been a terrifying accident.”





An unforgettable sequence, tragic and spectacular all at once. Donald Campbell's Bluebird somersaulting before sinking at Coniston Water, Lancs. 03/01/1997: A theory about why the waterspeed ace's body was never recovered after his 1967 crash on the lake was disclosed on the eve of the tragedy's 30th anniversary. *08/03/01Efforts are continuing in the Lake District to recover the boat in which Donald crashed on Coniston Water January 1967 during an attempt on the water speed record.. Although the location of Bluebird's grave was known in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, it was soon forgotten and only recently rediscovered by a TV crew making a documentary. Paul Evans, who was running the radio communications during Campbell's bid to become the first man to break 300 mph on water, believes he was hurled backwards through the turbine blades of the jet engine of his boat Bluebird. 04/02/01: Divers have found the submerged wreck of Campbell's jet-powered boat, 34 years after he was killed, a family friend said. Campbell was attempting to break the world water speed record on Coniston Water, Cumbria, when the boat vaulted from the lake's surface and somersaulted repeatedly before crashing, killing him instantly. The location of Bluebird - and Campbell's body - has eluded his family and divers but it has now emerged that a team of divers discovered the wreck at the end of 2000. 25/10/02 : An inquest into his death is opening at Coniston later today. The craft was recovered March 2001, and Campbell's body was found nearby a few weeks later in May.



The Malcolm Campbell Heritage Trust, named after Donald Campbell’s father, has loaned the panel to the museum after receiving it from Stadco Ltd, formerly Motor Panels Ltd – the manufacturing company that worked on the CN7. It features the Bluebird insignia flanked by the British and American flags.

A museum spokesman is quoted as saying: “Following the crash, the CN7 returned to Motor Panels Ltd. During the repairs the panel was removed and replaced and spent the next 50 years at various places on the site before being donated to the trust, which has now loaned it to the museum.”

Don Wales, Donald Campbell’s nephew, is quoted as saying: “We’re very grateful to Stadco for returning this special panel to the family. “It’s an iconic piece of motoring history and we’re delighted to be able to loan it to Beaulieu for the new land speed record breakers display being unveiled next year.”

The display at Beaulieu will feature four iconic cars – the CN7, Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird 350hp, Major Henry Segrave’s Sunbeam 1000hp and Golden Arrow.

The panel and a host of other rare artifacts will be showcased alongside the record breakers themselves.

Russell Bowman, chief executive of the National Motor Museum Trust, said: “We are delighted that visitors will be able to see the original panel alongside the car itself. It will help us illustrate the determination exhibited by Donald Campbell and his team to overcome major setbacks and achieve his 1964 record.”




Raoul Crerelot - Timekeeper Lake Coniston in 1966. 'Old Father Time', the Donald Campbell team's affectionate name for 67 year old Raoul Crerelot who, with 4,500-worth of chronometers and cameras, is waiting to time Campbell's attempt on the world water speed record on Lake Coniston. Raoul, from Longines of Switzerland, had been by the lakeside for 4 weeks waiting for the calm water necessary for the attempt.



Truly Donald Campbell must have been one of the most driven men of his time. He was an ordinary man to look at, and not particularly handsome. That may in part make up for the near obsession he exhibited in trying to live up to his father's achievements, that coupled with the three women in his life, one of which, Tonia Bern, was very attractive and a successful singer. 


The subject is a psychologists dream. Why did this man propel himself to an almost certain early grave. Campbell knew the fate of John Cobb in Crusader. He knew the slightest obstacle in the water would spell death - and knowing that he headed out onto the lake through a wash that was bound to cause problems for such a delicately balanced craft. Did he have a death wish? It is hardly surprising that many thought the crash was a publicity stunt. And one may argue that it was, for it certainly gave us headlines - but at what cost. 








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Ecostar club circuit racer with Bluebird cartridge recharging


The Bluebird legend lives on: The first road car to use our blue bird trademark is the electrically powered Ecostar DC50, a long distance runner that uses cartridges to recharge instantly (in under a minute). This is achieved with built in Bluebird power loaders, enabling the car to recharge at any road stop where a cartridge is waiting to be picked up. The DC50 may be upgraded for clubman circuit events.




Beaulieu UK news blue-bird celebrates 90th anniversary record at Pendine!






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