Classic Car Catalogue

World Speed Record
1932

Malcolm Campbell
Napier-Railton "Bluebird"
253.97 m.p.h.
Daytona Beach
24 February 1932

Great Britain

Motor SportApril 1932
—AND NOW 253 M.P.H.!
CAMPBELL WITH "BLUE BIRD" LOWERS LAND SPEED RECORD ONCE AGAIN.

THE most remarkable feature of the recent history of the World's Records for the mile and kilometre has been Sir Malcolm Campbell's consistent progress in steadily increasing the speeds with his veteran car.
From the time that he finally decided that the old Sunbeam had reached its practical limit, he concentrated on building a special car to capture the coveted land speed record, and although the car which has just recorded a further triumph, has been redesigned and modified in detail, shape, and layout since its first successful effort at Pendine in 1927, it is basically the same vehicle. Which speaks volumes for the quality of the materials in the transmission and chassis generally.
Soon after the first edition (with a body closely resembling the normal racing car of that time), had succeeded in raising the record to 174.88 m.p.h. Campbell had to suffer the disappointment of seeing his speed eclipsed by Segrave's wonderful achievement on the big twin-engined Sunbeam, which by putting up a mean speed of 203.79 m.p.h. for the mile, set him a formidable task.
First Daytona visit.
Campbell's racing career has contained a host of disappointments, and he was far too set on this record to be deterred by anything. The "Blue Bird" was accordingly modified, one of the successful Napier engines of the type which had won the Schneider Trophy in 1927 was installed, the streamlining was completely redesigned, and Campbell went to Daytona and increased the record speed to 206.95 m.p.h. only to see Ray Keech on the 3-engined White " Triplex " beat his record by less than one mile an hour.
Again his car was modified and this time he went to South Africa, where his difficulties at Verneuk Pan gave him a further chance to demonstrate his amazing tenacity of purpose. Space forbids any recounting of this great adventure, but while he was there the wonderful " Golden Arrow," designed by Captain Irving and driven by the late Sir Henry Segrave, put up the terrific speed of 231.44 m.p.h. at Daytona.
In reply Campbell, although knowing his car could not reach this speed, attacked and secured other records, notably the 5 miles and 5 kilometres, at over 211 m.p.h., and returned to England to prepare for yet another attempt to secure his ambition of being the fastest man on earth.
More modifications.
It was evident that more than detail modifications were required if the record was to be secured, and the car was placed with Messrs. Thompson and Taylors, and under the genius of Mr. Railton, began to take on the form we know to-day.
In this form, criticised by many, with another Napier engine of the best this famous firm could provide, Campbell once more left for Daytona.
It was now four years since the record had been his, but those years had not been wasted, and the result of the work that had been put in was the new speed of 246.09 m.p.h. which was recorded last year, as a result of which His Majesty was pleased to confer the honour of knighthood upon Campbell, and many of us began to hope that Sir Malcolm would rest content with his achievements.
Such, however, was not his idea, and to those who suggested that a further attack was foolhardy, there was presented a very strong argument in favour of another attempt. Hitherto every attempt had been a great and hazardous step into the unknown, and all who essayed it took their lives in their hands, more completely than any driver in any other attempt on record.
Thanks to the untiring and successful research of the engineers at Fort Dunlop, the all-important question of tyres had been faithfully attended to until they had become one of the most reliable factors of the whole adventure.
Now, therefore, a new stage had been reached. For the first time in the recent history of the record, a proved and fully tried car was available, which was known to be capable, with only detail improvements, of a comparatively small but very definite improvement over its previous best.
Once more Mr. Railton took a hand, but this time it was to overhaul and not to redesign. Practically the only visible sign of difference was the slightly smaller radiator, which the experience in the previous attempt had to be permissible.
Just before the car left for America for the recent successful attack on the record, we asked Mr. Railton what increase he expected, and he replied, "About 8 m.p.h. most probably." All of which, when the new record mean speed of 253.97 m.p.h. was achieved on February 24th of this year, shows that the unknown is steadily becoming known, and that the science of ultimate speed on land is, thanks to the pioneers, becoming much more exact.
The actual occasion of the lowering of the record was really intended for a trial run, but was so successful that the record was taken, and as favourable conditions did not recur, still remains. The highest speed one way was 267.45 m.p.h, with the wind, and two days later attempts were made on the five miles, five kilometres, and ten kilometres, with the result that these records now stand at the wonderful figures of 242.75 m.p.h., 247.94 m.p.h. and 238.66 m.p.h. Surely, proof indeed that there is at least one aspect of fast motoring in which this country has no rival.
Accessories before the fact.
The following are some of the products which helped to make this record possible. Pratts' Ethyl special, Dunlop wheels and tyres, Napier engine, K.L.G. plugs, Castrol oil, Petroflex piping, Claudel-Hobson carburettors, Woodhead road springs, Terry valve springs, Ferodo clutch linings, Smith's instruments, Duron Brake Linings, Watford magnetos, Serck radiator, Gallay tanks, Alford and Alder front brakes, David Brown gears, E.N.V. axle bevels, Triplex windscreen, Moseley air cushions, Andre shock absorbers, Bluemel steering wheel, Hoffman bearings, and Gurney Nutting body. The car was built and prepared by Thompson and Taylors of Brooklands.
Motor SportApril 1932
Motor SportApril 1932
31 March 1932