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Donald Campbell and Bluebird K7

Donald Campbell CBE (23 March 1921 – 4 January 1967) broke eight absolute world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s. He was awarded a CBE in January 1957 for his water speed record breaking. He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year (1964).

Sir Donald Campbell

Revolutionary hydroplane

Bluebird K7 was the first successful jet-powered hydroplane and was considered revolutionary when launched in January 1955. Campbell broke the outright World Water Speed Record on seven separate occasions in Bluebird K7, four of them on Coniston Water. Campbell and K7 were responsible for adding almost 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) to the water speed record, taking it from existing mark of 178 miles per hour (286 km/h) to just over 276 miles per hour (444 km/h).

Bluebird K7 was a steel-framed, aluminium-bodied, three-point hydroplane with a Metropolitan-Vickers Beryl axial-flow turbojet engine, producing 3,500-pound-force (16kN) of thrust. For the 1966/67 campaign the engine was upgraded to a Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus producing 4,500 pound-force (20.6kN) and the iconic tail fin (from a Folland Gnat, also the origin of the new jet engine) was added.

Bluebird K7
SpeedLocationDate
202.32 mphUllswater23.07.55
216.20 mphLake Mead16.11.55
225.63 mphConiston Water19.09.56
239.07 mphConiston Water07.11.57
248.62 mphConiston Water10.11.58
260.35 mphConiston Water14.05.59
276.33 mphLake Dumbleyung 31.12.64
Water speed record stats

The last run of Bluebird K7

On 4 January 1967, in a bid for an eighth water speed record, Donald Campbell and Bluebird K7 were catapulted into legend. During an attempt to raise the record to over 300 miles per hour (480 km/h) on Coniston Water, in a much-modified K7, the Speed Ace died in a sublimely tragic manner.

The legacy

In December 2006, Campbell’s daughter, Gina Campbell QSO, formally gifted Bluebird K7 to the Ruskin Museum.  An appeal was launched to raise money for the building of a new wing to house a restored K7. This culminated in the opening of the museum’s new Bluebird Wing in 2008, which houses the Campbell Collection.

Precious metal

Icarus Originals are honoured to be working in partnership with the Ruskin Museum and Campbell Family Heritage Trust to mark the 100th anniversary year of Campbell’s birth.  We have been entrusted with a precious piece of aluminium from Bluebird K7 to incorporate into our Donald Campbell Centenary cufflink and pin badge designs. The limited edition cufflinks all come with certificates of authenticity signed by Gina. A proportion of monies raised will go towards the care and conservation of the collection.

Why Bluebird?

Donald Campbell was the son of Malcolm, later Sir Malcolm Campbell, holder of 13 world speed records in the 1920s and 1930s in the Blue Bird cars and boats. Malcolm Campbell had become captivated by the theme of Maeterlinck’s Symbolist operatic fantasy, The Blue Bird, in 1912.  The pursuit of happiness, so close, yet tantalisingly beyond reach, seemed to symbolise his own determined pursuit of ever faster speeds. He appropriated the name, colour, and logo, to build his own ‘brand’ and legend. All his subsequent cars, hydroplanes, and personal yachts were named Blue Bird. Following Malcolm’s death, Donald changed the name to Bluebird, to differentiate his cars and hydroplanes from those of his father.

Why ‘K’? and why the figure 8 on its side?

The letter ‘K’ is the symbol used by Lloyds for the insurance class of boats with unlimited engine power.  Unlimited can also mean infinite.  The rotation of the figure 8 is the infinity symbol.  Malcolm’s first World Water Speed Record-breaking hydroplane was Blue Bird K3.  Its faster successor was Bluebird K4.  Two other hydroplanes had been registered in the ‘K’ class before Donald Campbell’s iconic Bluebird K7 began her legendary career.

Official Donald Campbell Centenary Pin Badge containing aluminium from Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7

Our Bluebird K7 pin badge been made with kind permission of the Ruskin Museum and Campbell Family Heritage Trust to mark the centenary of the birth of land and water world speed record breaker Donald Campbell CBE. Developed using advanced computer-aided design, each pin badge is then cast in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and contains a percentage of aluminium reclaimed from Bluebird K7 itself. The sterling silver rendering of the machine is infused with aluminium from K7 and sits on an 18ct gold-plated brass platform with a blue enamel ‘lake’ representing Coniston Water. The badges come in a presentation box along with a unique data card. A percentage of every sale of Icarus Originals’ Bluebird K7 pin badges goes towards the care and conservation of the Campbell Collection housed within the Ruskin Museum.

  • Official Bluebird K7 Pin Badge
    £69.99
  • Bluebird Cufflinks
    Official Bluebird K7 Cufflinks
    £174.99

Official limited-edition Donald Campbell Centenary Cufflinks in sterling silver containing aluminium from Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7

Our Bluebird K7 cufflinks have been made with kind permission of the Ruskin Museum and Campbell Family Heritage Trust to mark the centenary of the birth of land and water world speed record breaker Donald Campbell CBE. Developed using advanced computer-aided design, each cufflink is then cast in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and contains a percentage of aluminium reclaimed from Bluebird K7 itself. The sterling silver rendering of the machine is infused with aluminium from K7and sits on a sterling silver cufflink bar. We have made 100 pairs in this strictly limited-edition series supplied with a certificate of authenticity personally signed by Donald Campbell’s daughter, Gina Campbell QSO. These hallmarked cufflinks are presented in a high-quality hinged box along with a unique data card. A percentage of every sale of Icarus Originals’ Bluebird K7 cufflinks goes towards the care and conservation of the Campbell Collection housed within The Ruskin Museum.

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