The story behind Bluebird CN7

Article by Christian A., on November 12, 2011

Donald Stevens, Design Team Member and Project Coordinator for the Bluebird CN7 -- the land speed record breaker -- will be the guest speaker on December 3, 2011, at an event hosted by the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

Stevens was Norris Brothers Ltd.'s first employee, and had worked on many of their innovative engineering solutions. After serving as a trainee pilot in the RAF, he rejoined the company to work with the two chief designers on the concept of the Campbell-Norris 7 (Bluebird CN7).

Stevens became project coordinator for the construction later on. Stevens has delivered many lectures on Bluebird CN7's design to engineering institutions nationwide.

His speech at the National Motor Museum will cover how the basic design was developed, the method of construction, the wind tunnel testing, the runs and crash at Bonneville, as well as the real potential of the CN7. The event will begin at 8: 00 p.m. in the Lecture Theatre of the National Motor Museum Collections Centre. A pay bar is available for those who want to purchase drinks. Prior to this event, the Museum will be open at 6.30pm for a private view.

Norris Brothers Ltd. is consulting engineering firm of Burgess Hill, as established by the Norris Brothers, Ken and Lew, in 1952. The Norris Brothers were credited for designing a Bluebird hydroplane boat as piloted by Donald Campbell. Known as the Bluebird K7, this jet-powered hydroplane allowed Campbell to set a new world water speed record in July 23, 1955, going as fast as 202.32 mph (325.6 km/h).

At the same time, Campbell began planning to break the land speed record, which at the time stood 394 mph (634 km/h), as set by John Cobb in the Railton Mobil Special. The Norris Brothers commenced work on the design of Bluebird CN7, a gas turbine powered car, with a top speed of 500 mph (800 km/h) in mind.

Construction of the CN7 (Campbell–Norris 7) was then started by Motor Panels in Coventry, with Ken and Lew Norris as co-chief designers. Construction of the CN7 was completed by the spring of 1960. After demonstrating the CN7 at Goodwood Circuit in July 1960, Campbell took the car to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on September 16, 1960. Despite accelerating from zero to just under 400 mph (640 km/h) in just 24 seconds, Campbell failed in his land speed record attempt after suffering a high-speed crash.

Another land speed record attempt was made in 1963, but failed to rainy weather conditions. Finally on July 17, 1964, Campbell set a new land speed record of 403.10 mph (648.73 km/h) for a four-wheeled vehicle (Class A). Although successful, Campbell was disappointed with the record as the CN7 had been designed to reach 500 mph (800 km/h).

Months later on Dec. 31, 1964, Campbell and the Bluebird K7 set a new world water speed record of 276.33 mph (444.71 mph).

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