Villa, Leo 1899 - 1979

English; British

1899-1979, chief mechanic to and close family friend of Malcolm and Donald Campbell

Leopoldo Alphonso Villa was born in London in 1899 to an Italian father and Scottish mother. From 1915 he was employed as a riding mechanic with racing driver Giulio Foresti, before joining Captain Malcolm Campbell (1885-1948) in 1922 as a racing mechanic, in time becoming his Chief Engineer. There, Villa worked with Campbell on the ‘Bluebird’ cars and boats used for his nine land and four water speed world record attempts. In 1926 he married Emily Jane Proctor.

Following Malcolm Campbell’s death in 1948, Villa continued to work for his son, Donald Campbell, who was to devote the rest of his life to retaining the land and water speed world record for Britain. With Villa’s help, Donald Campbell achieved his first water speed world record at Ullswater in 1955 in the ‘Bluebird K7’ jet powered hydroplane, going on to set a total of seven water and one land speed world records before his death in 1967 on Coniston Water during his eighth water speed world record attempt.

After Donald Campbell’s death, Villa worked for Norris Brothers, the consultant engineers who had helped to design Campbell’s world record breaking machines. In June 1976 he was awarded an OBE for his services to land and water speed records. Villa was also granted The Freedom of the City of London and he went on to write 3 books about his record breaking career.

Leo Villa died in Surrey in January 1979.