1933 Blue Bird V: Sir Malcolm's Final Hurrah
In 1933, Sir Malcolm Campbell was riding high. He had set the world land speed record of 253.97 mph in Daytona Beach on February 5th of the previous year. But he was also bored. His most able rival, Sir Henry Seagraves, had perished in 1930 shortly after setting a speed record of his own, in his case for watercraft. So, with no worthy human challengers on the horizon, Campbell chose to outdo the only opponent he had left: himself. To this end he commissioned work on the Blue Bird V, the fifth incarnation of the legendary series that had launched him into the record books time and again. To top the Bluebird IV’s speed of 253.97 mph, his team would have to take what was great about that vehicle and made it greater. Doing so would be no simple affair. This scanned copy of a 1931 issue of Popular Science explains why the IV, with which Campbell broke records in both ‘31 and ‘32, was so damn good. It was sheathed in aluminum for ultra-low weight. It hung a bare three inches above the ground, thanks to an offset driveshaft that ran alongside the driver’s seat. And it had a unique “radiator shell” design which drastically lowered the car’s wind resistance. PHOTOS: See More of the 1933 Blue Bird V
For his 1933 attempt, Campbell’s team fell back on the Golden Rule of performance driving, that says simply, “there’s no replacement for displacement.” To that end they replaced the already massive engine in the Bluebird IV with a monster Rolls Royce-built V8 2,500 hp brute. It was fed by a supercharger that breathed through a ram air intake mounted in the nose cone. The vehicle’s profile was higher than that of the Bluebird IV, partially to make room for the larger motor. It also had prominent exhaust pipes, along with the same type of airplane-like stabilizing fin featured on the IV.
Sir Malcolm drove this fifth version of his mighty Bluebird to a new record of 272.46 mph on February 22, 1933. It was insane speed for the time, but he would top it in September of 1935, when he took the Bluebird VI to 301.13 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
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This was Campbell’s final land record breaker, but his son Donald took up the family mantle, setting the 1964 speed record of 403.1 mph. His car was named, appropriately enough, the Bluebird CN7. His record remains unbroken in the four-wheeled vehicle class to this day. This is a fitting tribute to Sir Malcolm, who, like his son, had an insatiable need for speed.
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