Sir Malcolm Campbell

Sir Malcolm Campbell (11 March 1885 31 December 1948) was an English racing motorist and motoring journalist. He gained the world speed record on land and on water at various times during the 1920s and 1930s using vehicles called Blue Bird. His son, Donald Campbell, carried on the family tradition by holding both land speed and water speed records.

Early life

Malcolm Campbell was born in Chislehurst, Kent in 1885, the only son of William Campbell, a Hatton Garden diamond seller. He attended the independent Uppingham School. In Germany, learning the diamond trade, he gained an interest in motorbikes and races. Returning to England, he worked for two years at Lloyd's of London for no pay, then for another year at one pound a week. Between 1906-8, he won all three London to Lakes End Trials (motorbike races). In 1910 he began racing cars at Brooklands. He married but divorced two years later. He christened his car Blue Bird, painting it blue, after seeing the play The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck at the Haymarket Theatre. He remarried to Dorothy Evelyn Whittall in 1920 in Westminster and his son Donald was born in 1921, and he had a daughter Jean in 1923. They divorced in 1940. He served in World War I in the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment and in the RAF. He married Betty Nicory in 1945 in Chelsea. He was knighted in 1931.

Grand Prix career

He competed in Grand Prix motor racing, winning the 1927 and 1928 Grand Prix de Boulogne in France driving a Bugatti T39A.

Land speed record

He broke the LSR for the first time in 1924 at 146.16 mph (235.22 km/h) at Pendine Sands near Carmarthen Bay in a 350HP V12 Sunbeam. Malcolm broke nine land speed records between 1924 and 1935, with three at Pendine Sands and five at Daytona Beach. His first two records were driving a racing car manufactured by the Sunbeam Car Company in Wolverhampton.

He set his final land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on September 3, 1935, and was the first person to drive an automobile over 300 miles per hour (301.337 mph (484.955 km/h)).

Water speed records

He set the water speed record four times. His highest speed was 141.740 mph (228.108 km/h) in the Bluebird K4. He set the record on August 19, 1939 on Coniston Water in Great Britain.


He died after a series of strokes in 1948 in Reigate, Surrey, aged 63 years. He was one of the few land speed record holders of his era to die of natural causes, as so many had died in crashes. His versatile racing on different vehicles made him internationally famous.


  • In 1931 on his return from Daytona where he set a land speed record of 245.736mph, he was given a civic welcome and a Mansion House banquet in London, and was knighted by King George V.
  • He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.
  • He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1933 and 1939.
  • He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994.


He was a Vice President of the Middlesex County Automobile Club.

He became interested in the search for buried treasure in the Cocos Islands.

He stood for Parliament without success at the 1935 general election in Deptford for the Conservative Party.

He had links to the British Union of Facists. He carried a fascist flag at a fascist rally and adorned his car, Blue Bird, with fascist insignia.

Campbell was depicted by Robert Hardy in a BBC dramatisation of the attempt on the land speed record with Bluebird II.

The Records

  • 25th September 1924 (Pendine Sands) 146.16 mph
  • 21st July 1925 (Pendine Sands) - 150.766mph
  • 4th February 1927 (Pendine Sands) - 174.88mph
  • 12th February 1928 (Daytona Beach, Florida) - 206.95mph
  • 5th February 1931 (Daytona Beach) - 246.09mph
  • 24th February 1932 (Daytona Beach) - 253.96mph
  • 22nd February 1933 (Daytona Beach) - 272.46mph
  • 7th March 1935 (Daytona Beach) - 276.71mph
  • 3rd September 1935 (Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah) - 301.12mph