Campbell at Vemeuk Pan
OUR recent reference to Malcolm Campbell’s abortive LSR attempt at Verneuk Pan in S. Africa when that was a British possession brought some excellent photographs from a reader, Mr W P C Hagger of Newquay, to whom they were sent by an aunt when he was 18 years old and a regular visitor to Brooklands on practice and race days. This recalls how Campbell took the Napier-Campbell Bluebird there in 1929, intent on regaining his LSR which had been bettered by Ray Keech with the incredible 81-litre Triplex.
Bluebird had a new nose radiator and a body built by Arrol-Aster in Dumfries. Seeking a longer course than Daytona provided, Campbell went to this new mud course, with the car, his mechanics, the time-keepers, the RAC timing apparatus, tyres in charge of a Dunlop technician and 56 cases of spares. He ran into fearful trouble. His light aeroplane was wrecked in a crash, to avoid shells cutting up the special tyres a new 12 mile surface of clay had to be laid, for which the S.African Government supplied the capital, together with the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, another town lent a steamroller, and local labour was hired. This course was 2500 feet above sealevel, reducing the power of the Napier Lion engine by about 11%. Then there was trouble getting the car to the venue, as the special six-wheeled Thornycroft lorry had been sold, while he was waiting. The weather then turned sour, causing a delay of three days. Meanwhile, Campbell heard that Segrave had raised the record from 207.5 to 231.4 mph with the Napier
powered Golden Arrow at Daytona. He also heard from Mrs Campbell, who had returned home to England, that all the pipes had burst in their house, causing expensive damage . . . Local labourers refused to work at a place they thought had a hoodoo on it, and floods caused food and water to be rationed. The 3-ton car broke through the new surface and the shale consumed too many of the special Dunlops. With scant chance of the LSR, Campbell decided to go for the five and ten mile figures and to the alarm of the Dunlop man did so without a tyre change. His best speed was 217.6 mph, the LSR eluding him. It had cost him some 09,000 in today’s money and it was not until 1931 that he had his revenge. The picture sent by Mr Hagger shows the luckless Bluebird being towed from the docks, followed by an early Talbot tourer. WB