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3 September 2010

On this day in history: First man to drive an automobile at over 300 mph, 1935

Sir Malcolm Campbell's fascination with automotive speed began while he was in Germany learning the family trade, diamond dealing. On three successive occasions from 1906 he won the London to Lake End trials motorcycle races before graduating to racing cars at Brooklands in 1910. After the end of the First World War, he set his sights on the land speed record.

In 1924 he drove a 350HP V12 Sunbeam at over 146 mph at Pendine Sands, on the south coat of Wales, taking the land speed record for the first time. He went on to take the record another eight times, mainly due to his rivalry with fellow Briton, Henry Segrave. The last time he took the record was on 3rd September, 1935 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

The car Campbell used for the attempt was called Bluebird, like his other racing and record-breaking cars. Designed by Reid Railton, the power plant in this version was a 2,300hp 36.7 litre supercharged Rolls-Royce V12, enough to propel machine and driver to an average speed of over three-hundred miles per hour on the two runs in both directions over a measured mile. Initially, the American Automobile Association calculated an average speed of 299.875 mph, but they later revised this to 301.397 mph.

Following his return to Britain, Campbell received a knighthood and set his sights on the water speed record, which he set four times. Campbell died after a long illness in 1948. His son, Donald, followed in his father's footsteps making attempts at the land and water speed records, breaking both in 1964, before his tragic death attempting to retake the water speed record in 1967.

A website dedicated to Sir Malcolm Campbell has a page of images and press clippings of his 1935 record breaking attempt.

Related posts
First gasoline-driven automobile patented: 29th January 1886
First Volvo car produced: 14th April 1927
First Formula One Championship race: 13th May 1950

2 comments:

sandy said...

300 mph........geesssssss, that's incredible for that long ago. I think it's quite a feat nowdays; but then....wow

Sandy

Stepterix said...

Agreed. It is hard to imagine such a feat happening before the Second World War.