British Motor Museums

15th June 2015

Pendine special event

This year celebrates the 90th anniversary of Sir Malcolm Campbell achieving a new World Land Speed record of 150mph at Pendine Sands, South Wales, in his 350hp Sunbeam. Ninety years to the day, the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, is marking the occasion with a commemorative low-speed demonstration run with the Sunbeam, back at Pendine Sands. The run will take place at 4pm on 21 July, starting from the area of the beach adjacent to the Pendine Museum of Speed. The car will be driven by Sir Malcolm’s grandson, Don Wales, himself a Land Speed Record holder. In addition to performing the run, he and the museum team will be aiming to re-create two iconic pictures from the original run.

The car was the brainchild of Sunbeam’s chief engineer and racing team manager, Louis Coatalen, and was constructed at the company’s works in Wolverhampton during 1919 and early 1920. Its power came from a modified 18.322 litre V12 modified Manitou Arab aero engine, a type used on naval seaplanes. The Sunbeam, renamed Blue Bird by Campbell, holds three World Land Speed Records, the first achieved by Kenelm Lee Guinness at Brooklands in 1922 with a speed of 133.75mph. Campbell then purchased the car, had it painted in his distinctive colour scheme and in September 1924 achieved a new record speed of 146.16mph at Pendine, raising it the following year to 150.76mph.

Supporting the run will be the 1933 aero-engined Napier Railton Special, which holds the all-time lap record of 143.44mph at Brooklands. The Napier-Railton has its own unique history at Pendine, having been the star (alongside James Mason and Ava Gardner) of the 1951 movie Pandora & The Flying Dutchman. In the film, the car is used for an attempt on the Land Speed Record, for which the action sequences (culminating in the car being driven into the sea to quench an engine fire) were filmed on Pendine Sands during 1950. In recent months, a film researcher has established that amongst the ‘extras’ in the crowd scenes for these sequences was the famed Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. Owned by the Brooklands Museum since 1977, the Napier-Railton will also run at Pendine, with Brooklands Museum Director, Allan Winn, in the driving seat.

The world famous National Motor Museum houses a collection of over 250 vehicles telling the story of motoring on the roads of Britain from the dawn of motoring to the present day. For Britain & For The Hell Of it, opened in 2014, which also features the 1,000hp Sunbeam, the Irving-Napier Special ‘Golden Arrow’ and Donald Campbell’s Bluebird CN7. Opened by Sir Stirling Moss in March, two new motor sport display areas in the museum, Grand Prix Greats and Road, Race and Rally, feature F1, rallying, trials and drag racing exhibits, as well as clothing, trophies, photographs, film and video, telling the story of both track and road racing from its beginnings to the present day. The 350hp Sunbeam is one of four Land Speed Record cars on show in a permanent display.

Courtesy of National Motor Museum and Brooklands Museum.

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