Malcolm Campbell ~ The Human Bullet

Day 308 of Colourisation Project – March 11

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

301.129mph (or 484.620km/h)!  That is the first officially clocked land-vehicle speed exceeding 300 miles per hour. The year was 1935 and the driver was Malcolm Campbell, an English racing driver and motoring journalist.

Born this day, 11 March 1885, he achieved the world speed record on land and on water at various times during the 1920s and 1930s using vehicles always named, Blue Bird, after the play L’Oiseau Bleu (The Bluebird), by the Belgian dramatist Maurice Maeterlinck.

Malcolm Campbell

Photographer Unknown  ~  Malcolm Campbell 1931 ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Between 1924 and 1935, Campbell established world land-speed records on nine occasions, setting his final land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah on 3 September 1935, when his automobile speed was timed at 301.129 miles per hour.

Campbell who was knighted in 1931, later switched his focus to setting water speed records.  Again breaking his own world records, his fastest world water speed record was achieved in 1939 on Coniston Water, Lancashire, in his boat named, you guessed it….the Bluebird, when he reached a speed of 141.74 miles per hour (228.10 km/h).

Nicknamed the ‘Human Bullet’, Malcolm Campbell died in his sleep after a series of strokes at his home at Povey Cross, near Reigate, Surrey, in 1948. He was 63 years of age.

No doubting he was fast. His son Donald Campbell was also fast. Carrying on the family tradition, Donald broke eight absolute world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s. He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year (1964).

Between father and son, they set eleven speed records on water and ten on land. Unfortunately for Donald, he lost his life in 1967 during another world record breaking attempt when his Bluebird K7 boat flipped at an estimated 328 miles per hour (528km/h). He was only 47 old.


Today the current holder of the World Land speed record is Andy D. Green, a British Royal Air Force fighter pilot. He became the first person to break the sound barrier on land on September 25, 1997 in Black Rock Desert, USA, with an incredible speed of 714.144 miles per hour (1,149.303 km/h).
The following month in October 15, 1997, (50 years and 1 day after the sound barrier was broken in aerial flight by Chuck Yeager), Green reached 763.035 miles per hour (1,227.986 km/h), the first supersonic record.


“This car of mine, I am tickled to death with it. The machine is nearly everything, its power, stability and balance. The driver, allowing for his experience and courage, is much less.”   ~   Malcolm Campbell referring to the Bluebird racing car in which he broke the speed record on 5 Feb 1931.

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