"I didn't even know what a psychiatrist was," he says. "I thought he could give me a mental exercise, some little trick to perform to help me handle my fear. Instead, he started explaining what the ego was and told me I was competing with my father and that I had a hostility to women. We went on that way for three visits and this guy was having a field day with me. Finally I said, 'Hey, wonderful, but what about my fear?' He told me my fear was the only thing he found normal about me, and that he wouldn't disturb it. I stopped seeing him."
There were pressures at work on Donald Campbell, too. Following the debacle with Bluebird, Campbell announced plans to build a jet car capable of speeds up to 840 mph. After their first meeting in Surrey, he paid Breedlove several visits in Los Angeles, during which the two men endlessly discussed the perils of both supersonic speed and the fairer sex ("The only trouble with women is other women," Campbell declared while sipping Mai Tais at Trader Vic's). But support for Campbell's supersonic car never came, and it was partly to redeem himself that the Englishman went back to the water in an attempt to beat his own record.
Listening to the radio in the kitchen of his Palos Verdes home one January evening in 1967, Craig Breedlove heard the news that Donald Campbell had been killed when his boat, also called Bluebird, crashed on England's Lake Coniston. Breedlove tried to imagine himself sitting in that boat, then numbly sent a cable of condolence to Campbell's widow, Tonia.
Last spring Breedlove was a guest on a morning TV show in Los Angeles. Another guest was Belgian-born Tonia Bern Campbell, a cabaret singer who had resumed her career after her husband's death. After the show Breedlove asked a question: "Hey, whatever happened to Bluebird?"
Told that the car was on display in a small museum in Suffolk, he shook his head sadly. "It's a sin for a magnificent machine like that to just sit around," he said.
At Tonia's suggestion, Breedlove scraped together the fare and off he flew last fall to England, where he negotiated with the trustees of Campbell's estate for permission to drive Bluebird. Visiting the museum, he climbed into the car with the eagerness of a schoolboy inspecting his first bicycle. Soon afterward the automobile was moved to a garage near London for shipment to the U.S.—as soon as Breedlove could come up with a sponsor. The British press reported that Bluebird would fly again, but there was no word on who the mystery driver might be.
Not one to shy from tampering with a car just because $4 million and the wisdom and energy of several dozen companies have gone into it, Breedlove believes that with modifications Bluebird is capable of 475 mph. One change he has in mind is to move the driver's cockpit farther to the rear, an alteration that struck him as essential when he sat in the car in the museum. "I couldn't believe how far forward Campbell had been sitting," he muses. "Up there you don't feel what's going on because the skating and fishtailing all take place in the rear. What surprises me is that Donald could have driven like that at any speed."
Breedlove unblushingly describes Campbell as "sort of a father to me," and it is a fascinating coincidence that the two shared the same birthday, March 23. As he awaits the revival of the sport in which they competed, Breedlove professes to have learned a valuable lesson from his friend's life—and death. "I don't intend to see how far I can push myself, the way Donald did," he said one afternoon as he leafed casually through a sheaf of rocket-car designs piled on a drawing board in his quarters above the garage. "All I want is to break the sound barrier. Then I'll retire. I'm going to get myself a dog and go run along the beach with him. I'll let somebody else break 1,000."
At another moment, to be sure, Breedlove hedged on that vow, saying: "Of course, I couldn't very well quit on the job. I mean, if I went 760, say, and somebody else turned around and went 820, well...." But on that particular day, thumbing through his designs, he was preoccupied above all with the more immediate question of how he would get his supersonic car off the drawing board and Bluebird out of that garage in England. In the next room, behind a desk where in better days a full-time secretary worked, Craig's girl Cheryl, a fetching Continental Air Lines stewardess and the owner of the trusty Volkswagen, quietly attended to some backed-up paperwork.
Turning at last from the drawing board, Breedlove brightened. "Sooner or later I'm sure I'll come up with a sponsor," he said. "I figure if I can risk my life, somebody else will come along and risk the money." He paused to reflect on what he had just said, then drew his features into an expression of mock pain. "Hey, that's what you call looking at the bright side of things," he said cheerfully.