THE THIRTIES (1930s)

by

Henry Segrave dies in 1930, attempting to set a new water speed record. Campbell continues to “endeavor to prove the supremacy of British workmanship and material” and fires off a volley for God and Country. His latest Bluebird is also a test bed for the Old Sod’s Air Ministry, who bequeaths Campbell with a new, secret aircraft engine. It clocks 250 mph in Daytona, a watershed performance. Campbell is knighted by King George V.

And although Campbell has stormed through the 250 mph zone virtually unchallenged, this feat merely serves to raise the bar to 300 mph for this land speed pole vault. And Campbell’s new threat was fearless and formidable: Captain George Eyston, decorated World War I officer and shoe of the massive, 6-ton, eight-wheeled, dual Rolls Royce-powered Thunderbolt.

But Campbell once again prevails, this time at Bonneville, where on September 3, 1935, he tallies a record speed of 301.13 mph in his Rolls-Royce-powered vehicle. This just antagonizes and cranks up Eyston’s sense of both pride and honor, however, as Thunderbolt returns to terrorize Utah’s potash desert floor with a series of gonzo runs; after a succession of 300+ mph saline sleigh rides where the clutch disintegrates, on November 19, 1937, Eyston’s goggles are blown off as he blasts through the measured mile en route to a record of 312 mph. Outrageous.

The following summer Eyston engages John Cobb in a duel. With an enclosed cockpit and Thunderbolt’s aluminum body painted black, Eyston goes 345 on August 27, 1938. Cobb goes 350 a week later. Eyston’s titanic Thunderbolt gets lean and mean: Eyston shitcans the radiator and stabilizing fin and recaptures the LSR at 357.50 mph in September. Eyston continued his assaults on the salt that year until, finally, Thunderbolt’s rear suspension wishbone snapped at nearly 400 mph. Eyston retires – only to help brainstorm on the Invasion of Normandy in WWII.

During the war, the Land Speed scene goes dark, as fuels and metals are rationed…

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