Donald Campbell – 300+ A Speed Odyssey Book Review
‘His life with Bluebird’ is the sub-title but this book is so much more; yes, the Bluebird legacy and all it stood for reigns supreme but for a detailed insight into the man and his machines, this David de Lara book completes the picture. With the 50th
anniversary of that fateful day on Coniston Lake approaching and those images when Bluebird K7’s bow climbed rapidly skyward, the book features that terrible crash frame by frame and includes the radio traffic of the time; Campbell’s last transmission. ‘I can’t see anything…I’ve got the bows up…I’ve gone’...silence. Shocking, but if anyone knew the risks, it was Donald Campbell.
The book begins with his father Malcolm and whilst their deeds and triumphs behind the wheel are readily available, his relationship with Donald was often subject to outside opinion; the book sets much of those records straight. No doubt the son was determined to match and go beyond his father’s achievements, being a national hero ran in the family and flying the flag was expected, if you were a Campbell. It also gloriously brings together many previously unseen images and is superbly crafted with extracts from interviews and accounts from those that lived those moments, one hundred miles an hour at a time. The technical difficulties they overcame on land with advancements in tyre development and on water controlling the instability that cost so many record breakers.
Contributions by his daughter Gina and his third wife Tonia offer an insight into the man when he wasn’t travelling at warp speeds. The amazing crew, including Chief Engineer to both father and son Leo Villa OBE (responsible for many of the period images) plus input from designers and details of the competition Donald was trying to beat. A true hero certainly, his life in all its glory, his shortfalls and successes are laid out for all to appreciate. 224 pages that impress, inspire and remind of a different time when health and safety were barely mentioned, especially in the Campbell household. Chasing the 300mph barrier on water, the same target Malcolm Campbell chased on land some 40 years previously would be his final attempt.
Between them father and son set 21 speed records, 11 on water, 10 on land, a legacy that will never be repeated, the full story of which are inside a hard back that crosses the decades and the globe as they travelled faster and faster. The launch of the book took place at Waterstones in Piccadilly with a selection of memorabilia on show which entertained those enthusiasts that queued to get signatures from the Author, Gina Campbell and Malcolm Campbell’s grandson Don Wales. Wales has continued the tradition and has achieved speed records with both electric and steam powered vehicles. The venue was chosen specifically because in 1958 Donald was present at the opening of the entrance out onto Jermyn St.
In the street outside the very entrance was a pair of Bugatti Type 35’s, a race car that enjoyed success in the hands of Malcolm Campbell. Also Lorne Jacobs replica of Malcolm’s 1927 Bluebird that features the original Napier Lion engine, gearbox and rear axle that flew to 174mph on Pendine Sands. Finally, Donald’s own beautiful Aston Martin DB2/4 was enough to stop half of London’s office workers and most shoppers, a worthy display for a superb publication.
Donald Campbell 300+ A Speed Odyssey – His Life with Bluebird £30.00
Published by The History Press: thehistorypress.co.uk
Available from all major book stores or contact firstname.lastname@example.org