National Motor Museum Launches Sunbeam Appeal

The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, has launched an appeal to raise funds to build a new gear box for Sir Malcolm Campbell’s historic 1920 Sunbeam 350hp Land Speed Record car.

The museum’s manager and Chief Engineer, Doug Hill says: “During the Sunbeam’s long and chequered history, its Achilles heel has been a weak gearbox. At some time after WWll, the original gearbox was removed and subsequently lost. It was replaced with a gearbox that was originally used in an Albion 35hp van, designed to take only one tenth of the power this engine produces and the way in which the braking system has been modified means that this installation severely compromises the braking of the vehicle.

350 Sunbeam with restoration team

“For the next stage of the Sunbeam’s restoration story, we need to build a new gearbox from scratch. As the original gearbox no longer exists and there is no template to follow, this will be a challenge requiring all of our knowledge and expertise. It is a vital step in our journey to restore the car to its 1925 specification and will greatly help us to drive the car closer to the speed it was built for.”

This year celebrates the 90th anniversary of Sir Malcolm Campbell achieving a new World Land Speed record of 150mph at Pendine Sands, South Wales, in this car. On 21 July, ninety years to the day since the record was set, the National Motor Museum marked the occasion with a commemorative low-speed demonstration run with the Sunbeam back at Pendine Sands, with Sir Malcolm’s grandson, Don Wales, in the driving seat.

Commenting on the restoration appeal Don said: “This beautiful car has been lovingly restored and looked after by Doug Hill and the team and its only right that such an iconic car deserves to have the final pieces in place to complete her!”

The appeal for £30,000 has been launched to help fund the work on the gearbox. If you would like to donate to the Sunbeam Appeal you can do so now via BT MyDonate or if you would like to speak to someone in person please contact Heather Reid or email [email protected]

The new gearbox will be part of a long term project to restore the car to its 1925 specification.  This would also require the fabrication of two full length exhaust pipes, a new seat and upholstery, and the re-manufacture of a slightly dropped nose cone and rear wheel spats.

350hp Sunbeam with Malcolm Campbell, Pendine Sands

The Sunbeam, renamed Blue Bird by Campbell, holds three World Land Speed Records, the first achieved by Kenelm Lee Guinness at Brooklands in 1922 with a speed of 133.75mph. Campbell then purchased the car, had it painted in his distinctive colour scheme and in September 1924 achieved a new record speed of 146.16mph at Pendine, raising it the following year to 150.76mph.

Subsequently Campbell sold the Sunbeam and it passed through a number of owners before being purchased, in a very poor condition, by Edward, Lord Montagu in 1957. It was restored to working order and had its last outing at Goodwood in July 1962.

During a test fire-up in 1993 to assess the car’s condition, disaster struck when a blocked oil way in the engine caused it to seize and ‘throw a rod’. For several years after that, the car was on display in the museum with a very visible hole in its engine where the piston and con-rod had exited.

In January 2014, following a complete mechanical rebuild undertaken by the National Motor Museum’s workshop team over a period of many years, the Sunbeam was fired-up again, the first time it had been heard in public in over 50 years. The following month it was a star of the show at Retromobile, Paris and was also run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.