The 350HP’s inaugural race was at Brooklands in 1920. The driver was one Harry Hawker. Also that year, Rene Thomas set a new record with the Sunbeam at the Gaillon hill climb, followed by Jean Chassagne at the Brooklands Easter Meeting’s 13th Lighting Short handicap (he won) and Malcolm Campbell borrowed it to enter the Saltburn Speed Trials where he broke his first speed record at 138.08 mph (222.22 km/h). In those days however, the manual stopwatch system was not acceptable for timing an official record.
Campbell persuaded the owner of the Sunbeam to sell it to him, then promptly painted it blue and renamed it ‘Blue Bird’. 23 June 1923 saw Campbell at Fanø in Denmark, recording another record-breaking speed of 137.72 mph (221.64 km/h) over the flying kilometre. Again, the record was not officially accepted, as the timing equipment was deemed unauthorised. During the winter of 1923–1924 the car was sent to the aircraft maker Boulton Paul at Norwich, for wind tunnel tests. Campbell duly returned to Fanø the following summer, but the beach was in poor condition and crowd control was poor. In fact, on the first run both rear tyres were ripped off Blue Bird and narrowly missed the spectators. Campbell protested to the officials about safety standards and declined to take any responsibility for whatever happened on the second run. Sadly, this time, a front tyre came off and killed a boy.
The car was then taken to Pendine Sands in South Wales where the first of Campbell’s nine records was accomplished on 24 September 1924, with a speed of 146.16 mph (235.23 km/h). And this time, thankfully, it was officially sanctioned.
DON WALES AND THE RETURN TO PENDINE SANDS
On 21 July 2015 at Pendine beach in Wales on the 90th anniversary of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s first world land speed record, his grandson, Don Wales (also a land speed record holder) recreated the event in the fully restored ‘Blue Bird’.
THE NATIONAL MOTOR MUSEUM TRUST
This historic car is usually on display at Beaulie along with others which have a fascinating back story, well worth a visit.
This print as featured in Octane magazine 2021 is an open edition signed by both the artist and Don Wales. It’s recorded on Hahnemühle stock via a large format mimeograph and generally referred to as Giclée prints of premium quality. The paper is white 100% a-cellulose with a distinct textured surface and the premium matt inkjet coating more than meets the highest industry standards vis-à-vis density, colour gamut, colour graduation and image sharpness, while preserving the extraordinary touch and feel of genuine art paper. The editions depicted on Iconic Reserve are not representative of scale and solely for the purpose of suggestive display.
597mm x 420mm
Recorded on Hahnemühle