Bluebird CN7 and Donald Campbell 50th anniversary with Tonia Bern, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu



50th anniversay dinner Lake Eyre land speed record




Donald Campbell's wife Tonia speaks about losing speedster, 50 years after he sets land speed record:

"He was the love of my life.”

Those were the words of Tonia Bern-Campbell, wife of the late Donald Campbell, dubbed the world’s fastest man.

A close friend of George Dowty, founder of the Dowty Group, Campbell would visit Cheltenham regularly, with Tonia organising the French festival in town every year while they were married.

In the 1950s and 60s, speedster Campbell broke eight absolute world records on water and on land. And on 19 July 1964, he would hit 403.1mph, a land speed record.

That was not enough for the son of Sir Malcolm, a speed merchant himself. Campbell piloted his Bluebird K7 in Coniston Water in January 1967 hoping to break his own water speed record.

It would prove to be his last, as he was killed instantly after crashing around 330mph. His body was found only 34 years later.

His records are set to be part of a new exhibition at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, 50 years after setting the world speed record.

Speaking exclusively to the Echo from her home in California, Tonia is quoted as saying that she would never forget the day she lost her beloved.

“I can remember it very well. I wasn’t there with him, I was away at a charity show,” she said.

“I don’t really like to talk about it. I would say it was the worst day of my life, and affected me for months after, years even.

“He was just the most amazing guy. So many years, and it’s still difficult to talk about it.

“I think about Donald everyday, and I still talk about him all the time.

“It is like a beautiful memory, a crescendo in my life. I remember him that way.

“I try to be an optimistic person, and all the fun I had with him and the excitement during our lives together. It was beautiful. Those were volcanic days.”





Two commemorative plaques as a set, depicting the speedace beside his water and land speed record vehicles.




The pair had met at The Savoy in London during a press event, and would go on to get married less than a month later.

During the next nine years, she would follow Campbell to Cheltenham on his monthly visits to close friend George.

“I absolutely love Cheltenham, it’s a beautiful town. Even back then, it was very cosmopolitan and I felt at home there,” she said.

“I wanted to move to Cheltenham after what happened to Donald, because I had many close friends there at that time.

“But I was told I should go to America to start again as a singer. I had to leave England.”

She would now be making her way to Beaulieu next Saturday to tell her story at the new display called For Britain and For The Hell of It – The Story of Land Speed Records.




If Lake Coniston had not claimed him, tobacco may well have. Donald was, like so many people today, a victim of nicotine addiction. Cigars and pipe tobacco may not have been so damaging as cigarettes, but whatever form you ingest these carcinogenic fumes, they still stain you teeth, foul your breath and become ingrained in your way of life, right down to the ash tray in the car and home.




You are invited to join in a celebratory evening on Saturday 19 July, to mark the 50th Anniversary of Donald Campbell’s Land Speed Record of 403.10mph in Bluebird CN7. The 50th Anniversary of the water speed record set at Lake Eyre, is the 31st December 2014.


On 17 July 1964, despite mechanical problems and unpredictable weather, Donald Campbell and his team persevered to set a new British Land Speed Record of 403.10mph in Bluebird CN7 at Lake Eyre in Southern Australia. 50 years on, this iconic vehicle is an integral element of a new display, For Britain & For The Hell Of It, at the National Motor Museum, telling the story of the British Land Speed Records.

We cannot think of a better way to mark the 50th anniversary than spending an evening in the company of both the iconic Bluebird vehicle, and Donald Campbell’s widow, Tonia Bern-Campbell. The evening will include a screening of the digitally re-mastered film ‘How Long a Mile…’, dinner in the National Motor Museum, a talk by Tonia Bern-Campbell and the opportunity to explore the Museum including the new For Britain & For The Hell Of It display.

This evening is a must for any Campbell or Bluebird enthusiast. Places are limited so book before Friday 11th July to avoid disappointment.




Donald shows his affection for his beautiful wife




Tonia and Donald enjoying a day our with their E-Type Jaguar





19:00 Arrival at the Lecture Theatre in the National Motor Museum Collections' Centre.

19:20 Screening of ‘How Long a Mile…’ A forty minute film on Donald Campbell’s world breaking year of 1964 when he took the land and water speed records. This is the first public showing since being re-digitised by the National Motor Museum Trust Film & Video team at Beaulieu.

