Malcolm Campbell had more to do with the world land
speed record than any other man. He held it nine
times with three different cars over a period of
It was an obsession with him which
dominated his life, allied later to the world water
speed record. His son Donald later inherited the
same singleness of purpose.
Malcolm Campbell first
became involved in 1924, when he was already an established
and successful Brooklands driver. His first goal
was 150 mph., and his first car for the purpose the
350 horse-power Sunbeam in which Guinness had taken
the record to 133.75 mph.
Eldridge's Fiat held the record
at 146.01 when Campbell decided to make his first
attempt. He took over the Sunbeam, made many changes
to it, and twice broke the record, but the A.I.A.C.R.
would not approve the timing apparatus.
was a determined, stubborn, man and was made more
so by these early setbacks. He called all his cars "Bluebird" right
from the first Sunbeam, in which he set his first
world record at Pendine Sands in 1924.
His second Bluebird,
built after he had taken the record twice with the
Sunbeam, was the aero-engined Napier-Campbell which
put the speed up four times, finally to 253.97 mph.
Campbell, with this car, was the first man to build
a car capable of taking the record but of no use
for any other purpose.
But he was never satisfied,
although he put the speed on wheels up past 200 miles
an hour and then 250. More and more powerful engines
went into the Bluebird, the chassis was lengthened,
and new sites which would afford the Bluebird a longer
straight were sought.
Finally Campbell achieved 301.13
mph., which was fast even for an aeroplane in 1935.
The Rolls-Royce engine which he used was the forerunner
of the Merlin which powered the Battle of Britain Spitfires.
In his constant searching for more suitable sites,
Campbell became the first man to break the record at
the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, where his last record
was established. Bonneville has been the site for many
successful attempts since then.
We have said that Malcolm
Campbell used three cars to set up his nine world land
speed records. To be strictly accurate he used only
two cars, but the second one was extensively modified
no less than five times.
For his first two successful
attempts he used the 350 horse-power Sunbeam. This
is of course discounting Campbell's first two efforts,
one at Saltburn, Lancashire, and one on the Danish
island of Fanoe, on both of which he broke the existing
record but failed to have his times accepted.
he used the V12 Sunbeam, Campbell covered the original
somewhat stumpy tail with a longer streamlined affair.
He also went to some trouble to streamline all projections,
including the outside handbrake lever, the rear axle,
and the brake gear. In addition a headrest was fitted
and a wind deflector on the scuttle. The six exhaust
pipes on each side were cut off flush with the bonnet.
Discs were added to the rear wheels. For his second
run in July, 1925, the long exhaust pipes were replaced,
and the new windscreen scrapped. Worth mentioning is
Campbell’s chief mechanic
Leo Villa, who not only carried out the majority
of modifications to Malcolm Campbell machinery, but
would go on to assist Douglas also.