Anniversary run of Sir Malcolm Campbells Sunbeam land speed record Bluebird car - Media Review.



Gina Campbell and Don Wales, grandaughter and grandson admire grandad's car


GRANDDAD'S CAR  - Granddaughter and grandson perch on the front axle of their granddad's magnificent smoke belcher. Both Gina Campbell and Don Wales have attempted to emulate the exploits of Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell in striving for outright land and water speed records at one time or another, Gina on water and Don on land. It's a tough call, that proved impossible to replicate. Hats off to them in any event for giving it a go.



Ninety years may seem like an odd number to choose to celebrate an anniversary, where the one hundred year mark is more to the point. That said and as with many restored vintage cars, the Sunbeam Blue Bird looks better now than it did when Captain Malcolm Campbell raced it at Pendine Sands in South Wales, so why not give it an airing.


Accompanying the superbly maintained antique car, and dressed in a costume designed to reflect the period, including his grandfather's plus-fours, Sir Malcolm's grandson sat behind the wheel for some low speed motoring nostalgia. We cannot help but think that having gone to all this trouble, that it's a shame that Mr Wales does not look a bit more like Sir Malcolm [he looks more like his father] whereas his cousin, Gina Campbell, has all of the distinctive facial features of the famous speed ace.


As expected, the event became a controlled media circus - with no intention of running the vehicle at anywhere near record speeds of course - though secretly we suspect that all gathered were hoping for a blast of petrol gurgling speed and thunderous roar as they watched the wire wheels carry the blue bodywork into the sunset.


Some may say that this would never happen today, because of the run a few years back where an electric car driven by the speed ace's great grandson broke its suspension on this same beach, but it is more likely to be an insurance decision to reign in the throttle. Although, we know that the BE1 also suffered a fractured suspension component during an event in London when Mr Wales was in attendance. They do say the Campbell's are cursed, so better not risk it. Pendine was though the scene of some Hot Rod racing on the 6th of July 2015 when some high spirited driving was in evidence. The Sunbeam Blue Bird is a one off that would take a lot of money to repair, if there were any mishap. The nation can thank the Montague family for pouring their resources into keeping this interesting vehicle on top form.



The 350 horse power Sunbeam Blue Bird racing car at Beaulieu


THE SANDS OF TIME - The Sunbeam Blue Bird of Malcolm Campbell was a 350hp aircraft engined car, already with a significant racing pedigree.  Between 1922-4 Brooklands racer Captain Malcolm Campbell began his long association with the Land Speed Record.  Captain Campbell borrowed the Sunbeam in 1923 to compete in the Saltburn Speed Trials, when he achieved a speed of 138mph/222.09kph. This was after the car had broken the records at Brooklands in May of 1922, when Kenelm Lee Guinness drove it on the track at 135.75 mph. Campbell purchased and modified the 350hp car, painted it in his favourite shade of blue and named it 'Blue Bird' after his Brooklands racing cars. The Sunbeam 350HP is an aero-engined car built by the Sunbeam company in 1922, the first of several land speed record breaking cars with aircraft engines. These engines are real smokers: ecological nightmares. Modern petrol engines can return over 80 miles per gallon and a small 1.8 litre mill is more than capable of 150 miles per hour in an ordinary family hatchback. Forward men and don't look back! What do you think Sir Malcolm would have made of that?



Don Wales, grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell


VINTAGE MOTORING - This Sunbeam was designed by Louis Coatalen and built in 1920 with drum brakes on the rear only. Campbell had the engine modified and added a streamlined nose cowl and pointed tail in 1924 - before Malcolm got his first official record with the car at Pendine Sands in Wales, on 25th September, 1924.


Sir Malcolm was not a mechanic, nor did he ever get his hands dirty actually making any of his vehicles - he knew his limitations. Despite reliance on hired help, on the Pendine Sands in South Wales, Campbell raised the record twice to 146.163 and then 150.766mph. Immediately after this success Malcolm put the car up for sale for £1,500, thinking that his record was safe,  but then withdrew from the sale, deciding to spend some additional time with the car. This was after he'd 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 so on the 21st July raised the record to 150.76 mph, becoming the first driver in the world to exceed 150 mph. 


