The Garage is proud to present the legendary Blue Birds of Sir Malcolm Campbell.
Designed by Louis Coatalen and built in 1922 it was powered by a V-12, 18,322-cc Manitou aircraft engine and with drum brakes on the rear only. This car was bought by Malcolm Campbell in 1923, after it had broken the records at Brooklands in May 1922, when Kenelm Lee Guinness drove it on the track at 135.75 mph.
The engine was modified and a streamlined nose cowl and pointed tail were added in 1923-24 before Malcolm got his first official record with the car at Pendine Sands in Wales, on 25th September, 1924. His speed was 146.16 mph.
Immediately afterwards he put the car up for sale for £1,500 but then relented and decided to spend some additional time with it when he learned that Parry Thomas was about to make a serious attempt with the ex-Zborowski re-bodied Higham Special which Thomas had renamed Babs. Campbell returned to Pendine in mid July of 1925 and on 21st July raised the record to 150.76 mph, becoming the first driver to exceed 150 mph. To commemorate this he had some large scale models of the Sunbeam built, at least two of which are known to have survived.
This was the first car specifically built as a land speed record breaker. Powered by a Napier Lion 450-hp Broad Arrow engine, with three banks of four cylinders, the chassis was initially by Amherst Villiers, later Joseph Maina took over the mechanical design.
It was built partly at the Robin Hood Engineering Works at Kingston, Surrey and partly at Povey Cross, Campbell's home. First trials were in January 1927, first record at Pendine Sands in Wales on 4th February, 1927. His speed was 174.88 mph.
Now powered by a Napier 900-hp unit, another Broad Arrow engine, designed for the Schneider Trophy Air Race. The cars body was redesigned with a long, low nose and a detachable tail fin, with surface radiators mounted on either side of the tail.
An attempt was made to streamline the wheels by fitting fairings fore and aft and by using light discs to cover the wheel spokes. The sides of the cockpit were raised to protect Campbell from the slipstream. The new body was made and fitted by Mulliners. First trials and and a first record of 206.95 mph at Daytona Beach, Florida on 19th February, 1928.
This car had the same 900-hp engine but now sported a new more streamlined body built and fitted at Dumfries by Arrol Aster.
It was much lower and was distinguished by a hump around the cockpit, due to the size of the gearbox and the fact that Campbell was seated astride it. Surface radiators were dispensed with in this reincarnation. First trials were at Verneuk Pan, South Africa in April 1929. Five and ten mile records were achieved and the speed reached on the record attempt was 218 mph.
Redesigned by Reid Railton and powered by a supercharged 900-hp Napier engine, developing 1,450-hp, this version of the car had an offset prop shaft and gearbox, to give Campbell a lower driving position alongside the gearbox, as well as improved streamlining.
It had a new gearbox and the fairings around the wheels were increased in size. Mechanical alterations were made by Thomson and Taylor's, the new body made by Gurney, Nutting's. First trials were at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1931. The first record was 246.09 mph at Daytona Beach on 5th February, 1931.
Powered by an R-type, supercharged 2,500-hp V-12 Rolls Royce engine, this engine required another new body with two bulges covering the cylinder banks and a forward facing air intake for the supercharger protruding from the nose, to create a ram air effect.
This new body was again built by Gurney, Nutting's. First trials were again at Daytona Beach in February 1933, with the first record in this car set at 272.46 mph at Daytona Beach on 22nd February 1933.
This car was powered by the same R-type Rolls Royce engine as 1933. This final version of the Blue Bird embodied some of the chassis of the 1927 car, plus the original front axle, brake drums and shoes.
It had a new back axle with twin wheels out of alignment and double crown wheels and pinion. It also had a completely new body with an air intake slot in the nose which could be closed of for additional streamlining.
This cars first record was 276.82 mph at Daytona Beach on 7th March, 1935. Subsequently this same year, this Blue Bird was taken to Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where on the 3rd of September, 1935 Sir Malcolm Campbell set his last land speed record at 301.13 mph.
Blue Birds - art and advertising:
1924 Campbell Sunbeam Bluebird by Yuriy Shevchuk
1928 Napier-Campbell Blue Bird III by Peter Miller
1933 Campbell at Daytona by Yuriy Shevchuk