Bluebird flies again

Bluebird K3 at Bewl Water Credit: David Johns

Back with a blast after 75 years - Bluebird K3 wasn't out to set records today but needed to check its restoration was on track. A far cry from when it was rescued two decades ago, as its current owner, Karl Foulkes Halbard, explains:

"The hull was in very poor condition and has required an awful lot of work. The mechanicals were non-existent because most of it got scrapped in 1938."

In 1937, Bluebird K3 was piloted by Sir Malcolm Campbell to a record-breaking 131 mph. Today it made a slower journey from the East Sussex workshop where it's been rebuilt, to Bewl Water, the massive engine gurgling its approval.

"This is a 27 litre Meteor engine, a Rolls Royce Meteor." says engineer Andy Taylor. "It's a tank engine effectively. We've got the original engine at the museum but it's a very rare engine and would need completely rebuilding in order to run it."

Seventy percent of the boat is original, with the rebuilt transmission and a restored wooden hull. Says the man who shaped that wood, Ken Pope:

"The main strength of the boat is the two walls right down from stern to the bow. They're about two foot high, inch and a half timbers, with two layers of ply on each side, about 800 screws holding it all on."

Three trials were planned - but disaster half way through. In the second run of the day the turbocharger inlet valve became stuck. It did briefly splutter again but a broken propshaft put paid to the trial. The team aren't disheartened though.

"Totally amazing." says Karl. "I mean, I became the third man in history to pilot it and once the boat gets up onto the plane it really starts to move and I have to be quite disciplined at that point not to get too carried away."

Now he wants £60,000 in sponsorship to take the boat to Italy where it originally set the record.

VIDEO: It broke the world speed record 75 years ago and now, after more than 20 years of restoration, Sir Malcolm Campbell's 'Bluebird' powerboat has taken to the water again, this time in Kent. David Johns was there to see the action.