- Bluebird at Pendine Sands. Photo: Fiona Easterby

Revisiting a World Speed Record

7w ago

26.8K

It's not every day you see a pair of vintage speed record cars racing along a beach in Wales, in fact it was 90 years since Malcolm Campbell set his speed record in Bluebird. Malcolm Campbell broke nine land speed records between 1924 and 1935, the first of those was set in this car at Pendine Sands. Bluebird set a record of 150mph, which may not seem like much by today's standards, but for a car built in 1919 is phenomenal.

Bluebird at Pendine sands. Photo: Fiona Easterby

Bluebird at Pendine sands. Photo: Fiona Easterby

The 350hp, 24 litre, Bluebird was built for Campbell by the Sunbeam car company and usually resides in the Beaulieu National Motor Museum. Lucky for me in 2015 the museum was persuaded to transport Bluebird back to Pendine for a 90th anniversary run along the Beach. Growing up close to Beaulieu means I have seen Bluebird in the museum countless times but cars aren't quite the same when viewed in a static environment. Needless to say I wasn't about to miss the occasion!

Bluebird at Pendine. Photo: Fiona Easterby

Bluebird at Pendine. Photo: Fiona Easterby

So who did the museum trust to drive this priceless motor car along the beach? None other than Malcolm Campbell's grandson, Don Wales. Speed runs in the blood of the Campbell family, Malcolm was first followed into the obsession by son Donald Campbell who famously broke records on land and water before dying on his final record attempt in the Bluebird Boat at Coniston Water. Now a new generation of Campbell's has taken up the challenge with Don Wales, Malcolm's Grandson and Donald's nephew, setting new speed records in electric vehicles. It was only fitting that he should take to the wheel for the recreation of such an auspicious event. Not wishing to damage such a valuable piece of history meant the run was limited to 50mph but it was worth the journey to see and hear this spectacular car in action.

Napier Railton at Pendine. Photo: Fiona Easterby

Napier Railton at Pendine. Photo: Fiona Easterby

The fun wasn't over there, not wishing to be outdone, Brooklands museum brought their own speed record car to the party! The spectacular alloy bodied 1933 Napier Railton. John Cobb set his unbroken circuit record of Brooklands in the Napier at 143.44mph in 1935. The following year he took the car to Bonneville Salt Flats where he set a new 24hr speed record of 150.6mph. When the car was retired from racing the Napier Railton went on to become a movie star, appearing in 'Pandora and the flying dutchman', a film about a racing driver. The car returned to her spiritual home of Brooklands in 1997 when the museum trust purchased her.

Napier Railton at Pendine. Photo: Fiona Easterby

Napier Railton at Pendine. Photo: Fiona Easterby

To see just one of these cars in action is a privilege but to see both together, being driven at speed along the beach was pure sensory heaven. If the museums choose to mark the 100th anniversary of Campbell's record breaking run in the same way then you won't be able to keep me away! You can see more photos from this series and buy prints in my redbubble store here.

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