New Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Celebrates Bluebird K3 Record-Breaker

Okay! Before we get too excited about which would be faster today: the Rolls-Royce-powered Bluebird K3 or the new Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed, we must clarify something!

The K3 is the Bluebird boat. This is likely very obvious to people in the UK or Speed Record buffs, but the Bluebird’s I know best are the cars.


But this Phantom DHC Waterspeed indeed celebrates the Bluebird K3 speedboat, whose streamlined lower hull design went on to inspire virtually all modern watercraft.

No jokes allowed here on this topic, as the Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed will easily top the 137-mph total Vmax of the Malcolm Campbell-piloted race boat. This was with an outboard piston engine!

The later K4 carried forward hull outriggers and an inboard engine, before moving to jet power for the twin-hulled K7, which ultimately lost control at high speed with Campbell at the controls.

So what was so special about these boats hitting only 140+ MPH. That is not very quick, you might mutter…

Water creates far more drag than land, where Campbell’s Bluebird’s reached nearly 300-MPH on Daytona Beach.

Here is a portrait of an early Bluebird K3, sans outriggers, at speed by Gina Campbell.


But the Phantom obviously prefers land, where it will happily sit atop those speeds all day, every day. With the AC on cool and some inspiring BBC World Service on the radio….

All jest aside, the Waterspeed leverages many great moments in history to create such a lovely and unique piece of modern art. The Waterspeed DHC is limited to 35 examples for sale to customers, with workmanship and holistic design execution by the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Division. This is a sharp group, and one who take these themes very seriously while planning and building a client’s dreamcar.

Rather than thinking of this a a performance upgrade, think of it as a curated theme that ties all elements of the million billion possible Rolls-Royce customizations together into one lovely, coherent idea.




Donald and Joe Wales, the grandson and great grandson of pioneer record-breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell, have given their seal of approval to the first of 35 Bespoke Phantom Drophead Coupé Waterspeed Collection cars at the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex.

Built to commemorate Campbell’s seminal act of British daring and endeavour, this latest creation by the marque’s Bespoke department takes inspiration from the Bluebird craft in which the records were set. A specially created exterior finish named Maggiore Blue takes its name from the lake on the Swiss-Italian border where Campbell broke the United States’ five year strangle-hold on the waterspeed records in 1937. This very special collection also pays homage to a period when the Rolls-Royce R-Type engine held speed records on land, water and in the air.

Donald and Joe enjoyed a walk through the manufacturing plant with Bespoke Designer Alex Innes before reviewing the specially commissioned car. On seeing the collection car, Donald, himself a record breaker, said, “I have no doubt that my grandfather Sir Malcolm Campbell would feel extremely proud to see his achievements honoured in this way. The Waterspeed car is a work of art; the blue and brushed steel evoke connotations of my grandfather’s World Record boats, Bluebird K3 and K4. This car is a lovely addition to the Rolls-Royce collection and a fabulous homage to a very important part of our racing heritage.”

It takes over 80 hours for a Rolls-Royce craftsperson to manufacture and hand brush the car’s striking brushed steel deck, whilst the coachline, complete with Bluebird motif, took another four hours to hand-apply using a squirrel hair brush.

Alex Innes, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Bespoke Designer, said, “It gives me great pleasure to reveal Waterspeed to Donald and Joe Wales.  Rolls-Royce Motor Cars echo Sir Malcolm Campbell’s commitment to engineering excellence and the constant pursuit of the ultimate in British Design.  Using only the finest materials and exceptional craftsmanship, we have created a car which demonstrates the possibilities of Bespoke personalisation available to all Rolls-Royce customers.”

The Phantom Drophead Coupé Waterspeed Collection features a number of exquisitely designed and crafted Bespoke design features that have never appeared on a Rolls-Royce before. Further details revealing an insight into the creation of the cars will follow in the coming weeks.

The 1937 Records

On the morning of 1 September 1937, at the height of the battle between the United States and Great Britain to be the fastest nation on water, Sir Malcolm Campbell headed out onto the calm blue waters of Lake Maggiore on the Swiss-Italian frontier. On taking the wheel of his Bluebird K3 hydroplane boat, powered by Rolls-Royce’s R-Type engine, he established his legend, setting a record of 126.32 mph. The following day he went one better, piloting his craft to 129.5 mph, in doing so emphatically breaking the United States’ five-year stranglehold on the world waterspeed record. Campbell’s momentous achievement captured the world’s attention and reaffirmed the Rolls-Royce R-Type engines’ record-breaking superiority after triumphs on land and in the air.



