Honouring Sir Malcolm Campbell






ON Tuesday, March 14th, British racing drivers and their friends acknowledged their admiration of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s great achievement in setting up a new land speed record of 273 m.p.h. Graciously presided over by the President of the Club, H.R.H. Prince George, a Banquet and Dance was held at the Mayfair Hotel, London, at which there were gathered most of the well-known motor-racing personalities of this country.

After the Royal toasts had been proposed, H.R.H. Prince George, in proposing the toast of Sir Malcolm Campbell, congratulated the latter on behalf of the Club, and concluded by paying a tribute to the mechanics and all concerned in making the record possible.

Sir Malcolni’s response was full,(af interest, and consisted of a resume of the story of the record attempt. One of the first difficulties was to fit the new Rolls-Royce power-unit, developing 2,500 h.p., into the existing frame and transmission, and Mr. Reid Railton’s skill in redesigning the car for this purpose received a glowing tribute from Sir Malcolm. The moulding of the body to fit the new shape of the car without sacrificing any streamlining was of course the work of Messrs. Gurney Nutting, the well-known coach builders. An interesting factor to the ordinary motorist was the danger of considerable heat being generated in the gear-box and back axle, and this was guarded against to a certain extent by the use of temperature gauges for those components on the dashboard of the car. Sir Malcolm’s account of the difficulties met with at Daytona made one realise to the full the determination and courage which lie behind the bald statement that the world’s record has been broken. To begin with, the driver’s hand was injured during the first practice run, through the gear-lever straining the tendons of his

hand and wrist. Such an injury cannot be healed quickly, and Sir Malcolm had perforce to drive more or less with one hand during the record run, as no strength could be used with the injured one.

Then the beach itself was in a very bad condition. Normally, such shells as can be found on the sands are very small, but this year, in consequence of heavy storms, the beach was strewn with large shells of a size to be exceedingly dangerous to the thin treads of the tyres. Here Sir Malcolm paid a well deserved tribute to the manufacturers of his tyres, the Dunlop Rubber Company, without whose assistance and research work in placing at his disposal the only tyre in the world capable of withstanding the colossal strain of a speed of 273 m.p.h., the record could never have been achieved.

On the day of the record attempt visibility was very poor, and it says wonders for the driver’s skill that ” Bluebird” did not come to grief. Sir Malcolm modestly said that, after graduation, “you get used to the speed.” The modesty of this remark will only become apparent after the greatest effort on the part of the reader to imagine such an appalling velocity. As an indication of his having become accustomed to travelling at speeds of well over 200 m.p.h., Sir Malcolm said that two years ago when he attained a speed of 245 m.p.h., he found the greatest difficulty in bringing himself to take his eyes oft a point far ahead in order to glance at the revolution counter. Last year, at a speed of 254 m.p.h., he felt more at home, and was able to look at the rev, counter, and in addition, at the temperature guage, without discomfort. Finally, this year-although travelling at roughly 20 m.p.h. faster, he was able to do a thing he would not have thought possible two years ago, namely, take his eyes away from the one point ahead, and glance at each side in order to pick out his course more accurately!

Sir Malcolm was full of praise for his team of mechanics, who were just as cheerful at the end of three days and nights continuous work on the car, and we were glad to see that Sir Malcolm Campbell’s head mecanicien, Leo Villa, was present to bear this praise in person.

Another to whom Sir Malcolm recorded his thanks was that great English sportsman, Lord Wakefield, who was unfortunately prevented from attending the banquet owing to a chill. Finally, Sir Malcolm, in pointing out that the success of the attempt depended upon every single component and accessory doing its job 100% efficiently, paid a tribute to the manufacturers of these accessories. It will be remembered that ” Bluebird” was equipped with Smith’s instruments and a Bluemel spring-spoke steering wheel, and was finished with ” Belco.” During his speech Sir Malcolm recounted a most amusing story. That same day he had presented a prize, offered by a newspaper to the reader who guessed most accurately the speed at which ” Bluebird ” would set up a new record, to a Staffordshire grocer. As a point of interest Sir Malcolm had asked the man why he had gauged his speed at 273 m.p.h. for he himself had hoped to have gone faster. To this the grocer calmly replied that he had known all along that “

Bluebird” wouldn’t do more than 273 m.p.h., because he never had liked the look of the front of the car which was designed all wrong, and which would have lifted the car off the ground if it went any faster !

After Mr. K. Lee Guinness had concluded the speeches, the floor was cleared and dancing continued until after two o’clock. And so ended a very cheerful evening, celebrating a feat which has, and will have, an incalculable effect in enhancing Britain’s motoring prestige throughout the world.