“Vrooooom” Malcolm Campbell: Life in the Past Lane

Today is the 75th anniversary of Malcolm Campbell’s famous smashing of the land speed record in 1935. So off we plod into the archive to dig out some mad Malcolm footage, and realise that actually this chap broke an awful lot of records and was a bit of a celebrity back in the day.

Even if you’re not a Top Gear enthusiast, these clips are a real thrill –

206 miles per hour…


In this clip Campbell is greeted in Britain and presented with a giant trophy. But even then he knew he’d not reached his potential and declared “I am not satisfied with 206 miles an hour”.

253.96 miles per hour…


Fantastic footage of Malcolm Campbell setting the World’s Land Speed record on Daytona Beach on February 24th 1932, in his reconditioned ‘Bluebird’, beating his own record by 8mph. The jolly musical score suddenly gives way to the roaring of an engine that sounds more like a low-flying plane than a car.

The aerial views in this video of Campbell speeding along the beachscape are breathtaking. Upon smashing the record Campbell pulls up and gives his wife a hug and a kiss, shucks. (Is she wearing the same hat that she wore in the 1928 newsreel!? We suspect as much)

272.1 miles per hour…


This clip shows Malcolm being lifted into the cockpit of the car, wearing his helmet. One of the crew shouts “Three cheers for the skipper –come on!”. Campbell comments on his new record and thanks his “little band of mechanics”.

300 mph plus…


We loved the phrase “encrusted in salt”

A test run…


Great footage of a 1935 test run, with mechanics working on the car and spectators lining the beach front. Campbell talks to the camera “We reached a speed of about 200” which he seems pleased with for a first run.

A modest man…


“I do not believe in resting on laurels” declares Malcolm.

Review of the year 1935…


These ‘Review of the Year’ videos have all sorts in them, as the title suggests, but Malcolm features in this one – “The young crowned King of Speed does it again. Sir Malcolm Campbell puts the land speed record at Daytona Beach up to 276.816 mph, a record that he himself beats later on in the year.

50 Years of Motoring…


Some Malcolm Campbell clips mixed in with some sensational footage of crashes.

Mrs. Malcolm gets behind the wheel…


This lovely 1928 reel shows Malcolm’s wife at home with the children, and shots or ‘Mrs. Malcolm’ cleaning up the car and working on it. The footage of female racing drivers was used in the Pathe Eve series.

Water speed…142 mph!


Malcolm broke water speed records as well as measly land racing. Here we are in 1939, Lake Coniston, Lake District and Malcolm is “Faster than any man has ever skimmed the water before. And back again just about as fast!”

Why isn’t the boat called Blue Fish? Nevermind.

Bluebird up for sale in 1950…


The famous car Bluebird ended up disused and abandoned near Wembley, as the narrator explains: “The world’s braves car which won Sir Malcolm Campbell his knighthood, and won the world land speed record 5 times for Britain. Now she lies unwanted…her speedometer is zero, her cockpit is empty”

The sorrowful music accompanies shots of a Wembley car dealer and his employees working on the car. “Let us hope that someone will buy and preserve her”

So there we have it, Malcolm to the max. There’s still plenty more where this came from in the British Pathe film archive, have a rummage.


Author: British Pathé

British Pathé holds the world's finest newsreel collection. We also represent the Reuters historical collection. All 220K films are viewable on our website.

5 thoughts on ““Vrooooom” Malcolm Campbell: Life in the Past Lane”

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