20:00 Dinner, served in the National Motor Museum. To see the menu, click here.

21:30 After dinner talk by Tonia Bern-Campbell.

22:00 Opportunity to explore the Museum.

23:00 Carriages.

Please note the dress code for the evening is smart; lounge suits for gentlemen and dresses or smart trouser suits for ladies.


Tonia Bern-Campbell seen here with Don Wales in July of 2014


Tonia Bern-Campbell seen here with Don Wales in July of 2014




Tickets for the evening are available to purchase until 5pm on Friday 11th July.

To book your individual tickets or a table, contact Leith’s at Beaulieu on 01590 614605 or by email

Ticket Price:  Individual  £110


Ticket Price: Table for Ten  £1,000


Prices include VAT. All tickets must be pre-booked.




The CN7 on the salt at Lake Eyre, Australia. Note Land Rover support vehicles




On 17 July 1964. Much excitement at Lake Eyre, South Australia, where Donald Campbell and his team set a new land speed record of 403.1mph. Typical British stoicism and determination was required in the face of unpredictable weather and mechanical problems in order for Bluebird CN7 to achieve the record. No-one ever said this stuff was easy.

Fifty years on, almost to the day (Saturday 19 July), the feat will be celebrated at Beaulieu with an evening in the company of not only Bluebird CN7 but also Donald Campbell’s widow, Tonia Bern-Campbell. The event will include a first public screening of a digitally re-mastered version of the film How Long a Mile, which details Campbell’s claim of both land and water speed records in the same year – a feat that has never been repeated.

After the screening, there will be an exclusive dinner at the National Motor Museum, and a talk by Tonia Bern-Campbell. Having read her excellent autobiography, My Speed King, I can speak from experience when I say she has some stories experiences to share. You’d assume that any way, of course, but it looks set to be a fascinating night. Nobody was closer to Campbell during that exciting period. There will also be a post-screening opportunity to explore the museum – including the new display, For Britain & For the Hell of It, in which CN7 is a central feature.

Tickets start from £90 per person, and can be booked on Beaulieu’s website.






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Napier Lion

Rolls Royce




Sir Malcolm Campbell and Blue Bird



The blue bird legend lives on: Inspired by Reid Railton and his designs for the Napier Lion and Rolls Royce engined Blue Bird LSR cars in the 1930s, with input from Ken Norris - designer of the CN7, the Blueplanet BE3 features instant battery recharging using the patent Bluebird™ cartridge exchange system under license from BMS. This LSR car is also solar assisted. She is designed for speeds in excess of 350mph using clean electricity and could be run at Daytona Beach, Pendine Sands and other historic venues, including Bonneville. BMS require 6 months notice for hire of this vehicle, or 3 months with considerable additional cost attaching.



Reid Railton inspired Blueplanet BE3









Jetstar (not a bluebird boat)




Donald Campbell and Ken Norris tribute, DC50 Ecostar electric car


Donald Campbell was into more than land and water speed records. He was working on a petrol powered jet propelled speedboat which he named 'Jetstar.'  He also was a keen motorist and owned many road cars that he painted blue. But, neither himself nor his father, Sir Malcolm, ever owned a road car bearing the blue bird legend, though we feel sure they would have liked to. The Ecostar DC50 concept car is the first. BMS Ltd has inbuilt power loaders in this innovative showcase prototype, to recharge its batteries in under 60 seconds using the patent Bluebird™ cartridge exchange system. The prototype vehicle is also solar assisted, which gives up to 200 free motoring miles a week, weather dependent. This is truly a sustainable car of the future which could be offered as a kit after the car has competed in the Cannonball ZEV Run (UK Jogle). We feel sure that Donald Campbell would have been pleased to see our DC50 as a fitting tribute to the 50th anniversary of his land and water speed records in the same year.




This website is Copyright © 2014 Bluebird Marine Systems Limited.   The names Bluebird™, Blueplanet BE3™, Ecostar DC50™, and the blue bird in flight Bluebird trademark legend, blue bird in flight logo logo are trademarks. The color blue is a protected feature of the marks. All other trademarks are hereby acknowledged.