SI Vault
A look inside the Campbell car
Kenneth Rudeen
August 22, 1960
The British have bet $4 million that Donald Campbell's 'Bluebird,' like another 'Bluebird' of the '30s, will prove to be the world's fastest
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August 22, 1960

A Look Inside The Campbell Car

The British have bet $4 million that Donald Campbell's 'Bluebird,' like another 'Bluebird' of the '30s, will prove to be the world's fastest

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The second vital task is to stop the car in time. The Bonneville course is only 17 miles long, with the measured mile through which the record runs in the center. This leaves 10 miles in which to gather speed and another six in which to decelerate. Twin air flaps that project outward from the sides of the car will be used to slow it to 400 mph; then Campbell will apply four massive, air-operated, inboard disc brakes. These must dissipate 75 million foot-pounds of energy in no more than 70 seconds.

As far as you can go

"It's hard to see," Norris said, "how any vehicle driven through the wheels can have a higher potential than this one. We should have the means of arriving at the maximum coefficient of friction, or grip, that one can use with tires as we now know them. You can almost say this is the end of the road in that sense.

"It's the shortness of the run that makes life difficult. The machine hasn't got time to reach its peak. It's got to be accelerating all the time.

"It's incredible that Graham and Thompson got up so high. I hope Thompson takes the record from us before Donald gives it a go. He jolly well deserves it."

Implicit in Norris' verbal bouquet was, of course, the presumption that Campbell would jolly well get the record right back for Great Britain if Thompson did succeed. The Bluebird people mean business. There is a trustee council, headed by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, which is charged with carrying out the assault in case of Campbell's illness or death.

It is much likelier that Campbell will be as healthy as a Hampshire boar, come the "ultimate" run, probably on September 12.

"Donald will have enormous pressure on him as he accelerates," Lew Norris said. "He'll feel a bit like the arrow in the bow."

Campbell will feel like something more than that if he hits his mark.

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