On 21st July 2015 Pendine Sands came alive as hundreds of spectators gathered to witness Sir Malcolm Campbell’s iconic 350hp Sunbeam ‘Blue bird’ roar at Pendine on the 90th anniversary of the cars 150mph World Land Speed Record run.
The anniversary, organised by the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu saw a low speed demonstration run in the restored Sunbeam with Sir Malcolm’s grandson Don Wales at the wheel.
Don Wales and the Beaulieu team also recreated two iconic pictures from the original run.
350hp Sunbeam ‘Blue bird’ – history
Back in 1919, the car was originally the brainchild of Sunbeam’s chief engineer and racing team manager, Louis Coatalen. Constructed at the company’s works in Wolverhampton during 1919 and early 1920. Power came from a modified 18.322 litre V12 Manitou Arab aero engine, used more commonly in period on naval seaplanes.
Campbell named the Sunbeam, Blue Bird. The car holds three World Land Speed Records. The first, a speed of 133.75mph was achieved by Kenelm Lee Guinness at Brooklands in 1922. Campbell then purchased the car, painting it in his distinctive colour scheme and in September 1924 achieved a new record speed of 146.16mph at Pendine Sands, raising it the following year to 150.76mph.
‘Blue bird’ – rebuilt for the enjoyment of a new generation
In January 2014, following a complete mechanical rebuild undertaken by the National Motor Museum’s workshop team over a period of many years, the Sunbeam was fired-up again – the first time it had been heard in public in over 50 years. The following month it was a star of the show at Retromobile, Paris and was also run at the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Doug Hill, the National Motor Museum’s Manager and Chief Engineer, said: “When we were rebuilding the Sunbeam, I always hoped it would be finished by 2015 so we could run it here today on the 90th anniversary of its World Land Speed Record. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Louis Coatalen, the designers, the engineers who built it and the people who developed it during its racing history. I am also indebted to our team of engineers and volunteers who have spent more than 2000 working hours returning it to running condition.”
Don Wales, the nephew of Donald Campbell CBE and Grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell said: “I was thrilled to be given this amazing opportunity to sit at the wheel of my grandfather’s car back at Pendine where he set his record. It was an honour both to follow in his footsteps and to drive this iconic car on such a special occasion”
Don has been maintaining the Campbell record-breaking tradition since establishing the UK National Land Speed Record for an electric car in May 1998 at a speed of 116mph. Don currently holds a World Land Speed Record, two American National records and eight UK National records. It is his ambition to be the first to exceed 500mph in an electric car.