Napier-Campbell Blue Bird
|Napier-Campbell 'Bluebird II'|
|Designer||C. Amherst Villiers|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||open-wheel, front-engined racing car.|
|Related||Campbell-Napier-Railton Blue Bird|
|Engine||22.3 litre W12-block Napier Lion VIIA,
450 hp @ 2,000 rpm,
502 hp @ 2,200 rpm
|Transmission||3-speed epicyclic, ratios of 0.333, 0.666, 1
final drive ratio 1.27:1
|Wheelbase||12 ft 1.5 in (3.696 m), track 5 ft 5.25 in (1.6574 m) front, 4 ft 9 in (1.45 m) rear|
|Length||15 ft (4.6 m)|
|Curb weight||approx. 3 tons dry|
When first built, the car used a Napier Lion engine of around 500 bhp. It was of conventional form with a front-mounted vertical radiator and the driver behind the engine. The three banks of the W-12 engine were hidden behind bulges in the narrow bonnet, with exhaust stub pipes protruding.
Bluebird's first record attempt was on 4 February 1927 at Pendine Sands. A peak speed of 195 mph (314 km/h) was achieved, tantalisingly close to the magic 200 mph (320 km/h), but the two-way average recorded for the record itself was lower, at 174.883 mph (281.45 km/h).
|Napier-Campbell 'Blue Bird III'|
rebuild of the 1927 car.
Other details unchanged
|Body and chassis|
|Related||Napier-Campbell 'Blue Bird II'|
|Engine||23.948 litre Napier Lion "Sprint",
875 hp (652 kW) at 3,300 rpm
|Transmission||final drive ratio 1.5:1|
|Curb weight||52cwt dry|
The 1927 record was short-lived, as Segrave's Sunbeam 1000 hp achieved both the 180 mph and 200 mph targets a month later. This prompted Campbell to rebuild the car as 'Blue Bird III' for 1928. He persuaded the Air Ministry to allow him a Schneider Trophy-tuned "Sprint" engine, as fitted to the Supermarine S.5 seaplane, of 900 hp (670 kW).
Improved aerodynamics were innovatively tested in Vickers' wind-tunnel by R.K. Pierson, their Chief Designer. Blue Bird’s body shape was substantially changed, with the famous coachbuilders Mulliner producing the bodywork. The results were unorthodox. A vertical tail fin was added for stability, a first for Blue Bird and land speed record cars. Open spats behind the wheels also reduced drag. The biggest change was to the radiators, which were moved to the rear of the car and mounted externally. These surface radiators were made by Fairey Aviation and contained 2,400 ft (730 m) of tube.  Removing the nose radiator allowed a low, rounded nose with better streamlining. However, one French newspaper compared its looks to a whale.
Following Segrave to Daytona Beach, on 19 February 1928 Campbell took the record at 206.956 mph (333.063 km/h), breaking the 200 mph barrier for his first time. Once again though he only held the record for a couple of months, losing it by a whisker to Ray Keech and the White Triplex.
Campbell sought a more predictable venue than a tidal beach, so he set off to survey possible sites by air. Africa showed promise, first at a site a mere 600 miles from Timbuctu and so impractically inaccessible. A dry lake bed in South Africa, the Verneukpan, was still 450 miles (720 km) from Cape Town but did have some chance of access.
Blue Bird was rebuilt for a third time. The chassis, engine and drivetrain remained the same, but the bodywork was replaced with one built in Dumfries by Arrol-Aster. This body was lower, requiring a hump around the cockpit where Campbell now sat astride the gearbox. The surface radiators were replaced by a conventional circular nose opening, covered by a distinctive 'birdcage' grille. 
Unfortunately, after a period of five years of no rainfall, it poured down almost as soon as they arrived. Campbell returned to Cape Town, where on his 44th birthday he learnt that Henry Segrave at Daytona Beach had set a new record in Golden Arrow at 231.44 mph (372.47 km/h). Blue Bird was unable to match this at the African altitude and climate, but he made the best use of the long course and set the world 5 mile and 10 mile records at 212 mph (341 km/h).
- Leo Villa (1969). The Record Breakers, Sir Malcolm & Donald Campbell, Land and Water-speed kings of the 20th century. Hamlyn.
- "Bluebird at Pendine, setting the 4th Feb record". Brooklands photo archive.
- Holthusen, Peter J.R. (1986). The Land Speed Record. ISBN 0-85429-499-6.
- "Rear above view of Blue Bird III, showing the external radiators". Brooklands photo archive.
- "1928 Napier-Campbell Blue Bird III". Bluebird team racing.
- "Record-breaking Pendine Sands" (photo). Sand Speed Wales.
- "Sir Malcolm Campbell, biography". Bluebird team racing.
- "Verneuk Pan". Bluebird team racing.
- "Blue Bird, 1929". Racing Campbells.
- "The 1929 Blue Bird, showing the 'birdcage' grille". Brooklands photo archive.
- "Seek New Auto Speeds Marks with Streamline Car" Popular Mechanics, May 192
- "record-breaking Pendine Sands" (photos). Sand Speed Wales. Many rare period photos.