350 HP Sunbeam 1920-25


Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
May 17, 1922 Brooklands, Great Britain Kenelm Lee Guinness Great Britain 350hp Sunbeam IC 133.70 mph (215.17 km/h) 129.17 mph (207.88 km/h) Last record set on a closed course
June 23, 1922 Fanoe Sir Malcolm Campbell   Sunbeam Bluebird
60 degree V-12 350hp
IC 137.720 mph   Speed was not recognized because the AIACR did not approve timing apparatus.
September 25, 1924 Pendine Sands, Wales Sir Malcolm Campbell Great Britain 350hp Sunbeam
IC 146.15 mph (235.21 km/h) 146.16 mph (235.22 km/h)  
July 21, 1925 Pendine Sands, Wales Sir Malcolm Campbell Great Britain 350hp SunbeamBlue Bird
IC 150.86 mph (242.79 km/h) 150.76 mph (242.62 km/h) First person ever officially to go over, and set record in excess of 150 mph

Designed by Louis Coatalen and built in 1920 it was powered by a V-12, 18,322-cc Manitou aircraft engine and with drum brakes on the rear only. This car was bought by Malcolm Campbell in 1923, after it had broken the records at Brooklands in May 1922, when Kenelm Lee Guinness drove it on the track at 135.75 mph. The engine was modified and a streamlined nose cowl and pointed tail were added in 1923-24 before Malcolm got his first official record with the car at Pendine Sands in Wales, on 25th September, 1924. His speed was 146.16 mph.

Immediately afterwards he put the car up for sale for £1,500 but then relented and decided to spend some additional time with it when he learned that Parry Thomas was about to make a serious attempt with the ex-Zborowski re-bodied Higham Special which Thomas had renamed Babs. Campbell returned to Pendine in mid July of 1925 and on 21st July raised the record to 150.76 mph, becoming the first driver to exceed 150 mph. To commemorate this he had some large scale models of the Sunbeam built, at least two of which are known to have survived.

The Sunbeam 350HP Bluebird resides at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Hampshire, England.

Country of Manufacture: Great Britain
Engine Manufacturer: Sunbeam
Cylinders V12
Bore 120mm
Stroke 135/142mm
Cubic Capacity 18,322cc
Valves 2 exhaust, 1 inlet, overhead camshaft
Carburettor 2 Claudel-Hobson HC7
Max. Power 355 b.h.p. at 2,300 rpm
Clutch multi-plate
Gearbox 4 speeds
Back axle bevel, 1.5 to 1
Type of drive Hotchkiss
Chassis: Channel section frame
Suspension: elliptic springs
Shock Absorbers: Hydraulic and Hartford
Brakes: 18 in. diameter drum
Wheels: Rudge-Whitworth wire, 880mm x 120mm
Dimensions: Wheelbase 10ft 7in., Track front 4ft 6in., Track rear 4ft 6in., Length 16ft, Weight 1,550kg
Body Manufacturer: material metal

Campbell is pictured in 1922 at Saltburn Sands, North Yorkshire, Wales, in Great Britain in his Sunbeam V12 which had a 350 Horse Power engine. On June 17, 1922 he set his first record when he drove at 138.08 mph.
350 HP Sunbeam 1922
Malcolm Cambell at Pendine Sands in South Wales, 1925.
Capt. Malcolm Campbell (left) fraternizes with his mechanics, who are at work on the 350-hp Sunbeam at a 1925 Brooklands meet.

1920 350hp Sunbeam

For a period following World War I the world of motor racing was enthralled by a breed of racing cars powered by huge aircraft engines. The 350hp
Sunbeam is one of the most famous of this group of aero-engined giants. Not only did the car compete on the race track but it also broke the Land Speed Record on no fewer than three separate occasions.
The car was the brainchild of Sunbeam’s chief engineer and racing team manager Louis Coatalen and was constructed at the company’s works in Wolverhampton during 1919 and early 1920. Power came from a modified 18 litre Sunbeam V12 Manitou engine, a type used on naval seaplanes.
Transmission was via a four speed gearbox and drive shaft. It was fitted with a narrow polished aluminium single seat body with radiator cowl and tail painted in green.

