What do you get when a scooterboy decides to make a tribute scooter to his childhood hero and someone tells him not to? Determination to succeed…
Leicester lad Tony Williams originally hails from Cumbria, not far from Lake Coniston where Donald Campbell’s remarkable run of land and water speed records came to an abrupt end in January 1967.
As a boy Tony knew of Campbell’s patriotic efforts to secure the fastest boat record for Great Britain, and how it finally ended in tragedy when jet-powered Bluebird K7 cartwheeled down the lake, decelerating suddenly from a record-breaking 300mph run.
That sort of accident was never going to end well, as was immediately obvious to everyone at Coniston that day. Cambell’s helmet and his bear mascot, Mr Whoppit, were recovered amongst the flotsam, but Bluebird K7 and her brave pilot sunk to a watery grave.
You can learn more about Donald’s exploits and his land/water records here on Wikipedia. Subsequently, more people have died trying to better Campbell’s 1967 speeds on water than have succeeded.
No more heroes…
People like Donald Campbell, and his father Malcolm – who previously held the water record with Bluebird K3 and K4 – were always going to inspire young lads in post-war Britain.
Boy’s magazines of the era were awash with tales of bravery and sacrifice in the name of progress and doing the right thing.
Subsequently many other people inspired by Campbell’s legacy and achievements have sought to emulate or celebrate him.
In 2001 the wreckage of Bluebird K7 and the body of Donald Campbell were located by amateur divers and recovered from the lake. Sadly, this occasion was overshadowed in the news by the 9/11 attacks in New York.
The lifting of K7 from the lake was not universally approved. Donald’s sister Jean stated that it was his wish that ‘boat and skipper stay together’ if something bad was to happen. As such, she did not attend the funeral service of his recovered body in 2001.
We can rebuild it…
A charitable organisation called the Bluebird Project was set-up to rebuild and restore the remaining parts of the great machine.
The project applied for help from the National Lottery Fund, but subsequently support came entirely from donation.
When Tony decided to build Spirit of the Lake, he researched the subject looking for suitable images and announced his plans on the Bluebird Project forum.
This is where things started to go wrong.
Rather than seeing Tony’s scooter as a genuine tribute and therefore a potential way of raising the Bluebird Project’s profile, one of those involved took issue with Tony’s use of various logos associated with Campbell and Bluebird.
The row culminated with Tony being told not to use the insignia on the grounds of them being owned and registered to the Bluebird Project.
Tony, quite understandably, took the opinion that it was his scooter and he’d do what the hell he liked to it.
Small-minded haters be damned.
What Tony did
Tony’s vision for this custom project was to convey speed on every panel, not only through the murals but also the shape of the bodywork itself.
Quite unusually, all the bodywork for this Indian GP is made from fibreglass supplied by local Leicester manufacturer GRP Scooter Parts. The legshields are a specially-moulded unit that incorporated the bridge-piece, short running boards and a legshield toolbox in a single blended component.
The sidepanels carry subtle slots and holes that help the TS1 engine breathe and dispose of heat, but essentially these features combine with the race seat to reinforce the ‘moving while standing still’ objective.
Local airbrush artist Fraser Day has succeeded wonderfully in sticking to the plan. None of the murals are based on photographs, but instead on various watercolours. Both of the sidepanel images were originally painted by Arthur Benjamins, who has expressed admiration for the renditions on the Lambretta.
Other one-offs commissioned for the theme came from K2 Customs. Keith manufactured a unique splash plate, mudflap, carb grille, rear set footpegs and flywheel cowling, while Saddlecraft handled the upholstery of the fibreglass race seat. Many of these parts carry the K7 and infinity symbols.
The Campbell Lambretta
Ironically Campbell, who was renowned for being something of a joker, grasped the concept of mutually-beneficial publicity far better than those restoring K7.
The ever-resourceful publicity department at Lambretta Concessionaires noticed the similarities between Bluebird K7’s colour and twin outrigger layout and their own water-baby; the Lambretta Amphi-scooter.
