Having set three world records in her glory years, the Bluebird K3 returns to Bewl Water and will be put through her paces once again after four years in hibernation!
The momentous celebration has been highly anticipated by the team here at the reservoir as it was here that the vessel made her comeback in 2012 after being retired for over 70 years. Now back up and running after a pandemic fuelled step back, speed enthusiasts can once again see Bluebird K3’s engine roar back into life as we celebrate the 85th anniversary of the world water speed record set by Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1937.
Need for speed
Sir Malcolm Campbell started racing cars in 1910 and in 1912 suffered the first of many near-fatal accidents at the famous Brooklands racetrack. This car was christened ‘Blue Bird’, a name that was later used for all his subsequent vehicles and those raced by his son, Donald in years to come.
Campbell’s first land speed record was set in September 1924 and in the following July, he became the first man to ever exceed 150mph. His fortune and success were followed by nine triumphant years of victory, setting a new land high speed of 300 mph in 1935 shortly after receiving a knighthood. But his love affair for speed didn’t stop there.
After defeating land, the British motorist set sights on a new challenge and very soon after announced his intentions to conquer the world water speed record, to which he broke four times in the Blue Bird hydroplane before passing away on New Year’s Eve in 1948.
His son Donald continued his legacy, setting many more land and water speed records as he made history, but on January 4, 1967, Campbell’s life was cut short when he was killed in an attempt to take the water speed record over 300mph.
A labour of love
Despite the K3’s spectacular history she spent the next 21 years left to rot before being bought by Paul Foulkes-Halbard – a Campbell memorabilia collector who ran the Filching Manor Motor Museum in Sussex. Sold by a theme park who used the iconic powerboat as a children’s attraction, Bluebird K3 was in desperate need of restoration as years of exposure to the elements had seriously damaged the interior.
Paul had big plans to restore the boat back to its former glory, and in 1989 his labor of love in a converted chicken shed began. After decades of extensive work that was taken over by son Karl upon the death of his father, the dream to getting Bluebird K3 back on the water would soon become a reality…
Bluebird flies again
Powered by a 27 Litre Rolls Royce V12 Meteor engine, Bluebird K3 roared again for the first time since 1938 and in June 2012 she crossed the waters here at Bewl Water. The 23ft hydroplane has undergone a series of successful trials since, including the celebration of its 80th world record anniversary in 2017, also held at the reservoir, and the historic return one year later to Lago Maggiore in Switzerland for the first time in 80 years where the boat made 10 successful demonstration runs to celebrate the occasion.
The impressive restoration that took over seven decades to complete has left the historic vessel exactly as it was when Sir Malcolm broke the record all those years ago, and we welcome you to Bewl Water to come and watch the K3 take the water once again in May 2023, where, if all goes well, there might be a possibility of a historic return to Lago Maggiore in Switzerland, where she set her first two world records.
The test runs have always been a huge success, so feel free to bring a picnic and a blanket and get ready to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the boat’s 130.91 mph triumph. (Weather and water dependant)
Date: May 2023 TBC