Jetstar: Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ tender boat

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Lot 400
Jetstar: Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ tender boat

£ 25,000 - 35,000
US$ 35,000 - 49,000
Jetstar: Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ tender boat
Bluebird Jetstar prototype runabout.



Designed by Peter Milne and built at Hamble in 1966 of laminated mahogany ply, hard chine construction. Painted ‘Bluebird’ blue and white, with varnished decks.


Evinrude V4 80hp outboard power head, coupled to a Hamilton jet drive, with modified propulsion head.

General arrangement:

Short foredeck, with curved acrylic windscreen to the open cockpit, central wheel steering with helmsman’s bucket seat. Aft upholstered bench seat. Aft deck, with lifting cover to engine compartment. Inventory includes an extensive collection of original spares and archival documentation relating to the history of the vessel. Also includes an all-over cover and road trailer.


  • During his last attempt in 1966/7 to raise his own water speed record still further, Donald Campbell was also looking to secure his own personal financial future with the production of a family sized runabout speedboat and had adopted the idea of utilising and enhancing water-jet propulsion for domestic pleasure boating, whilst being the Director of Dowty Marine. Sir George Dowty had thrown in the towel on the concept and had branded it as being both unreliable and costly, however, Donald recognized the true potential over traditional outboard propellers and commissioned close friends and experts to take up the challenge; Peter Milne, renowned hull designer and then Editor of Yachts & Yachting magazine, Ken Norris, co-designer to K7 & CN7, and Leo Villa, life long friend and expert mechanic to Donald and his father, Sir Malcolm Campbell. With Donald’s vision being to produce 5,000 boats a year, he was quoted as saying “I wish I could get half as exited over Bluebird and the record attempt as I am over Jetstar -”.

    Accompanying Donald and the team in order to gain support for the eventual build of the craft, ‘Jetstar’ clearly proved her worth and subsequently was taken to Coniston for further trials whilst undertaking the WWSR attempt in Bluebird K7. Well documented as having played an important part of the WWSR attempt, Donald took every opportunity to use ‘Jetstar’ on the lake when the conditions would not allow a record attempt or even just to take lucky visitors and journalists out for ‘a spin’. Donald’s team also used her to monitor K7 at close quarters whilst underway and as a general tender. The intention was then to take her along with K7 to the London Boat Show at Earls Court where clearly the publicity surrounding a new record of 300mph plus ‘in the bag’ would have been a remarkable marketing boost for the ‘Jetstar’ project.

    Following Donald’s untimely and tragic accident in K7 on Coniston, Ken Norris, Tonia Bern Campbell and Leo Villa went on to create ‘Bluebird Marine’ and set about continuing Donald’s dream, going forward to create a number of further developed ‘Jetstar’ sports boats. However, these were of fibreglass (GRP) construction and did not carry the original characteristics of this, Donald’s personal Jetstar. Apart from being the ‘hand made’ prototype that he extensively used, it carries the single seat helm position which offers a unique and exhilarating driving experience.

    This, the original and prototype ‘Bluebird Jetstar’ utilised the proven Hamilton Jet-drive water intake, where an impeller was powered by a V4 80hp Evinrude Outboard power head. Ken Norris produced a transmission to transfer the power to the Hamilton unit (Named by Donald as ‘The Camjet Propulsion System’) whilst at the stern, the water flow was directed again by a uniquely designed housing with hinged flaps diverting the water flow in the required direction (named by Donald as the BBVT or Bluebird Balanced Vector Thrust). This basic concept of water propulsion remaining very much in extensive use to this day.

    ‘Jetstar’ is offered in running condition and retains the vast majority of her original features including seating, decks, mechanics, trim etc. having undergone only very basic maintenance and a sympathetic restoration in order to bring her back to her original 1966/7 ‘set up’, this work having been undertaken by the current owner after aquiring the historically important craft direct from Ken Norris. ‘Jetstar’ was last shown running at the Windermere Classic Boat Rally in 2004 and has since been kept in dry storage, then displayed earlier this year at ‘The London Boat Show’ and finally being placed on view at the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, Cornwall, in recognition of her importance. Prior to the current owner, ‘Jetstar’ was brought back to running condition in the 1980’s by John Ackroyd (Team Manager, Thrust II) and then displayed for public view in the foyer of the Daily Express Newspaper HQ, Fleet Street, London on the 20th Anniversary of the tragic loss of Donald Campbell.

    The name Donald Campbell is synonymous with the exceptional success in World Speed Record breaking on both Land and Water and his endeavour maintained a very ‘British’ way of doing things, securing a legendary place in our history.

    · The Bluebird Years, Donald Campbell and the Pursuit of Speed (Arthur Knowles with additional material by Graham Beech, Sigma Press) Extensive referral to Jetstar with some period photographs.
    · My Speed King, Life with Donald Campbell (Tonia Bern-Campbell, Sutton Publishing) Well documented reference of how much Jetstar meant to Donald
    · Jet Blast, and the hand of fate by John Ackroyd.

Jetstar: Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ tender boat
Jetstar: Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ tender boat
Jetstar: Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ tender boat
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