HomeNews and EventsBritish museum, Donald Campbell’s family seek return of K7 boat

British museum, Donald Campbell’s family seek return of K7 boat

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes


The more than century-old Ruskin Museum in northern England and the family of speed record-setter Donald Campbell have made “a final appeal” to have Campbell’s record-setting K7 boat returned in one piece, according to a museum news release.

“Solicitors for the Museum, where a special wing was constructed to display the record breaker, have sent a letter to Bill Smith who has restored Bluebird K7 asking him to return the boat to the museum as promised, and not go ahead with the threat of taking it apart,” according to the announcement, which adds, “He is claiming that the parts used to restore the record breaker are his.”

“Bill Smith offered to restore Bluebird K7, which was gifted to the museum by the Campbell family so that it could be put on permanent display in the special wing, that was built for it,” said Jeff Carroll, deputy chairman of the Ruskin Museum board of directors. “Bill Smith and his team of volunteers approached British companies for donations and parts for the boat on this basis, as well as gaining public donations and raising money through sales of merchandise.”

The BBC reported in 2020 that the restoration had been halted because of the dispute between the museum and Smith.

museum, British museum, Donald Campbell’s family seek return of K7 boat, ClassicCars.com Journal
Campbell’s Jetstar is on display in the museum

“The Bluebird project has run Bluebird K7 on Loch Fad on the Isle of Bute,” Carroll continued. “The Museum had little or no input in that event, it was billed as ‘Crew Training’ to ensure that the Team could launch, recover, and run the boat pending arranging the final set of Proving Trials approved by Trustees on Coniston Water. K7 was effectively proved to be of operable condition, as per the 2006 Deed of Gift, by running at speeds up to and in excess of 150 mph.”

Campbell set four speed records on Coniston Water but died in 1967 attempting a fifth record run.

“We recognize the work Bill Smith and his team of volunteers have done, but he has broken the agreement we had with him, both legally and morally,” Carroll added. “For him and his colleagues to threaten to take apart this British icon and remove ‘his parts’ is reprehensible and cannot be allowed as it would destroy the original fabric of this historic record breaker.

“Bill Smith has tried to retain control over the Museum’s property and thwart our aims and that of thousands of enthusiasts, who just want to see the boat in Coniston and on the lake where Donald carried out his famous speed runs and record breaking.”

The museum contends that Smith offered to restore the boat to operable condition at no cost to the museum.

“We hope that common sense will prevail and that Bluebird K7 will be housed in the wing of the Museum especially constructed for her, and in one piece.”

In the museum news release, Gina Campbell, Donald Campbell’s daughter speaking on behalf of the Campbell family added: “I am appalled at the way that Bill Smith has behaved. The family and the Museum trusted him to restore the boat so that it could be displayed in the museum but at every turn he has prevented this from happening. He has not kept to his side of the agreement and has misrepresented the wishes of the Campbell family, and the Museum.

“Bill Smith has put a small Museum into a situation where they have had to obtain costly legal advice and consider potential legal action, simply because he cannot come to terms with the fact that it is not his boat.”

Motorsports Hall of Fame adding 9 members

The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America has announced the names of eight of the nine people to be inducted in the Class of 2022 at ceremonies in Daytona Beach, Florida, March 7-8. The ninth person will be announced “in a few weeks,” the facility said.

Those already announced for induction are Pete Brock (sports cars), Helio Castroneves (open wheel), Dick LaHaie (drag racing), Banjo Matthews (at large/business), Denise McCluggage (at large/media), Raymond Parks (historic), Jack Roush (stock cars), and Vance & Hines (motorcycles).

“Many of the members of the Motorsports Hall of Fame are people that I grew up idolizing and to now be invited to join this group, I just can’t believe it,” Castroneves, winner of the most recent Indianapolis 500-mile race, is quoted in the news release. “I’m so honored to have the opportunity to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame and I feel so lucky to be included with these legends.”

Toyota opens ‘Steam Park’ at Ann Arbor museum

museum, British museum, Donald Campbell’s family seek return of K7 boat, ClassicCars.com Journal
‘Steam Park’ opens in Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum | Toyota photo

Toyota opens “Steam Park” within the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum this month with a two-story gallery featuring 23 exhibits designed to reveal “the mechanical marvels normally hidden from sight” in various machines and structures.

For example, there are the inner workings of a 17th century time-switch cuckoo clock and a 16-foot ball maze with arched windows from Ann Arbor’s original firehouse. There’s also the Propeller Chair in which visitors hoist themselves to the ceiling and slowly descent with gravity.

Special events this weekend

Opening August 19 at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland: “Year of the Motorcycle,” a traveling exhibit from the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Alabama. The showcase will be the first for 2-wheelers at the Ohio museum. When the traveling exhibit departs, the Crawford will unveil its own “Open Road: The Lure of Motorcycling in Ohio” exhibition. 

The cars in the Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine will provide the setting for a recital August 21 at 5 p.m. by cellist Sebastian Stoger.