Once that record was clinched, Campbell would be looking about for a faster vehicle and designer who could keep his ambitions of being the fastest driver on earth alive. Dinosaurs such as the Sunbeam are a fascinating reminder of just how far we have come. Not only that, but if you plot the vehicles and speeds as part of a study, you will realize that there is more to come. The future is electric, as we battle to reign in climate change. As Ken Norris once said to the BE1 designer, "study what has gone before and learn from their mistakes." Historic vehicles are therefore of great importance to car makers of today, as a reference baseline from which to do better.



The 350HP was first raced at Brooklands in 1920 by Harry Hawker. In October Rene Thomas set a new record at the Gaillon hill climb.

In May 1922 Kenelm Lee Guinness set three records with it: the Brooklands lap record at 123.30 mph (198.43 km/h), then the land speed record over a mile at 129.17 mph (207.88 km/h) and over a kilometre at 133.75 mph (215.25 km/h) – this was the last land speed record to be set on the Brooklands track.


With this pedigree, Campbell set his heart on owning the beast. He knew that with some tinkering that he could take the land speed record in this car with ease, since none of the previous drivers had spotted the prospect. It was an off-the-shelf bargain for the opportunist.






Sir Malcolm Campbell's grandson takes record-breaking Blue Bird out for a spin. They say history has an uncanny way of repeating itself - and the grandson of motoring daredevil Sir Malcolm Campbell can prove it.

Don Wales, 54, got behind the wheel of the car his grandfather used to smash the land-speed record 90 years ago.

In 1925, the 350hp Sunbeam topped 150mph on the sands of Pendine in west Wales, making history and entering the record books in the process.

Fast-forward to 2015 and it was Mr Wales in the driving seat as a crowd of hundreds witnessed the classic 22ft supercar roar once more.

The event was organised by the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, whose mechanics spent more than 2,000 hours restoring just the engine.

Although the 18.3-litre monster was not fully let off the leash during a low-speed demonstration, the car known as Blue Bird still possessed its distinctive roar.

Mr Wales, who even donned the same style clothing as Sir Malcolm, said: "It's quite incredible to think that 90 years ago today my grandfather achieved 150mph in this machine." "To even sit in the car is something special, let alone drive it."

"I think if he were alive today he would probably be on my shoulder saying 'go on son, put your foot down more', because he was driven by speed." "It's a fantastic machine and feeling the wind in your hair was something else."

Mr Wales, also a land-speed record holder at one time, added: "I was very nervous beforehand because I had never driven the car before - and I didn't want to blot my copybook." "It has fearsome power and just kept wanting to go faster. It's a real feat of engineering."





RACING GOGGLES - Doing his best to simulate the look of his grandfather, Don Wales got behind the wheel of the 350 horsepower Sunbeam for some controlled runs to please the press boys gathered on the Welsh beach. With a little plastic surgery, Mr Wales could have his nose and chin altered to look a bit more like granddad, but that would be going too far. His head is the wrong shape, Sir Malcolm had a stronger jaw-line and pronounced forehead. Don looks more like his father, Lt-Col Charles Wales, who was a former tank driving instructor. With some elocution lessons, Mr Wales might even adopt the spitfire 1930s vocals that take us back to the Wall Street crash of 1929 and King Kong (1933). Sir Malcolm's interviews were spattered liberally with "ers" as he recalled technical details for British Movietone, Pathé News (RKO Radio Pictures) and other news-reels of the day. The racing goggle are not the same as the close hinged items seen in other pictures of Sir Malcolm on this page, but they do look the part and are all but identical to another pair that the speed ace wore, that Don and Beaulieu have worked together to re-create. Also, Don's tie is not stripped and the blue jumper is fresh out of the bag, complete with packaging folds. Mr Wales has though come a long way from his young-faced days in the 1990s - a great improvement. All in all it was a jolly good effort by all.



