Campbell-Napier-Railton Blue Bird 1931


Campbell's second serious modification to the Bluebird was made before this attempt. He reverted to using a radiator in the normal place in front of the engine, but contained it in a separate housing outside the bonnet covering the engine, so that the cooling air did not enter the engine compartment, but rushed through the radiator only.

The transmission was also moved to one side and the driver sat alongside the propeller shaft, thus making the car even lower and less resistant to wind.

The tail was also changed again and a larger stabilising directional fin used.

Even more power was found by substituting a Schneider Trophy supercharged Napier engine for the earlier Lion type.

This gave 1,350 horsepower at 3600 rpm, compared with the 900 horse-power of the un-supercharged engine.

After its 1931 victory the Bluebird was modified once again in the quest for a few more miles per hour.

This time the changes were less drastic, a slight increase in engine power and an improvement in the shape of the fairing round the front-mounted radiator.

The famous "Blue Bird" name originated when Malcolm Campbell, already a successful automobile racer at Brooklands, was inspired by Maeterlinck's play "The Blue Bird of Happiness". He went to his local hardware shop and bought up all the blue paint he could to paint his car. With paint still wet, the car won two races at Brooklands and a legend was born.

Redesigned by Reid Railton and powered by a supercharged 900-hp Napier engine, developing 1,450-hp, this version of the car had an offset prop shaft and gearbox, to give Campbell a lower driving position alongside the gearbox, as well as improved streamlining. It had a new gearbox and the fairings around the wheels were increased in size. Mechanical alterations were made by Thomson and Taylor's, the new body made by Gurney, Nutting's. First trials were at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1931. The first record was 246.09 mph at Daytona Beach on 5th February, 1931. This same car with minor modifications and an new nose/cowling assembly set another new record of 253.97 mph at Daytona Beach on 24th February, 1932.

Campbell-Napier-Railton Blue Bird 1931

Country of Manufacture: Great Britain
Engine Manufacturer: Napier sprint Lion VII Schneider Cup aircraft engine
Cylinders 12 - 3 banks of 4
Bore 139.7mm
Stroke 130.17mm
Cubic Capacity 23,942cc
Carburettor Claudel-Hobson 3 no.
Max. Power 1,350 - 1,450 bhp at 3,600 rpm Centrifugal supercharger
Clutch multiplate Ferodo lined
Gearbox KLG 3 speed constant mesh
Ratios 4.01, 2.27, 1.58
Back axle offset 7in to enable lower driving seat
Type of drive bevel gear final drive 1.58 to 1
Chassis: Vickers - steel underslung under the rear axle
Suspension: Woodhead - 1/2 elliptic springs front 3ft 1in rear 4ft 2 1/2in
Shock Absorbers: Hartford shock absorbers - 4 to each axle
Brakes: Alford and Alder18in dia steel disc with Clayton-Dewandre vacuum servo
Wheels: Dunlop steel
Tyres: Dunlop 35 x 6in front, 37 x 6in rear
Dimensions: Wheelbase 12ft 2in., Track front 5ft 4in., Track rear 4ft 2in., Length 25ft, Weight 4 tons dry
Body Manufacturer: Gurney Nutting and Co. Ltd, material aluminium

Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
February 5, 1931 Daytona Beach, USA Sir Malcolm Campbell Great Britain Campbell Napier Railton Blue Bird
12 cyl SC
IC 246.08 mph (396.03 km/h) 245.73 mph (395.46 km/h)  
February 24, 1932 Daytona Beach, USA Sir Malcolm Campbell Great Britain Campbell Napier Railton Blue Bird
Rolls Royce V-12
IC 251.34 mph (404.49 km/h) 253.96 mph (408.71 km/h)  



Full title reads: "London. 'The New-Old Blue Bird'. Good luck to Capt. Malcolm Campbell in his famous Napier-Campbell - re-built to defend Britain's World speed record!"
British speed ace Malcolm Campbell talks about his record breaking achievements.
Various shots of the Bluebird car in garage. Campbell chats to his crew of mechanics.
He is asked what speed he expects to achieve but refuses to speculate.


Full title reads: "Plymouth to Southampton. Gallant ... Sir Malcolm on board the Cunarder 'Mauretania' before his own triumphal reception, shares glory with his colleagues."
On board the Liner Mauretania.
Recently knighted Sir Malcolm Campbell, the British Speed Ace introduces members of his team of mechanics who helped him to achieve the World Land Speed Record in his Napier-Campbell car 'Blue Bird'. One of the Bluebird team is a survivor of the R-101 disaster. Pan along line of men.


Full title reads: "America. As modest as brave ... and as brave as modest - Good luck to Sir Malcolm Campbell in his attempt for Britain at Daytona."
Daytona, Florida, United States of America.
Two shot. Interviewer and Sir Malcolm Campbell. The interviewer wishes him luck on behalf of the American Automobile Association and the automotive industry. Campbell thanks the interviewer for his good wishes, comments on how happy he is to be back and thanks the AAA for their assistance.
C/U Campbell. 'Much depends on the state of the weather and the state of the beach on which this next attempt is being made. The car is fit and I think it should go quite a bit faster than it did before, but exactly what that will be it is impossible to say.'


Full title reads: "America. 253.96 Miles Per Hour! Sir Malcolm Campbell - in his reconditioned 'Bluebird', beats his own record by 8 mph."
United States of America. (Probably Daytona Beach, Florida)
CU of Sir Malcolm Campbell sitting in the cockpit of 'Blue Bird'.
Aerial views of the car speeding down the beach on a run to break the World's Land Speed Record.
A different car is seen speeding down the beach, followed by several passes by 'Bluebird".
Aerial views of the crowd gathered around the car on the beach.
Campbell is cheered as he gets out of the car. He stands with a woman (presumably his wife). He gives her a hug and a kiss.
This record was set on 24th February 1932.

On February 24th, 1932 at Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A., only a year later, Malcolm arrived with a new Bluebird design that was much more streamlined with a lower center of gravity.
With his new Bluebird he set yet another record when he hit 253.09 MPH (406.35).
taken on May 22, 1931, Sir Malcom Campbell's Bluebird is being pushed out backwards from the Napier works on its way to the Brooklands race track near Weybridge in Surrey, England. The car had to be pushed backward because it had no reverse gear.
On February 22, 1933, Sir Malcolm set another world speed record at Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A., this time he achieved 272.46 MPH (435.94 KPH).
Sir Malcolm Campbell would attempt to break the 300 MPH barrier at Daytona Beach in February of 1935 at the International Speed Trials. In order to hopefully break the 300 MPH barrier, Malcolm Campbell went back to the drawing board to create an all new Bluebird design.