A FAMOUS hydroplane that has been the subject of a dispute spanning many years may have to be separated and its parts handed out to bring an end to the saga.

Coniston’s Ruskin Museum and retired engineer Bill Smith have been engaged in a long-running tug-of-war over Bluebird K7, the vessel in which water-speed record-breaker Donald Campbell perished at Coniston Water in 1967.

The dispute centres around the conditions for the return of Bluebird to the museum following restoration by Mr Smith’s team on Tyneside.

Tracy Hodgson, museum manager, said the museum team was ‘running out of options’ and that Mr Smith had been given a deadline of August 31 for the return of Bluebird.

Now the deadline has passed, she says, the museum is faced with two options.

“We either go to court, which will be a very lengthy and expensive process,” said Mrs Hodgson, 45.

“Or spread the parts [of Bluebird K7] out - him give us our parts back.”

Mr Smith, 54, who lives in Northumberland, said if a conclusion to the dispute meant Bluebird was ‘turned back into a million bits and the museum gets a lot of pallets to mess about with’ then ‘so be it’.

Mr Smith said he and his team had used ‘poetic licence’ when it came to the claim they had used 95 per cent original materials during the restoration.

Much of Bluebird, he says, was scrapped at the time of the accident - either from the surface of Coniston Water or after retrieval by divers - and it was a stripped-back vessel that he recovered from the lake in 2001.

“We only had half a boat,” he said. “We used 95 per cent of 50 per cent.”

He accused the museum of trying to trying to reduce the ‘complicated job’ of Bluebird’s future down to ‘what they can handle’.

“And the only thing they can handle is to put it in a museum and shut the door,” he said.

Mrs Hodgson said solicitors were in dialogue with Mr Smith regarding the next steps, although Mr Smith said he had not been contacted as yet this month.