The Sunbeam’s first outings were plagued with bad luck. Its first race was scheduled to be at the 1920 Whitsun Brooklands meeting driven by Harry Hawker. However, a burst tyre caused it to crash on the Railway Straight during a practice lap. Hawker was uninjured but the car could not be raced that day. At the August meeting a stalled engine meant that the Sunbeam could not start its race.
In late 1920 the Sunbeam was taken to the Gaillon Hill Climb in France where René Thomas succeeded in taking the course record with a 108mph/173.81kph run on the 1km hill.
At the 1921 Brooklands Easter meeting Kenelm Lee Guinness, perhaps one of the few drivers able to get the best from the car, drove the Sunbeam for the first time. In the Lightning Short Handicap second gear was broken but this didn’t stop Guinness driving the car to second place in the Long Handicap event later the same day. At the Autumn meeting he drove the car again, in both the Short and Long Handicap races. In the latter event he finished in second place but in doing so achieved speeds of 140mph/225.31kph and completed the last lap at an average speed of 116mph/186.68kph.
The Sunbeam continued to perform well in early 1922 despite bursting a tyre at the May Brooklands meeting. On 17 May Guinness was at Brooklands again to make a number of record attempts. These included a flying kilometre speed of 133.75mph/215.25kph which qualified as a new Land Speed Record.

Guinness raced the Sunbeam one more time at Brooklands, in the autumn of 1922. Malcolm Campbell borrowed it in 1923 to compete in the Saltburn Speed Trials. Here he achieved a speed of 138mph/222.09kph. Being only a one way run this was not recognised as an official world record, so Campbell decided to purchase the car in order to undertake a serious record attempt. Campbell commissioned Boulton & Paul to build a new body for the Sunbeam, painted in his distinctive blue colour scheme. In September 1924 he took it to Pendine in South Wales to make an attempt at the official Land Speed Record, achieving a new record speed of 146.16mph/235.22kph.

Intent on achieving even greater speeds, Campbell advertised the car for sale with a price tag of £1,500 and made plans to build a new record breaking car.
However, there was much interest in the land speed record from other drivers and Campbell decided to make one further attempt with the Sunbeam.
Returning to Pendine on July 21 1925, he became the first person to exceed 150mph/241.40kph when he drove the car to a new record of 150.76mph/242.62kph.
The 350hp Sunbeam passed through various owners after 1925 including band leader Billy Cotton who achieved a speed of 121.50mph/195.53kph at Southport Speed Trials. Harold Pratley acquired the car in 1944 and loaned it to Rootes Ltd (successors to the Sunbeam Company) who undertook a cosmetic restoration for promotional purposes.
In 1958 the 350hp Sunbeam passed into the care of the Montagu Motor Museum where it was restored to working order and driven by Lord Montagu in various events. The car can be seen displayed alongside other famous Land Speed Record holders in the National Motor Museum – a tribute to the heroic era of aero engined racing cars and record breaking.

Manufacturer: Sunbeam Motor Co., Wolverhampton.
Engine: V12 Sunbeam Manitou aero engine.
Capacity: 18,322cc.
Output: 355bhp at 2,100rpm (as built).
Max. Speed: 150.87mph/242.80kph.

Further Reading:

  • Body, W., 1992. Aero-Engined racing cars at Brooklands.
    Yeovil: G.T. Foulis & Co.
  • Posthumus, C. & Tremayne, D., 1985. Landspeed record.
    London: Osprey Publishing.
  • Clarke, R.M., 1999. The land speed record 1898–1999.
    Cobham: Brooklands Books Ltd.

The National Motor Museum Trust : Beaulieu : Brockenhurst : Hampshire : SO42 7ZN

The 350hp 12 cylinder Sunbeam at the Wolverhampton works in 1920..
Sunbeam at Brooklands 1922 BARC Easter Meeting. Driver Jean Chassagne who won the TT in a Sunbeam in 1922. The man in the trilby hat behind the scuttle is Sunbeam Chief Engineer Louis Coatalen and the mechanic in white overalls is Bill Perkins who rode as Kenelm Lee Guiness's mechanic in races. Source: Austin Harris
Sunbeam at 1923 Brooklands. Driver: Kenelm Lee Guinness. Source: Austin Harris


Goodwood, Sussex
LS Pan as the record-breaking speed car "Bluebird", famously driven by Donald Campbell, moves off down the track followed by Land Rover. MS Pan, Bluebird line up with three past record-breaking fast cars, "Golden Arrow", "Sunbeam" and a vintage car. CU "Sunbeam" - car which was first to reach 200 miles per hour. MS Bluebird. MS Golden Arrow. MS Vintage car. CU Crossed Union Jack and Stars and Stripes on bonnet of Bluebird. LS Line of the four cars on track.
Note: Date on original paperwork reads: 22/07/1960.