Sir Malcolm Campbell and the K3 water speed record boat


Karl Foulkes-Halbard in the K3


ANOTHER GOOD EFFORT, NOVEMBER 2012 - The same can be said of Karl Faulkes-Halbard (Filching Manor Motor Museum) who took to the water in the K3 Blue Bird water speed record boat in November of 2012, complete with hat and goggles. Karl Faulkes-Halbard is seen above in the K3 on Bewl Water November 2012 (above left and right). Sir Malcolm took the water speed record in 1937 (and again the following year) he topped 130 mph on Italy’s Lake Maggiore to claim the World Water Speed Record back from the Americans (top). What makes the K3 so iconic is not just the fact that it was the first chapter in the epic Campbell powerboat story, but that after more than two decades of hard work from Paul and now Karl Foulkes-Halbard (above left), she is once again seaworthy. Actually, the boat will never be seaworthy, she is a river (lake) boat and not at all suitable for use on the high seas. Almost the entire craft has been restored to the same glorious form that saw her put Britain back on top way back in 1937.



ITV NEWS 21 July 2015

Don Wales to recreate record-breaking Bluebird run of grandfather Sir Malcolm Campbell.

The car that took Sir Malcolm Campbell to his first world land speed record 90 years ago is to return to the scene of the triumph today.

The 350hp Sunbeam Bluebird will be back at Pendine Sands in South Wales where it peaked at 150mph in 1925 and will be driven by a modern day record breaker and Campbell descendant, Don Wales.

However, Sir Malcolm's grandson won't be let too loose in Bluebird. Instead he will mark the occasion, which has been organised by the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu and who now owns the car, with a commemorative low-speed demonstration run.

Wales, himself a land speed record holder, will aim to re-create two iconic pictures from the original run, including dressing as his grandfather was on the day.

Renamed Blue Bird by Sir Malcolm when he bought it, the Sunbeam holds three world land speed records, the first by Kenelm Lee Guinness at Brooklands - the world's first purpose-built race circuit - in 1922 with a speed of 133.75mph.

Campbell then bought the car and quickly painted it in its famous colour scheme and in September 1924 set a new record speed of 146mph, raising it the following year to 150.76mph.

After Campbell sold it, the car had a number of owners before being bought in poor condition in 1957 by Lord Montagu who restored it.


“I am really looking forward to driving the 350hp Sunbeam, which is the car that gave my grandfather his first Land Speed Record,” said Wales.


“I cannot believe that I will get this fantastic opportunity to drive this iconic machine on Pendine. It will also be fun to dress in costume to look as my grandfather did in the pictures taken 90 years ago.”


The run will take place at 4pm today, starting from the area of the beach next to the Pendine Museum of Speed.




MAGNIFICENT - For us the stills are more impressive than the actual footage of the run. Now what about a nostalgic run for the CN7 at Bonneville or even Lake Eyre. Wow!  Sir Anthony Hopkins would be the logical choice to play the part, but, and much to our everyone's upset, this most incredible actor is also subject to the ravages of time. We are sure though, that if the BBC were to decide to repeat the success of Across The Lake, except that, this time with the jet powered car as the vehicle, such a film would be a success on par with the World's Fastest Indian. Now there's an idea. Should such a project be considered seriously, film producers should know that BMS would be happy to grant license for the use of the registered blue bird trademark, if that would assist.



Donald Campbell and Leo Villa with the Sunbeam V12 and Proteus jet Bluebird cars


ENTER THE JET AGE - Donald Campbell is seen here leaning on the 350hp V12 piston engined Sunbeam while chatting to his mechanic, Leo Villa, in this publicity photograph. The CN7 is the vehicle being promoted, along with BP motor oil and Coventry Motor Panels, the company which built the amazing jet powered Bluebird car (twice) for Mr Campbell.




Land speed record-breaker back for special date. THE record-breaking Blue Bird car has been wheeled out to celebrate the 90th anniversary.

Racing legend Sir Malcolm Campbell smashed the land speed record by reaching more than 150mph in the motor in 1924.




The Bluebird racing car which set a land speed record for Sir Malcolm Campbell 90 years ago was yesterday brought back to the scene of the triumph by his grandson.

Don Wales recreated his grandfather’s historic moment as he drove the car at a more sedate walking speed on Pendine Sands in Wales where it hit more than 150mph in 1925.

The Bluebird - now kept at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire - was fired up for the first time in 50 years following a rebuild last year.

Mr Wales said: ‘It is marvellous to be back at Pendine with Bluebird. We always get a marvellous reception.’

The 350hp Sunbeam Bluebird, built in 1919, was given a commemorative low-speed demonstration run on the seven-mile long sands of the Carmarthenshire beach.

