Donald Campbell’s restored Bluebird K7 set for Scottish run

Campbell’s Bluebird K7 will take to the water for the first time in more than 50 years tomorrow morning, running on the Isle of Bute’s Loch Fad for crew training

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Donald Campbell has remained both a hero and a figure of interest to generations of speed enthusiasts since his tragic death on Lake Coniston in 1967. Travelling at more than 300mph, Campbell’s record-breaking Bluebird K7 hydroplane flipped and crashed, hitting the water with estimated G-force in excess of 100g. He was 45 years old.

His craft rested in the dark centre of the lake for 34 years before Bill Smith controversially raised the wreck, along with recovering Campbell’s body, in 2001. Since then, Smith’s team has been renovating the craft in Tyneside, Newcastle.

After 17 years of work, the hydroplane has now been transported to Scotland for testing on Loch Fad, Isle of Bute. Its first journey under its own power is set for Saturday morning (August 4, 2018).

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After initial water tests, Bluebird is expected to return to Coniston next year, where the hydroplane will run at speed. Once this has been undertaken, Bluebird K7 is expected to reside in Coniston’s Ruskin Museum as the main attraction.

‘We’ll be training ourselves on Loch Fad for a fortnight because we don’t really know how she will behave,’ Mr Smith told AutoClassics.

‘Once this is complete there’s hope that she’ll take a speed run back in Coniston, but there is lots of work to be done before then. We have come a long way since salvaging the wreck.’

Bill’s team has painstakingly rebuilt the fuselage, with nearly all components having to be specially made. Bluebird’s original Bristol Orpheus engine was destroyed, but a replacement powerplant was donated by De Havilland Aviation in 2007 and is almost identical to Campbell’s original.

The engine was successfully tested after instalment in the reconstructed chassis in 2016. Bill was in the cockpit for the test fire and called the experience ‘amazing’.

Donald’s daughter, Gina Campbell, told the BBC: ‘It will be quite an extraordinary experience for me to see this boat after so many years. I don’t quite know how my heart will react, but I’m sure it will be with great jubilation.’

Bill concluded: ‘We have spent more than a decade-and-a-half logging parts and piecing her [Bluebird] back together. Everything has been repaired. She now looks how she should.’

AutoClassics will bring you further updates as they happen.

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