Campbell-Napier-Arrol Aster Blue Bird 1929


Campbell-Napier-Arrol Aster Blue Bird 1929
This car had the same 900-hp engine but now sported a new more streamlined body built and fitted at Dumfries by Arrol Aster. It was much lower and was distinguished by a hump around the cockpit, due to the size of the gearbox and the fact that Campbell was seated astride it. Surface radiators were dispensed with in this reincarnation. First trials were at Verneuk Pan, South Africa in April 1929. Five and ten mile records were achieved and the speed reached on the record attempt was 218 mph.

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).

After Segrave had raised the record in Golden Arrow by a whole 30 mph (48 km/h) though, Campbell knew that Blue Bird was beaten and began work on a new car, the Campbell-Napier-Railton Blue Bird.

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.

Country of Manufacture: Great Britain
Engine Manufacturer: Napier sprint Lion VII Schneider Cup aircraft engine
Cylinders 12 - 3 banks of 4
Cubic Capacity 23,948cc
Max. Power 875 bhp at 3,300rpm
Clutch 11 1/4in. dry plates; hand lever to disconnect gearbox when car stationary
Gearbox FBM 3 speed planetary
Ratios .333, .666, 1. Final drive ratio 1.5 to 1
Back axle crown and bevel independently supported
Type of drive Reinecker
Chassis: Vickers underslung beneath rear axle
Suspension: Woodhead self-shock-absorbing springs
Shock Absorbers: Duplex Hartford
Brakes: Alford and Alder, solid steel drums, direct or Dewandre vacuum servo. 18in dia and 1 5/8in wide
Wheels: Rudge-Whitworth wire double-spoke to front, triple-spoke to rear
Tyres: Dunlop size 33 x 5in.
Dimensions: Wheelbase 12ft 1 1/2in., Track front 5ft 5 1/4 in., Track rear 4ft 9 in., Length 18ft, Weight 3 tons approx. dry
Body Manufacturer: Arrol Aster, material 18-gauge aluminium

Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile



Item title reads - The Bluebird. The Napier-Arrol-Aster, modified at the Arrol-Aster works. Captain Malcolm Campbell will attempt new world speed record at Vernak Pan near Capetown shortly in this car. Dumfries, Scotland.
L/S's of the Bluebird without its main body on, three men stand around and tinker with it. M/S as the camera pans across it. M/S as body is lowered into place. M/S as they stand around and work on it. Various shots as they use spanners to tighten nuts and bolts. M/S as it is wheeled along. Various shots of the car ready to go.