'World's Fastest Wheel' Offered Unreserved

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One of the massive steel wheels which carried Donald Campbell to his World Land Speed record of 403.1 miles an hour (645km/h) at Lake Eyre 40 years ago, is being auctioned unreserved by Shannons at the Dutton Garage Sale in Melbourne on August 22.

The 1.32 metre-tall steel wheel with its specially constructed Dunlop tyre, was one of 12 used on Bluebird during Campbell's rain-delayed record attempt during 1963 and 1964, which culminated in the record on July 17, 1964.

Rare sporting car dealer Jeff Dutton purchased the wheel at auction in London in 1991 and later acquired a set of rare, black and white framed photographs documenting the record attempt and life at remote Muloorina Station, where Campbell and his team made their base while waiting for unseasonable rains to clear.

The Land Speed Record captivated Australia, as the dare-devil but deeply superstitious Englishman had already crashed at 360mph (583km/h) on his previous attempt at Utah two years earlier. He interpreted the crash as an omen that the record should be set on Commonwealth territory and arrived in Australia with the rebuilt 9.1 metre long, 4354kg Bluebird sporting a large stabilizer fin.

Campbell also believed in life after death and claimed to have seen the spirit of his late father Sir Malcolm Campbell in Bluebird's cockpit shortly before breaking the record at Lake Eyre.

Ironically, Campbell's record was short-lived. In 1965, jet and rocket propelled cars were allowed to compete and their speeds soon exceeded 600 mph (972km/h). Bluebird on the other hand was powered by a 4.500HP Proteus gas-turbine which drove all four wheels.

He died less than three years later in January 1967 when his Bluebird hydroplane crashed at high speed on Coniston Water in England's Lake District while attempting to break his own water speed record. His body was only recovered and buried three years ago in 2001.

Like all the 600+ lots in the all-day Dutton auction, the Bluebird wheel and its accompanying photographs are being offered unreserved by Shannons, who expect them to sell for $15,000-plus.

Other fascinating memorabilia lots in the auction include some of Alan Jones' Formula 1 and other racing trophies ($1,000+); a 2.5 metre tall Michelin man suit ($5,000+); a rare1964 Alfa Romeo TZ1 aluminium racing bonnet ($15,000+); a 1920s Hispano 'Sardine' cycle car ($12,000+) and a 1930s Wurlitzer 800 Juke Box ($12,000+).

Proceeds from a number of charity lots will aid the Starlight Children's Foundation. All lots are open free to the public for inspection all day Saturday August 21 at Duttons, 525 Church Street, Richmond.

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