Sir Malcolm bought the car to paint it in its famous colour scheme - and in September 1924 set a new record speed of 146mph, raising it the following year to 150.76mph.

After Campbell sold it, the car had a number of owners before being bought in poor condition in 1957 by Lord Montagu who restored it at his Beaulieu home.



Sunbeam cars designed by Louis Coatalen, Reid Railton



Mr Wales, 54, said yesterday: ‘The car gave my grandfather his first Land Speed Record.

‘I cannot believe that I have get this fantastic opportunity to drive this iconic machine on Pendine.

‘It is also be fun to dress in costume to look as my grandfather did in the pictures taken 90 years ago.’

The run took place next to the Pendine Museum of Speed with hundreds of fans ready to cheer it on.

Sir Malcolm Campbell gained the world speed record on land and on water at various times during the 1920s and 1930s - and all his vehicles were called Bluebird.

His son, Donald Campbell, carried on the family tradition - breaking eight absolute world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s. He was killed in another attempt in the Lake District in 4 January 1967 when his boat somersaulted at more than 300mph.

Mr Wales – Donald Campbell’s nephew - has been maintaining the family record-breaking tradition since setting the UK National Land Speed Record for an electric car at 116mph in 1998.





LAWNMOWER MAN - On Saturday 22nd May 2010 Don Wales broke the World Land Speed Record for a lawnmower when he achieved 86.069mph. Don cut grass outside Pendine's Museum of Speed with the "Project Runningblade" machine, before taking to the Sands for his run. We are not quite sure why this project would appeal to Mr Wales or to the National Motor Museum for that matter. With so many fabulous machines to choose from, why get involved with an off-road utility vehicle. Next they'll be racing garbage trucks. We know that there was a connection with milk floats, that also did not make sense. Please chaps, stay on course.



OVER YONDER: Then in April 2014 Don's record was shattered by the above Honda, taking the new record to 116 miles per hour - a 35% increase in speed. In our opinion, Mr Wales should stay clear of lawn mowers and milk floats to be able to concentrate on records that are more in keeping with the traditions of his grandfather, uncle and cousin. Especially so if these vehicles are not true thoroughbred bluebirds, more a sideshow distraction and all the wrong colour to boot.



In 2009 he set a World Land Speed Record for a steam powered car of 148mph, and in 2010 he returned to Pendine Sands and set the World Lawn Mower Record with a speed of 87mph.

He died at his home in Reigate, Surrey, in 1948 after suffering a series of strokes.

His son, Donald, went onto break eight world speed records in the 1950s and 60s. He remains the only person to set both the land and water speed records in the same year. The daredevil achieved that feat in 1964.

He began using his father's old boat Bluebird K4, but after a structural failure at 170 mph in 1951, he developed the Bluebird K7. 

He was killed on January 4, 1967, when his jet-powered boat, the Bluebird K7, flipped and disintegrated at a speed in excess of 300mph. 

Mr Campbell was trying to break his own water speed record of 276mph when the crash happened.

His body was not recovered until 2001 - 34 years after his death.

After the discovery his daughter Gina said she felt "totally relieved". 

He was buried near Coniston water following a funeral service.

Mr Wales – Donald Campbell’s nephew - has been maintaining the family record-breaking tradition since setting the UK National Land Speed Record for an electric car at 116mph in 1998.

In 2009 he set a World Land Speed Record for a steam powered car of 148mph, and in 2010 he returned to Pendine Sands and set the World Lawn Mower Record with a speed of 87mph.





THE REAL DEAL - Sir Malcolm was not a practical mechanic, nor a designer, though he was to some extent a visionary. Consequently, he relied upon (consultant) designers and a bevy of mechanics to advise upon and service his racing vehicles. His son Donald was similar in this respect, as is Sir Malcolm's grandson, Don Wales. Donald Campbell carried with him more crew, as is apparent from the men crawling all over the CN7 during record attempts. DC did everything on a larger scale than his father. Most probably because his father once said to him words to the effect: "You'll never be as famous as me." Then of course, Sir Malcolm wrote a will designed to prevent his son Donald from getting his hands on any of the family racing machinery. That is another reason why the Blue Birds of Sir Malcolm are not owned by members of the Campbell family. There was a trust set up by surviving family members, but that trust appears not to own or control any of the famous Bluebirds. We stand to be corrected if we have got that wrong.