This J125 had been modified to ride on the water with the addition of two modified surfboards. While some way short of K7’s 300+mph top speed, nevertheless the wily UK importers managed to get Donald to take their scooter for a spin on the lake.
Sadly, events that unfolded shortly afterwards meant that neither party could take full advantage from the scooter stunt…
(Photo credit: Mirror Group/Alamay)
Built not bought
For a custom scooter of this calibre, Tony’s overall build cost has not been excessive. He may have made several steps down the bespoke component route, but stopped short of gold, engraving and that sort of bling.
This is a custom destined to be used on the street.
Shortcuts include pinching the complete MB-tuned TS1 engine from one of his other scooters and the use of fibreglass bodywork. GRP suffers none of the usual bends and dings of steel panels and made his dry-build a far easier prospect.
While no record-breaker in terms of speed, I’m sure Donald Campbell would have preferred Tony’s Lambretta to the Amphi-scooter…
Words and images: Sticky
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Owners name: Tony Williams
Club: No club, but affiliated to the Leicester Phoenix SC
Scooter name (if any): Bluebird, Spirit of the Lake
Year: Built around an early 1982 Indian frame
Engine details: Engine is a donor from my other scoot – Unparalleled Performance, MB240 TS1, stage 4 steel lined with Yamaha 70mm piston, 60mm x 115mm crank with Rotax conrod, BGM Superstrong clutch, and GP200 gearbox, was originally fitted with a Taffspeed touring pipe and 34mm Amal carb and was 25.7bhp on the Taffspeed dyno. Now running a Mikuni 35mm TMX and Taylor-Tuned modified TSR Evo pipe
Top speed: 75+
Power output: 25BHP+
Paintwork: Frazer Day @ Envy Customs in Leicester
One-off parts: All bodywork and seat by GRP Scooter Parts Leicester, Chris is a diamond. Thanks for the late nights dry fitting. Splash plate, mudflap, carb grill, rear sets and flywheel cowling by K2 customs, thanks Keith owe you big time. Horncasting badge is the best buy, from evil bay it’s a commemorative coin found accidentally and just happened to be the same size as the original Innocenti badge.
Fabrication: frame jigged and repaired by Steve at Grand Prix Scooters in Leicester. Owe him loads more biscuits.
Accessories: Don’t do mirrors
Coatings & finishes: Engraving on sidecase unknown, will be adding a bit more chrome and engraving at a later date.
Acquisition? Bought the frame about 5 years ago and had it blasted and etch primed by Shane at Faircharm and then stored it until it was time to build it.
Inspiration? Donald Campbell was my first hero as a child, I was born 17 miles from Coniston water (Millom) and I suppose it was just in my blood.
Alteration? Mainly the fibreglass bodywork. One-off custom wiring loom from Phil at Grand Prix Scooters, Leicester.
Perspiration? Finally deciding on what was going on the scoot, images etc. etc, even though some un-named persons said I can’t do that due to copyright. Two-fingers springs to mind. Finishing the project on time, in time for the 50th anniversary of Donald’s death.
Aggravation? Do what you want not what others say, and don’t let other people put you down. Fed up with bullshitters and negative comments. It’s my scooter, full stop!
Recommendation? Saddlecraft in South Shields for the seat. K2 Customs for the one-off bits, Frazer for the unbelievable paint, GRP Scooter Parts for the bodywork and Mark Broadhurst for everything I have off him, always bang on.
Celebration? The Wife, for all the late nights in the shed, Aaron Mitchell, Dodgy Dave my wing-man, Frazer Day, Keith Newman, Chris and Dean Warner (GRP Scooterparts) Les at Saddlecraft , Steve Lorriman, Pete Davies, John Walklate, The Ruskin Museum, The Bluebird Supporters Club, Arthur Benjamins, Fred Blois, My Dad, and Darren and Jane without whom this would not have been possible, and not forgetting Donald Campbell R.I.P Speed King.
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