24 July 2015

90th Anniversary of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Land Speed Record on Pendine Sands

Tuesday 21st July marked the 90th anniversary of Sir Malcolm Campbell achieving a then, new World Land Speed Record of 150mph at Pendine Sands, South Wales, in his 350hp Sunbeam. To commemorate that feat, the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, took the actual car from its collection to make a low-speed demonstration run back at Pendine driven by Campbell’s grandson Don Wales.

The Sunbeam, renamed Blue Bird by Campbell, holds three World Land Speed Records, the first achieved by Kenelm Lee Guinness at Brooklands in 1922 with a speed of 133.75mph. 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 at Pendine, raising it the following year to 150.76mph. Campbell then sold the Sunbeam and it passed through a number of owners and was in a poor condition when purchased by Lord Montagu in 1957, for his ever expanding motor museum.

Also attending the event and joining the passes on the sands was a team from the Museum with the Napier-Railton. As well as Campbell himself being inextricably linked with Brooklands, the Railton itself has a link with Pendine which was taken full advantage of. For the 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman starring James Mason and Ava Gardner, the car was used in various scenes including being driven around the coastline, pushed off a cliff into the sea, being stripped and rebuilt and, perhaps the film’s finest sequence, the scene of it racing along the beach. In it, the driver attempts to break a speed record but, as the radiator had developed a leak, it overheats and the only option the driver has to extinguish the ensuing fire billowing out from the engine is to drive it into the sea. Rare footage has also recently emerged of Dylan Thomas who can be seen in the background as an extra and is thought to be the only moving footage of the famous Welsh poet. The Dylan Thomas Society of Great Britain were contacted about the event and had no prior knowledge that the car still existed and so has now found a new audience due to this connection.

Images: Darren Boxer Port Studio Photography

More images of the event can be seen on the Museum Flickr page here