Having set three world records in its glory years, spectators were eager to catch a glimpse of its glorious return.
And the iconic powerboat Bluebird K3 did not disappoint as it crashed through the waves during a test run on Bewl Water near Maidstone in Kent today after a painstaking restoration.
The hydroplane powerboat that set three world best marks with Sir Malcolm Campbell at the helm was piloted by Karl Foulkes-Halbard, who has restored it to its former glory after spending 22 years on the project.
It has taken two decades of painstaking work in a converted chicken shed to carry out the remarkable restoration.
The 23ft long powerboat had been virtually left to rot after the successful record breaking runs but has now been fully restored by a handful of craftsmen toiling away in a tiny workshop in East Sussex.
Karl Foulkes-Halbard pilots Sir Malcolm Campbell’s hydroplane powerboat Bluebird K3 on Bewl Water in Kent today
Karl Foulkes-Halbard is pictured at the wheel of the Bluebird when it previously hit the water after restoration
It has taken two decades of painstaking work in a converted chicken shed to carry out the remarkable restoration
The iconic powerboat Bluebird K3 wowed spectators as it crashed through the waves during a test run on Bewl Water today
The hydroplane powerboat Bluebird V3 famously set three world best marks with Sir Malcolm Campbell at the helm
The boat, named Bluebird K3, is now owned by powerboat fanatic Karl Foulkes-Halbard who has masterminded the project he started way back in 1990.
Commissioned by Sir Malcolm in 1937 to rival the Americans in the fight for the world water speed record, the hydroplane powerboat set three world best marks with Sir Malcolm Campbell at the helm.
Its first world record was on September 1, 1937, on Lake Maggiore, on the border between Switzerland and Italy. The Bluebird K3 hit 126.32mph, breaking Garfield Wood’s record of 124.86mph set five years earlier.
Sir Malcolm then broke his own record the next day, with 129.5mph. Then on August 17, 1938, he hit 130.91mph at Switzerland’s Lake Hallwyl, before hitting 141.74mph in 1939 in a Bluebird K4 on Coniston Water, Cumbria.
His son Donald Campbell followed family tradition, breaking eight world speed records on water and land, before he was decapitated attempting a new water speed record in a Bluebird K7 in 1967 aged 45 in Cumbria.
Mr Foulkes-Halbard has restored the Bluebird K3 (left) to its former glory after spending 22 years on the project
The powerboat was commissioned by Sir Malcolm in 1937 to rival the Americans in the fight for the world water speed record
Howard Mackenzie of Bewl Water described it as a ‘historic vessel’ and said it was ‘a great honour’ to have it running at the venue.
Mr Foulkes-Halbard previously said: ‘To see the original Bluebird boat back on the water after all this time made the hairs on my neck stand up.
‘It has been a long labour of love to get to this stage and a huge number of man hours but the boat is now as it was when Sir Malcolm broke the record all those years ago.
‘This is an incredible piece of British marine history brought back to life. The tests went well and o see it perform in its natural environment again is just a fantastic slice of nostalgia.’
Speed ace Sir Malcolm was the father of Donald Campbell who died in 1967 on Lake Coniston, Cumbria trying to increase the world water speed record above 300mph.
The Bluebird K3 is making waves once again after heading out on Bewl Water today following an extensive restoration
Donald was killed when his Bluebird K7, a successor to the K3, flipped over and sank and the wreckage not recovered until 2001.
But in 1937 and again a year later Sir Malcolm reached speeds of up to 130.91mph on Lake Maggiore on the Swiss-Italian border to bring the water speed record back to Great Britain from holders America – a feat that subsequently inspired his son.
Now the entire structure of the K3 including the wooden hull and decking have been rebuilt in the unlikely surroundings of a disused chicken shed in the grounds of Filching Manor near Eastbourne where Mr Foulkes-Halbard runs a motor museum.
‘My late father got hold of the original boat from the Campbell family in 1988 and it was in a terrible state.