Old land speed record breaker is fired up

Sir Malcolm Campbell's record breaking 350hp Sunbeam has been fired up without mishap for the first time in over 50 years.

Following a complete mechanical rebuild by the Britain's National Motor Museum's workshop team in Hampshire, the handle was swung by two men, to bring the engine back to life.

The car was the brainchild of Sunbeam's chief engineer and racing team manager, Louis Coatalen, and was constructed at Wolverhampton during 1919 and early 1920.

For a period following World War I, the world was enthralled by a breed of cars powered by huge aircraft engines and the 350hp Sunbeam is one of the most famous of this group of aero-engined giants. Power came from an 18.322-litre V12 modified Manitou Arab aero engine, a type used on naval seaplanes.

The Sunbeam, renamed Blue Bird by Campbell, set three world land speed records, the first achieved by Kenelm Lee Guinness at Brooklands in 1922 with a speed of 133.75mph (215.25kmh). Campbell then purchased the car, had it painted in his distinctive colour scheme and in September 1924 achieved a new record speed of 146.16mph (235.2kmh) at Pendine in South Wales, raising it the following year to 150.76mph (242.6kmh).

Campbell sold the car soon after with then then passing through a number of owners. For a time the car's location was unknown, but in 1942 it was unearthed in Lancashire by Harold Pratley who bought it in 1944. He loaned it to Rootes Ltd - successors to the Sunbeam Company - who undertook a cosmetic restoration for promotional purposes.

In 1957 the Sunbeam was purchased by Lord Montagu, restored to working order and put on display in the Montagu Motor Museum. When not on display, it was taken to various venues in the UK and Europe and in 1960 accompanied Lord Montagu as a static display on his Motoring Thro' the Years lecture tour of South Africa. Its last outing was at the British Automobile Racing Club Festival of Motoring at Goodwood in 1962 when Lord Montagu took it on a three-lap demonstration run and Donald Campbell did a lap d'Honneur. In 1972 it moved into the newly created National Motor Museum where it has been on permanent display ever since.

During a test fire-up in 1993 to assess the car's condition, disaster struck when a blocked oil way in the engine caused it to seize and ''throw a rod''. For several years after that, the car was on display in the museum with a very visible hole in its engine where the piston and con-rod had exited.

In 1987 the car was repainted and the wheels rebuilt. Around 2007, the workshop team started looking at the car with a view to repairing the engine and an initial strip-out allowed them to assess the damage sustained in the 1993 start-up. Examination showed that the con rod had come through the side of the crank case, scoring the crank shaft and damaging three pistons and valves.

The Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register was approached to assist in finding parts, specialist services and skills to undertake the rebuild. A restoration of this size is a very time consuming process, approximately 2000 hours on this project, so the museum workshop relied heavily on the use of volunteers to do the work, directed by the workshop's senior engineer, Ian Stanfield, and also on generous donations by specialist suppliers.

As part of the engine rebuild, the crank case metal was stitched, the crank shaft re-ground and polished and the damaged cylinder bore re-lined. Damaged con rods, pistons, valves, springs, gudgeon pins and white metal bearings were replaced with new and the main bearing re-metalled and line-bored. The rear axle was taken apart and cleaned and the chassis and running gear renovated.

"This project has been a long-running labour of love for the whole team and such has been their passion that many have dedicated hours of their own time to get the job done. There is huge satisfaction in seeing it finally completed,'' Doug Hill, the museum's chief engineer said.

"However, there is more that we still want to do and our next objective is to research the design of the original gearbox – all original drawings and records were lost when the Sunbeam factory was bombed during World War II - so that we can restore the car to the full 1920s specification, as driven to two world land speed records by Sir Malcolm Campbell at Pendine Sands in 1924 and 1925."

The Sunbeam will be fired up again at the Retromobile classic car show in Paris next month before returning to the museum to take its place in a new display, For Britain & For The Hell Of It – the story of British land speed records, opening for Easter 2014.

Source: Stuff.co.nz