Campbell-Railton-Rolls Royce Blue Bird 1933


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.

Powered by an R-type, supercharged 2,500-hp V-12 Rolls Royce engine, this engine required another new body with two bulges covering the cylinder banks and a forward facing air intake for the supercharger protruding from the nose, to create a ram air effect. This new body was again built by Gurney, Nutting's. First trials were again at Daytona Beach in February 1933, with the first record in this car set at 272.46 mph at Daytona Beach on 22nd February 1933.

The design of the car was an enormous advance on that of the earlier cars of the series. The familiar vertical fin on the tail had been provided, to give lateral stability, but it introduced a problem of its own. Any attempt at making the steering of the car more stable by fitting such a tail fin must result in greater sensitivity to the effects of a side wind, and another compromise became necessary.

Excessive weight meant high stresses on the tyres and insufficient ballasting, which meant wheel spin. The load was adjusted by lead weights carried inside the main frame members, inside the tubular cross members and in all other convenient places. About 1,500 lb. of ballast of this kind were carried. In spite of this, it appeared that the adhesion was not sufficient, and the wheel spin set a limit to the speed of the car.

The car was heavy enough to be slow in its reactions to disturbing forces, and was therefore safer than a lighter car would have been. The better the body shape of such a car, the leas work has the driver to do in keeping it on a straight course. The normal reaction to air pressure tends to depress the nose of the car, and the corresponding elevation of the rear portion reduces the adhesion. All these factors were carefully balanced against one another, and the results obtained leave no doubt that Blue Bird was as safe a car as it could possibly be in the circumstances governing its design.

Campbell had twice re-taken the record from Segrave in arguably the most exciting days of the world land speed record, those during the 1930s. But even though he remained the current record holder, he was not satisfied.

Always the perfectionist, Campbell decided his car must go even faster. The great designer Reid Railton was called in and hit upon the idea of using one of the Rolls-Royce R-type racing aero engines giving 2,500 horse-power-five times the power of the original Lion engine.

The adoption of a Rolls Royce engine however was not without problems. First the Bluebirds chassis was "stretched" to 27 feet by the insertion of gussets in the side-members, and these were also taken further forward to carry a new radiator.

The clutch was also improved to take the extra power, and room made for an outsize supercharger at the front of the car.

It was estimated the engine would last for three minutes at full boost, and Campbell thought this long enough to reach his new goal of 300 miles an hour.

Many changes had been made to the Lion-engined Bluebird before the Rolls engine was fitted.

The coachbuilders Gurney Nutting reshaped the car to take the new engine. Campbell came close, but in the end had to be satisfied with a record of 272.46 mph

Country of Manufacture: Great Britain
Engine Manufacturer: Rolls-Royce Type R Schneider Trophy aircraft type
Cylinders V12
Bore 152.4mm
Stroke 167.64mm
Cubic Capacity 36,582cc
Compression ratio 6:1
Carburettor Rolls-Royce
Max. Power 2,300-2,500 bhp at 3,200rpm Single centrifugal supercharger
Clutch Duron faced
Gearbox 3speed gearbox constant mesh, indirect drive
Ratios 1.2 to 1 in top
Back axle offset 7in to enable lower driving seat
Type of drive bevel gear final drive 1.58 to 1
Chassis: John Thompson Motor Pressings
Suspension: Woodhead
Shock Absorbers: Andre
Brakes: Alford and Alder with Cayton Dewandre vacuum servo
Wheels: steel disc
Tyres: Dunlop 35 x 6in; pressure more than 100lb per sq in.; rpm at record speed 2,430rpm; tread 1/32in
Dimensions: Wheelbase 13ft 8in., Track front 5ft 3in., Track rear 5ft, Length 27ft, Weight 4.75 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 22, 1933 Daytona Beach, USA Sir Malcolm Campbell Great Britain Campbell Rolls-Royce Railton Blue Bird
Rolls Royce V-12
IC 272.46 mph (438.48 km/h) 272.10 mph (437.90 km/h)  



Sir Malcolm Campbell describes improvements to his car - he checks the changes with a mechanic.
Full title reads: "Daytona. The new 'Bluebird' revealed - The new Napier-Lion engine has been increased by 50 h.p. - a new nose and improved streamlining - will give extra 10 mph - but added new risks for gallant Sir Malcolm Campbell!"
Daytona, Florida, United States of America.
Sir Malcolm Campbell seated in cockpit of car speaks to reporters.
"We've got a new radiator on, and a new nose, which reduces her wind resistance quite considerably. And again we've got about another 50 horse power more power from the engines. Altogether we've got available nearly 1500. I don't know, of course, what speed the car will eventually achieve. It's impossible to say because everything will depend upon the condition of the beach and the state of the weather when the attempt is being made."
Campbell and others look around the front of the car. Crowds of people look on from behind a rope, several of the women are wearing swimming costumes. Campbell bends down to look at the nose and one of the mechanics talks to him about it. Campbell is checking that the bolts on the new nose are properly fixed. Three men (Possibly holding microphones) are standing close to Campbell.


Full title reads: "Au Revoir and good luck! Sir Malcolm Campbell's 'Blue Bird' leaves for Daytona where he will attempt new World's record."
Southampton, Hampshire.
Shots of large crate on deck of ship - presumably containing the car Bluebird. The name 'Sir Malcolm Campbell' is stencilled on the crate as is Daytona via New York and 'Blue Bird'.
Shots of the crate being lifted by a crane and lowered onto the ship.



Full title reads: "Daytona. 272.108 miles per hour! Sir Malcolm Campbell shatters his own World record in his famous 'Blue Bird'."
Daytona, Florida, United States of America (USA).
Speed Ace Sir Malcolm Campbell stands in front of his famous 'Bluebird' car and introduces us to members of his mechanical crew.
Campbell is lifted into the driver's seat / cockpit of his car.
Various shots of the Bluebird speeding down Daytona beach like 'a four wheeled streak of lightening'.

SIR MALCOLM CAMPBELL and Blue Bird in 1933, before leaving England for Daytona Beach. The peculiar frontal appearance of the car is due to the cooling system used, the radiator cowl being mounted in such a way that the air passing through the radiator could emerge at the rear of the cowling, offering little resistance to the main air stream into which it passed. The car is seen fitted with ordinary tyres ; those used for the record attempts had no tread.
DETAILED DIAGRAM of Sir Malcolm Campbell's 1933 Blue Bird. The overall length of the car was 26 ft. 7 in. and the overall width 6 ft. 11 in. The total weight was 10,900 lb., or nearly 5 tons. The engine was a twelve-cylinder supercharged Rolls-Royce aero engine as used by planes in the Schneider Trophy Air Race. The car carried 28 gallons of fuel, 27 gallons of water and 10 gallons of oil.