On an afternoon in late June 2015, Dean Kurtz, the Chief Guest Services Officer for Daytona International Speedway, was scanning the emails in his inbox when a forwarded message caught his eye. The correspondence in question was sent into the general DAYTONA email address, detailing the opportunity to acquire a true-to-size replica of the Campbell Blue Bird III, which raced on the sands of Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach in the early 1930s.
This replica came into being thanks to a 2013 Hennessy Cognac marketing campaign featuring Englishman Sir Malcolm Campbell. The first man to break the 300 mph land speed record—setting 13 speed records between 1923 and 1939 and breaking his own records nine times—Campbell became widely celebrated as the “fastest man on earth”
The replica starred in several commercials before the 24-foot replica was taken across America on a 15-month promotional tour.
The tour was completed at a dealership in South Florida. From there it went to the Lou Lavie Museum in Miami, which coordinates high end art shows and “art of the automobile” shows throughout the Miami area.
This is when Daytona International Speedway comes into the story. After Dean Kurtz received word of the Bluebird’s availability, he made plans to travel to Miami to check the replica out in person.
“When I arrived at Lou Lavie’s offices, I was directed to their huge warehouse around the corner, where I got the see the Bluebird replica,” Kurtz recalled. “It was an awesome first site. It was sitting in this huge warehouse all alone by itself. Normally the warehouse is full of art and automobiles for area museums in the winter season of visitors and snowbirds coming to the Miami area.”
Suffice it to say, it had to be quite a sight for such a famed automobile to be left collecting dust in an empty warehouse.
The original Blue Bird III was a rebuild of Campbell’s Blue Bird II, as he strove to make improvements in order to regain the land speed record from fellow Brit Henry Segrave. A vertical tail fin was added for stability and open spats behind the wheels reduced drag. However, the radiators saw the biggest alteration, as they were relocated to the rear externally mounted. In addition, the nose radiator was removed and a low, rounded nose was added to allow better streamlining.
The Blue Bird III reached its goal as Campbell took the record at 206.956 mph on February 19, 1928 in Daytona Beach.
The Blue Bird III replica would still need to go some distance before returning to the site of its namesake’s greatest achievement.
Upon his site visit to the replica, Kurtz noticed several possible factors with the car that would complicate transportation efforts.
“One of the things that I first noticed on the car was the car’s length, ground clearance and the distance from the axles’ positions to the nose and tail fin ends. This distance has a significant impact on the angle of pitch when moving the car up any loading ramp or over driveway curbs.”
Those observations led the transport brain trust to identify that the Speedway’s tram transport equipment had too great of an angle and couldn’t accommodate the loading and unloading of the car. Additionally, flatbed tow trucks were faced with the same limitation.
In order to get it back to Daytona Beach, the services of Daytona Beach-based Trinity Transport Logistics, a local company that specializes in the movement of exotic vehicles, was called upon to handle the load and unload of the prized replica.
While the load up of the car from Miami back to Daytona Beach went off without a hitch, there were some unexpected complications upon arrival at the ISC Archives & Research Center.
“On arrival the car’s arrival in Daytona the old adage ‘measure twice’ came into play,” Kurtz explained. “The car’s length and width measurements were correct, but the building doorway and corridor inside had been misjudged.”
As a result, the car had traveled over 250 miles to spend its first night in the print production offices next door.
The following day all was amended as the garage entrance into the Archives & Research Center was opened and the other staged vehicles were rearranged to clear room for the Blue Bird III.
Finally, after a nationwide tour, an isolated stay in Miami, and a long trip back to Daytona Beach the Blue Bird III had finally completed the arduous journey back home.
Nearly ninety years ago the Blue Bird III raced into the history books, immortalizing its name in racing lore for all-time. Take advantage of the opportunity to get a first-hand, up-close look at a major piece of motorsports past with a tour of the ISC Archives & Research Center, complete with the $52.00 purchase of a VIP Tour.
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