‘It had been neglected for many years but we had a dream to get it back on the water and going through its paces one day.
Mr Foulkes-Halbard pilots Sir Malcolm’s hydroplane powerboat during the hotly-anticipated test run on Bewl Water today
Mr Foulkes-Halbard sits in the cockpit of the Bluebird K3 earlier as it is towed out prior to the test run on Bewl Water
‘We moved some lathes and workbenches into the chicken shed and called in some fantastic craftsmen.
‘The wooden hull in particular was in very poor condition and the engine, clutch, gearbox and drive system were reinstated.
‘We never imagined it would take this long but we wanted everything to be perfect. The boat is the same colour and the original steering wheel still works well.
‘Everything has been done to the original standards and we have got her up to 50mph and will soon be doing around 70mph.
‘I am not sure how much faster we will be allowed to go for safety reasons but she still handles magnificently,’ added Mr Foulkes-Halbard who pilots the powerboat.
Watching David Beckham on a speedboat during the London 2012 opening ceremony gave him the inspiration to relaunch K3 on the River Thames with dates being planned in September.
Next year he intends to take K3 back to Lake Maggiore to recreate the magnificent record breaking attempts of the 30s.
He described Sir Malcolm as a ‘larger than life Boys Own figure’ who revolutionised powerboat technology with his teams of top designers in the 1930s.
He says he has no idea how much it has cost over the years to restore the boat but because of its history it is now ‘priceless’.
The pioneering Bluebird legacy has helped define the British love affair with speed records.
Bluebird cars and boats have amassed more than 20 world land and water speed records since Sir Malcolm first took the land speed record in 1924.
Sir Malcolm’s grandson Donald Wales, who is following the family tradition of speedsters and recently tried to smash the land electric speed record in his Bluebird Electric supercar, is thrilled with the project.
The 50-year-old, who is also Donald Campbell’s nephew, said: ‘I think it has been a tremendous effort by Karl and his small team to get this craft back to working order and looking wonderful.
‘I am immensely proud of anything that keeps my grandfather’s name alive. This boat was a very important part of our boating and racing history. This is a fabulous thing to have done.’
A father and son who spent their lives breaking records
Sir Malcolm Campbell was born on March 11, 1885, in Chislehurst, Kent
He broke the land speed record in 1924, hitting 146.16 mph, before breaking another eight between then and 1935.
Sir Malcolm went on to win the 1927 and 1928 Grand Prix de Boulogne in France driving a Bugatti T37A.
Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record in 1924, hitting 146.16mph, before breaking another eight between then and 1935
In 1935 he set his final land record, hitting 301.337 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, America.
When war broke out in 1939, he built his own vast bomb shelter at his Headley Hall home in Epsom, Surrey.
He also installed a fortified trophy cabinet in his cellar after winning the Segrave Trophy in both 1933 and 1939.
Sir Malcolm died aged 63 after a series of strokes in 1948 and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994.
Sir Malcolm on Bluebird K3 in Italy in 1937. His first world record with the craft was on September 1, 1937, on Lake Maggiore
His son, Donald Campbell, followed in his footsteps to break eight world speed records on water and land in the 1950s and 1960s.
He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year.
Donald died on January 4 1967 aged just 45 when his jet-powered boat, Bluebird K7, flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted a new water speed record on Coniston Water in Cumbria.
His son Donald Campbell (pictured) died on January 4 1967 aged just 45 after his jet-powered boat, Bluebird K7, flipped into the air
It later emerged that the speed ace was decapitated by Bluebird’s windscreen exploding at 300 mph.
He was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.
In 2001 Campbell’s body – with his race suit intact – and the wreckage of Bluebird were recovered from the depths of the lake and he was buried later that year in the village of Coniston.
In 2010 an English Heritage blue plaque was installed to commemorate Sir Malcolm and his son at Canbury School, Kingston Hill, Kingston upon Thames, where Donald was born in March 1921 and the Campbells lived until late 1922.