13 May 2014, Goodwood

Two highly fitting locations have been selected for the UK and European debuts of the latest Bespoke Collection from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé Waterspeed Collection will be previewed to selected UK press and customers at an exclusive event on the site of the original Bluebird Motor Company – now the Bluebird Restaurant – on the King’s Road, London on Tuesday 13 May 2014.

The Bluebird Motor Company building was commissioned in 1923 to be Europe’s largest garage and was built in the era’s characteristic Art Deco style, a style which it preserves today. The business would ultimately help fund Campbell’s pursuit to wrest the Waterspeed record from its American holders.

The car will then head to the world-renowned Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa D’Este on the shores of one of Italy’s world-famous lakes, Como, where it will be unveiled to the public for the first time. It was on the adjacent Lake Maggiore where, on 1 September 1937, Campbell established his legend, setting a world-record speed of 126.33 mph in the famous Bluebird K3 boat powered by a Rolls-Royce R Engine. 

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé Waterspeed Collection:

Waterspeed Collection Phantom Drophead Coupés feature a number of exclusively created Bespoke design and engineering features, perfectly executed to create a thoroughly contemporary tribute to Campbell’s famous craft.  

“This very special motor car serves to pay a perfect homage to my grandfather’s remarkable acts of British daring and endeavour,” said Donald Wales, grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell. “The extraordinary attention to detail and commitment to engineering excellence so evident in these motor cars perfectly echoes the lengths my grandfather and his colleagues went to in their pursuit of the waterspeed records.” 

The car is finished in a specially developed ‘Maggiore Blue’ exterior paint, inspired by Bluebird’s famous colour scheme. Nine layers of paint are applied before an exhaustive process of hand-sanding and the application of a cutting-edge powdered lacquer is undertaken to ensure an impeccable finish. For the first time in Rolls-Royce history the exterior finish extends to the engine, creating a visually striking homage to the power behind Campbell’s records. The finish also adorns the car’s specially developed, fully-polished eleven-spoke wheels for the first time, providing a subtle decorative accent.

The exterior is completed with a hand-painted coachline that culminates in a Bluebird motif with the design taking Rolls-Royce’s master coachline painter four hours to apply by hand.

Phantom Drophead Coupé’s traditional teak decking to the rear makes way for brushed steel. Each piece of material is individually panel-beaten by hand for 70 hours following initial mechanical pressing. A Rolls-Royce craftsperson will then hand-brush the metal for over 10 hours – showcasing the fastidious attention to detail and commitment to hand-craftsmanship that informs everything undertaken at the Home of Rolls-Royce.

The car’s Maggiore Blue exterior finish is subtly echoed on the interior via accents on the dashboard that perfectly complement the Windchill Grey interior leather scheme. The marque’s hallmark attention to detail extends to the application of hand-engraved door armrest tunnel caps featuring a new interpretation of Campbell’s famous Bluebird motif. The armrests alone take eight hours to complete. Abachi wood also makes its Rolls-Royce debut in Waterspeed. By nature the material is cool to the touch with a satin-like tactility, and is bookmatched at an angle to echo the wake left by a boat moving at speed.

Further reference to Campbell’s craft is made via a new interpretation of the famous ‘power reserve’ dial. As the driver presses on, the dial moves backwards towards a yellow and blue zone, echoing Campbell’s original K3 boat’s ‘going into the blue’ at maximum engine revolutions. A Bespoke front-lit clock adorned with Bluebird’s infinity symbol and dials hewn from a billet of aluminium evokes K3 further. Direct tribute to the records is paid in the glovebox, with a hand-embroidered panel expressing the records Campbell achieved at Lake Maggiore and Coniston Water. Finally, the steering wheel is presented in two-tone for the very first time, with Maggiore Blue accents balancing perfectly with traditional black leather to complete a beautifully conceived interior design scheme.

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.

He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.

Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)

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