IT was a horrific high-speed crash that produced one of the defining images of the 1960s.

Bluebird was hurtling across Coniston Water when it crashed at more than 300mph, killing Donald Campbell in front of horrified observers watching his world water speed record attempt from the shore.

Campbell nearly lost his life in another accident seven years earlier in 1960. He was attempting to set a new land speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in Bluebird CN7 when the high-powered vehicle crashed during a test run.

Campbell suffered a fractured skull and a perforated ear drum in the 360mph drama.

Bluebird was subsequently rebuilt and went on to achieve a record speed of 403mph on salt plains at Lake Eyre, Australia, in 1964.

Now a nose panel from the original vehicle is set to go on show at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, where it will form part of a tribute to Campbell and other speed aces.

Beaulieu is already home to the redesigned CN7, which has been on show at the award-winning attraction for more than 40 years.

Andrea Bishop, director of collections, said: “It’s a real privilege for the museum to acquire this link to the vehicle’s early history.

“The panel bears the scars of what must have been a terrifying accident.”

The Malcolm Campbell Heritage Trust, named after Donald Campbell’s father, has loaned the panel to the museum after receiving it from Stadco Ltd, formerly Motor Panels Ltd – the manufacturing company that worked on the CN7. It features the Bluebird insignia flanked by the British and American flags.

A museum spokesman said: “Following the crash, the CN7 returned to Motor Panels Ltd.

During the repairs the panel was removed and replaced and spent the next 50 years at various places on the site before being donated to the trust, which has now loaned it to the museum.”

Don Wales, Donald Campbell’s nephew, said: “We’re very grateful to Stadco for returning this special panel to the family.

“It’s an iconic piece of motoring history and we’re delighted to be able to loan it to Beaulieu for the new land speed record breakers display being unveiled next year.”

The display will feature four iconic cars – the CN7, Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird 350hp, Major Henry Segrave’s Sunbeam 1000hp and Golden Arrow.

The panel and a host of other rare artefacts will be showcased alongside the record breakers themselves.

Russell Bowman, chief executive of the National Motor Museum Trust, said: “We are delighted that visitors will be able to see the original panel alongside the car itself. It will help us illustrate the determination exhibited by Donald Campbell and his team to overcome major setbacks and achieve his 1964 record.”