Sir Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7 to be reborn
Report by John Newton
It's a labour of love for the weary volunteer team delivering the conservation re-build of Bluebird K7 – the boat in which Donald Campbell was killed in 1967 while trying to break the world water speed record of 300mph on Coniston Water in England's Lake District.
But the intricate and painstaking restoration project - headed by Bill Smith, who with his team of divers recovered the wreckage of Campbell's craft 15 years ago (8 March 2001) - is being hampered by lack of funds.
It will now take at least another 18 months to complete the work before static trials can go ahead – that's if more money can be raised and the companies donating materials can meet the project manager's schedules.
Most of the conservation re-build has been completed, which has included removing all possible corrosion, while a veritable army of volunteers has taken out over 80,000 rivets from the remains of Bluebird K7 and replaced more than 50,000 of them.
“It's going to take as long as necessary, because if it's worth doing, it's worth doing properly,” said Vicky Slowe, director & curator of the Ruskin Museum in Coniston, where Bluebird K7 will eventually go on permanent display - just a stone's throw from where the speed ace is buried in a churchyard in the local village.
“Once the static tests have been completed to everyone's satisfaction, we will await a suitable weather window – ideally three weeks of high pressure/flat calm lake – to run the low-speed engineering proving trials on Coniston Water,” said Ms Slowe. “Bluebird K7 will not be on display until after that”.
It was hoped the Bluebird K7 project would have been finished early next year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the crash on 4 January 1967.
However, the village of Coniston will pay its own anniversary tribute with information being displayed on the museum's website once the programme has been confirmed.
Ms Slowe added that once the hydroplane goes on display, the museum will operate admission on timed tickets, which will b available online to book and pay for in advance – via the museum's website.
The restored Bluebird K7 is expected to become the Lake District's major tourist drawcard once it goes on display in the museum's Bluebird wing.
For more details, go to: www.bluebirdproject.com - where you can see footage of the project team running up the Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engine that will be fitted, in due course, in the conserved and rebuilt hull. (Bristol Siddeley is now part of Rolls Royce).
“When finished, it will be a living, breathing machine. One that Donald Campbell would have been proud of. Indeed, it will be something Britain can be proud of” - James Walshe, Britain's Classics Magazine.
“Speed is my life” - Donald Campbell.