K3 Bluebird Run - Coming soon from Phill Beaney on Vimeo.
Original Bluebird powerboat restored in Polegate
Hot on the heels of my post the other week on the Land Speed Record holders of the 1920s and '30s, which featured in part Sir Malcolm Campbell and his Blue Bird speed cars, comes this news of the restoration of Malcolm Campbell's Blue Bird K3 powerboat that he used to capture the Water Speed Record in 1937 and 1938 following his triumphant retirement from the land speed race.
As I mentioned the Water Speed Record was if anything even more dangerous than the Land Speed Record since it claimed the lives of Sir Henry Segrave in 1930 and of course Malcolm Campbell's own son Donald in 1967. Malcolm Campbell, along with his contemporaries Kaye Don and American Garfield Wood, would be one of the few speed record holders to survive to old age.
Blue Bird K3 was built for Campbell at the beginning of 1937 with the aim being to take back the Water Speed Record from the American Gar Wood, who had held it at 124.86mph since 1932. Campbell elected to use the same Rolls-Royce R aero engine that he had used in his last Blue Bird car (and which both Segrave and Kaye Don had also used in their powerboats, the Miss England series), in fact one of the three engines he ended up using during his various runs had been fitted to the Campbell-Railton Blue Bird previously). On the 1st September 1937 at Lake Maggiore on the Swiss-Italian border Campbell succeeded in raising the Water Speed Record to 126.32mph in Blue Bird K3. Unsatisfied with a mere 2mph improvement he went to Lake Hallwyl in Switzerland the following year and raised it just past the 130mph mark - to 130.91mph. This proved to be about the limit of K3's capabilities so Campbell set about having a completely new boat built, the K4.
Sir Malcolm Campbell's good fortune is now ours as despite initially using K3's engine in K4 the boat itself was not destroyed and by 1988 it had found its way into the Foulkes Halbard Collection, part of the Filching Manor Motor Museum that is dedicated to the Campbell family's many successes. Having undergone a slow yet full restoration in the ensuing 24 years Blue Bird K3 has now begun to be put through its paces once again on Bewl Water in Kent, as this news article and accompanying footage shows. Although so far only a short 40mph test run, it is hoped that Blue Bird K3 will return to Lake Maggiore next year and travel a bit faster. I doubt 130mph will be on the cards, though!
Nevertheless this is yet another great example of two decades' hard work paying off handsomely, honouring the memory of Sir Malcolm Campbell and bringing an historically important machine back to its best for enthusiasts and future generations to appreciate and experience.