In perhaps the biggest Demo Day yet at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, on August 21 the theme will be “There Were There — The Simeone Cars that Raced Le Mans.” More than a dozen cars — actually, 16 at last count — will take part in the parking-lot exercise session. They range from a 1929 Stutz Model M Supercharged Le Mans to a 1970 Porsche 917 LH.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in northeast Indiana stages its second “Duesies & Movies” drive-in theater event of the season August 21, showing Dick Tracy.

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento hosts its Third Saturday car show August 21, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Featured this month will be the Old Illusions, a club focused on pre-1954 lowriders.

It’s AutoFest 2021 on August 22 at the Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island, where the Mass Cruisers Auto Club (that’s Mass as in Massachusetts) stages a showcase featuring more than 500 vehicles.

It’s “Simply Mercedes” with a showcase for Mercedes-Benz vehicles August 22 at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, England.

Mark your calendar

1930 Ford Model AA school bus
Riders in a 1930 Ford Model AA school bus are part of the ‘Back to School’ celebration August 26 at the Gilmore Car Museum | Museum photos
museum, British museum, Donald Campbell’s family seek return of K7 boat, ClassicCars.com Journal

The Gilmore Car Museum plans a “Back to School” celebration on August 26 and will offer rides to museum visitors from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. in a 1930 Ford Model AA school bus. Also offered that day will be slot car racing, a tour of the museum’s Model T garage and pedal car rides.

Featured marque in the parking lot car show at the Newport Car Museum on August 29 will be from the Mopars of RI club.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum will open its collections, conservation center and storage facility for the ACD Festival tour on August 29. Also open will be the National Auto & Truck Museum facilities.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is the beneficiary of “Revolante: A Celebration of Revolutionary Automobiles,” scheduled from noon until 5 p.m. (Eastern) on August 29 at the Bridgewater Club in Carmel, Indiana. The event marks the conclusion of the 2021 Artomobilia Weekend

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in northeast Indiana hosts a free outdoor concert September 2 featuring the Sweetwater All Stars. 

The National Corvette Museums 27th anniversary celebration runs September 2-4. At a dinner event September 2, Bowling Green assembly plant manager Kai Spande will host a panel discussion about “Small Block Power” featuring Jordan Lee, global chief engineer for the famed Chevy small-block V8, and Dick Ruzzin, former Chevrolet and GM Europe director of design.

The Corvette museum also opens a new exhibit, “24 at 20: Earnhardt, Corvette, and the Overall Win at Daytona,” on September 2. The exhibit opening features a seminar with racer Andy Pilgrim, former Corvette Racing manager Doug Fehan, and former Corvette Racing marketing manager Gary Claudio.

From 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. on September 3, racer Lyn St. James will be at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum for a meet and greet. The museum hosts the Connecting Rods Lunch and Gatsby Gala on September 4.

On September 11-12, in addition to its motorcycling exhibition, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, will host a Heritage Throwback Weekend with pre-registered visitors invited to ride the newest BMW motorcycles. 

The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, hosts a car show September 12 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. featuring the NorCal Kit Car Club vehicles.

The Brooklands Museum in England plans a special celebration of the life of the late Stirling Moss on September 12 with more than 35 vehicles he raced on display.

The Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, has something special planned for September 16 and its Third Thursday lecture series, which features “an Evening with Malcolm Bricklin,” chief executive of Visionary Vehicles and the person who brought to North America Subaru, Yugo and the Bricklin. The event will be presented via Zoom and a $10 donation to the museum is suggested as part of the registration process.

“Stirling Moss, The Champion that Wasn’t” is the theme for the September 18 Demo Day at Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. Cars taking part in the parking lot exercise session include a 1953 Jaguar C-type and 1956 D-type, 1955 “Gullwing” Mercedes-Benz 300SL, 1956 Maserati 300S and 1958 Aston Martin DBR1.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in northeast Indiana stages its third “Duesies & Movies” drive-in theater event of the season September 18, showing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, hosts a car show September 12 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. featuring the East Bay Street Dreams car club.

The annual Saratoga Motorcar Auction at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in upstate New York is scheduled for September 24-25.

CruiseFest on Fulton Avenue, an annual event that benefits the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento, is scheduled for October 2, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Special features of the cruise this year are Save Mart’s 12-foot tall, 454cid Chevy V8-powered  “mega-motorized shopping cart,” and the 7th of 14 officially licensed replica Batmobiles, this one owned by Bob Goldsand of Meadow View, California.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, resumes its annual “Night at the Museum” fundraiser on October 6 with a theme of “Cars and Country Music.” Troy Engle and Southern Skies will perform at the event that serves as the kickoff to “Fall Hershey.”

Herzog Motorsports, the Missouri-based racing team that has won in a variety of events, from off-road racing in Baja to Jimmie Johnson’s transition to stock car racing, will be honored October 15-16 in a special event at the Speedway Motorsports Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, hosts  its 30th anniversary All British Motor Show from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on October 17.

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email larrye@classiccars.com

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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