Jack Vittriano style painting of the Sunbeam Blue Bird


ART - Superb representation of Captain Malcolm Campbell admiring his handiwork, having painted a sports car blue in the early hours of the morning - and of the Sunbeam on a wet sand beach. Vettriano is famous for his paintings of Blue Birds at Pendine Sands and the Bonneville Salt Flats. If the story of Malcolm painting a car blue is true (we've not cause to think otherwise), this might be the one occasion that Campbell worked on a car himself.






Sunbeam Motor Co. of Wolverhampton




Louis Coatalen

Body and chassis

Body style

Open wheel racing car



18.3-litre V12 Sunbeam Manitou of 350 hp (260 kW)


Hotchkiss 4-speed pre-selector, 

multi-plate clutch

Back Axle

Bevel final drive ratio 1.5:1



10 ft 7 in (3.2 m), track 4 ft 6 in (1.4 m)


16 ft (4.9 m)

Curb weight

1,550 kg (3,417 lb)




Engine Manufacturer: Sunbeam
Cylinders: V12
Bore: 120mm
Stroke: 135/142mm
Cubic Capacity: 18,322cc
Valves: 2 exhaust, 1 inlet, overhead camshaft
Carburettors: 2 Claudel-Hobson HC7
Max. Power: 355 b.h.p. at 2,300 rpm



Chassis: Channel section frame
Suspension: elliptic springs
Shock Absorbers: Hydraulic and Hartford
Brakes: 18 in. diameter drum
Wheels: Rudge-Whitworth wire, 880mm x 120mm




Few LSR cars have such a long and distinguished career after their racing days are done. The Sunbeam Blue Bird is seen here in pristine condition at a recent event, promoting Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum as a super display to those bygone days of thunder-cars.






NOSTALGIA - The exquisite lines of the BluePlanet LSR (below) were inspired by Reid Railton and his classic designs for the Napier Lion and Rolls Royce engined Blue Bird LSR cars in the 1930s, 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. To hire the BE3 for your event, please contact BMS and ask for Leslie or Terry. The project team need at least 6 months advance notice of venues. The blue bird legend lives on.






SMART-CHARGER - This graceful electric car concept is potentially the world's fastest vehicle to be powered by hydrogen energy cartridges. This streamliner is theoretically capable of 400mph using the latest production electric motors, but is designed to beat 208mph at Pendine Sands in the United Kingdom, to beat the Ford Fusion 999 record, and then 350mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA, to beat the Buckeye Bullet 2 record of 303mph. This car features a built in energy cartridge swapping system, charged using renewable solar energy.  A unique PR opportunity in celebration of the EU banning petrol and diesel cars in Europe and the UK from 2030. Interestingly, the SmartCharger can also run on battery cartridges, where the concept is Universal.







Express and Star UK news July 2015 21 Sir Malcolm Campbell's grandson takes Sunbeam Blue Bird out for a spin
ITV UK news July 2015 21 Don Wales to recreate record breaking bluebird run of grandfather Sir Malcolm Campbell
The Sun UK news Blue-Bird returns to Pendine Sands

Vettriano Art

History of the Daytona Beach shore

Bill France, Jr.'s account of races at the track

NASCAR track stats

NASCAR track statistics at

Account of the 1957 Daytona race from winner

Lee Bible’s tragic death

Speed TV article on Daytona’s history

Profile of Ormond Beach’s racing history

Daily Mail Bluebird rides Sir Malcom Campbells grandson takes iconic car sands broke land speed record 90 years ago

British Pathé

Wikipedia Pathé News

Wikipedia Movietone_News




Sir Malcolm Campbell


The Sunbeam Blue Bird is usually on display at the land speed record hall of fame at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. The display is frequently moved around as the cars are loaned out for various events.



The Sunbeam BlueBird at Pendine Sands


Don Wales at Pendine Sands in July of 2015





Napier Lion

Rolls Royce

















           Sunbeam Blue Bird



Sunbeam 350hp short tail and as the Blue Bird with a long tail and faired in cockpit. It's is easy to see how Malcolm Campbell coaxed an extra few mph from this car. It helped that Malcolm had been a pilot, and so knew a little about aerodynamics.








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