Donald Campbell and one of the wheels of his LSR jet car


CN7 - The Campbell Norris 7 was one of the most famous land speed record cars in history and one that almost claimed Donald Campbell's life. The speed king had a number of vehicle accidents during his career pushing the boundaries of technology forward.



Donald (Don) CharlesWales is the son of Jean Wales nee Campbell, the sister of Donald Malcolm Campbell, his uncle. That makes Don the grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell. Don has made what he could of his ancestry, bouncing from one land speed record project to another, but never really making his mark as a high speed racer as per his grandfather and uncle. Indeed, it was his uncle that really pushed the boundaries, only giving way to the likes of the Summers Brothers, Craig Breedlove and other American speedsters.


Don's ancestors drove on their projects with much of their own money and ideas to keep Britain in the engineering limelight. Mr Wales may have had ambitions like that early in his career, but seems to have been dependent on others for their ideas and cash of course.


Regardless of the lack of engagement in the jet powered category on land or water, at least Don has enjoyed going where Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell went before him.







Donald Campbell was a keen pilot, but even that skill would not save him in the end. He survived this crash and still went on to have another go.



Following a heavy crash at Bonneville with the Bluebird CN7 car in 1960, on July 17, 1964, at Lake Eyre, Australia, Donald Campbell set a record of 403.10 mph for jet propelled four-wheeled vehicles (Class A). He became the first person to set both water and land records in the same year, but the land speed record tumbled shortly after as the Summers Brothers took land speed gold with their Goldenrod streamliner.


The CN7 was all choked out, as the jet age left wheel driven cars in the shade. That only left the K7 and water speed record breaking to keep him in the limelight, where nobody was coming anywhere near his own records on water thanks to the K7's built in speed reserves and the genius of Ken and Lewis Norris, Campbell thought that he could milk that achievement to raise money for a jet car of his own to take on Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove in their backyard specials.


The jet boat concept was not from that drawing board of the Norris brothers, where Malcolm had already fitted a jet engine to a K4 variant. Ken Norris was a stickler for the rules and as the rule book at the time did not recognise jet thrust as a means of propulsion, the CN7 was wheel driven by a jet engine. The CN7 was built on the aerodynamic work of Reid Railton on the Railton Mobil Special for John Cobb.


Donald Campbell was not a practical engineer, relying on Leo Villa to bring alive his ideas to extend the working life of the K7, where, like his father, he would need a gifted designer for an all new car - and that meant money - and a lot of it.


The problem with this is that he had built up a reputation of needing a large support crew. Put that together with the number of incidents where the asset was written off, and his lavish playboy lifestyle and that made sponsoring the speed king a very expensive and largely uninsurable undertaking. These factors meant that future high speed motoring would need to take a very different path to funding. Enter Richard Noble with Thrust 2, Thrust SSC and now the Bloodhound. These are more technology based projects requiring marketing persistence the likes of which dwarfs the efforts of latter day speedsters.


The golden age of electric car racing ended once Formula E come on song, though it may not be too later for Don to suckle the sand at speeds of 400 miles per hour if he really wanted to.




TRAIN SET - Don's Grandfather and Uncle enjoy playing with a train set in the basement of their house in Surrey. The horrendous crashes of his uncle would have been sure to put off the son of a tank driver from Surrey from getting into the cockpit of any machine that would be fast enough to cause instant death if the Campbell curse was to have any sway in the world of the living. Nobody could blame Don for not getting more involved.








K7 CRASH - An incident that rocked the nation. Campbell's last words, recorded from his cockpit microphone: "Tramping like mad... Full power... Tramping like hell here... I can't see much and the water's very bad indeed... I can't get over the top... I'm getting a lot of bloody row in here... I can't see anything... I've got the bows up... I've gone...."


The date was the 4th of January 1967, the time 08:51 GMT, the place Coniston Water, Cumbria, England. Donald was 45 when he died prematurely and his jet powered Bluebird boat had exceeded the 300 mph barrier - unfortunately for the pilot - not safely.



















LSR ART - Not a product of Donald Wales or any other member of the Campbell family, though Mr Wales was happy to pose on it and beside it while taking the glory for being involved in the project, that was until an opportunity was manufactured to take complete control of all the money raised via the efforts of the designer. The Bluebird BE2 (shrouded in this picture) was designed for a project to accelerate the speed of development of electric cars to help reduce climate change - a United Nations sustainable development goal for 2030. Please note that this photograph is Copyright March 2017 Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd. You will need permission from the company to reproduce these pictures, except for private review or study.







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