The Brooklands Society
know your cars and drivers section


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Sir Malcolm Campbell

Undoubtedly best known for his career in record breaking, Malcolm Campbell started racing at Brooklands before the first World War driving amongst other things, a Darracq which he christened Bluebird, a name he was to use for many other cars during his subsequent racing career.

When the war started he was drafted into the Royal Flying Corps, having had some flying experience at Brooklands in various aircraft including one he had constructed himself, and he spent his time ferrying aircraft back and forth across the English Channel. In 1918 he published a very small but amusing book entitled ‘Hints to Beginners on Flying’ in which he recounted his stories as Lt. M. Campbell, subsequently to be promoted to and known as Captain Campbell.

Early in 1921 one Kennelm Lee Guinness (of the famous brewing family and inventor of the K.L.G. spark plug) got an already ageing big black and white V-12 Sunbeam to perform at its best and was timed down the Brooklands Railway Straight at 135 mph, entering the finishing straight at 140 mph.

During practice on the 16th May 1922 KLG was timed by friends on the Railway Straight at 144 mph and on the following day in windy conditions he clocked an official 140.51 mph one way to take a new Brooklands lap record of 123.39 mph along with several other speed records over various distances. His official 137.15 mph flying kilometre record was to stand unbeaten for another seven years.

This was the car subsequently bought by Malcolm Campbell for a bargain price which has never been disclosed, which after a refurbishment he named Bluebird and took to the Fanoe Island speed trials in Denmark where although it recorded a speed of 146.4 mph, which much to Campbell's frustration was never internationally recognised, even though the timing apparatus had been properly certified.

Campbell however, was not a man to be easily defeated and after a lot of expensive tuning work and several abortive outings he took the car to Pendine Sands in September 1924 where he recorded an official two-way kilometre of 146.16 mph, 0.015 of a second faster that Eldridge's previous record set in a Fiat at Arpajon in France. Immediately afterwards he put the car up for sale for 1,500 but then relented and decided to spend some more time on it when he learned that Parry Thomas was about to make a serious attempt to take his record from him in the ex-Zborowski re-bodied Higham Special which Thomas had renamed Babs.

Back at Pendine on 21st July 1925 Campbell lifted his record to 150.766 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.

The following year Henry Segrave took Campbell's record and a knighthood in Sunbeam's budget record breaker , the monster twin-engined red 1,000 hp car which was also seen briefly at Brooklands driven by Henry in a wet but spectacular demonstration run. For the next ten years Campbell was to press on with another car, the Napier-Campbell which eventually took the land speed record at Utah in 1935 at 301.13 mph earning him his own long awaited knighthood. This car was rebuilt with newer and bigger engines on two separate occasions by Thomson & Taylor's and its full story is a testament to Campbell’s sheer gritty determination to succeed at almost any cost.

Throughout this period Campbell was very active in all classes of racing at Brooklands driving a 1 litre Talbot, several Bugattis and the ex-Benoist straight eight supercharged G.P. Delage which was at the height of its fame in 1928 after numerous 1927 Grand Prix victories by its sister cars. In this car he dominated the 1928 200 Mile Race on 21st July, winning by 12 mins. 12 secs. at an average speed of 78.34 m.p.h.

Malcolm Campbell was a shareholder in Brooklands and very active in the running of the track, designing the Campbell road racing circuit within the confines of the site, which was used from its opening on 1st may 1937 to the outbreak of war.

Malcolm Campbell died after a long illness in 1949 and was succeeded by his son Donald who continued the record breaking tradition, breaking 400 m.p.h. in the turbine powered bluebird which now resides in Lord Montagu’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

 

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| Performance Parameters | General Data |

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