Thompson's life in the fast lane provides ample material for the filmmakers. From the drag strips, to desert racing to land speed record challenges, to car building, designing and race promotion Thompson earned his place as a certified automotive icon.
He started calling himself the Fastest American on Wheels in 1958 after setting a record of 194 miles per hour. His goal was to break the world record of 394.2 miles per hour set in 1947. He began to build a world land speed record car -- the Challenger 1.
Thompson took his new car out to the Bonneville Salt Flats on October 6, 1959 and piloted it to a World Speed Record of 363.48 miles per hour. He also set a world speed record in A/BFS Class that remained unbeaten until1990 when Al Teague broke it at 389.372 miles per hour in his streamliner.
In 1960, Thompson returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats with a modified Challenger 1 for another record attempt. Its four 410 cubic-inch engines secured his title when he set a new American record at 330.51 miles per hour. He bested the world speed with a run at 407 miles per hour (which was faster than any man had drive a car before) but crashed before he could make a second run and thus secure the official record.
The Challenger 1 had its last record run two year later on July 24, 1962. The poor conditions of the salt flats halted the first attempt because he couldnt get any traction as the car bounced on the salt bed. He found a smoother part of the Flats for another run and turned in a speed of 357 mph. But he announced that the Challengers days on the Salt Flats were over.
GMs Parade of Progress -- Futurliners
Twelve Futurliners, along with 32 support vehicles, toured the country from
coast to coast in the 1940s and 50s taking the message of a wonderful
technological future to the hinterlands. Each Futurliner in this Parade of
Progress displayed modern advances in science, and technology such as jet
engines, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens, television, and many other
modern marvels. WWII halted the Parade but it resumed after the War.
Ironically, the audiences declined because of the competition from one of
its featured displays -- television. The Parade ended permanently in 1956.
Experimental Corvette -- SS
General Motors recruited engineer and race car driver, Zora Arkus Duntov,
to help them inject some performance into their brands.
Duntov wanted to make the Corvette competitive with sports cars from Europe
like Ferrari and Maserati. To gain respect it needed to win on the track.
He organized a team to build the SS or "Experimental Corvette" and took it
Mickey Thompson: Fastest Man on Wheels
Mickey Thompson roared out of the hot rodding world of Southern California
to become the "Fastest Man on Wheels," when his Pontiac powered Challenger
One broke the 400 mph mark at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
This didn't become an official record because of difficulties he
encountered on a second run. The speed authorities require a second run
and take the average for the record books. This promotional film captures
the drama of his attempt.
Hemi Under Glass Last Ride
After 39 years at the wheel of one of the most famous and unusual cars in
drag racing, the Hemi Under Glass, Bob Riggle decided to hang it up.
We were there to capture the last runs of this iconic car and the driver
who thrilled crowds at drag strips all over the country.
Speed Demon 426 mph Run - Cockpit View
The Speed Demon streamliner makes a 426 mph pass at Bonneville this week.
This video shows the cockpit view from just over driver George Poteet's
Bonneville: The Great American Playground - The Downshift Episode 13
On this episode of The Downshift, we meet the original speed freaks! The
Bonneville Salt flats in Utah are the veritable Valhalla of land speed
racing. The world's fastest wheels have been competing here since the early
1900s, from Sir Malcolm Campbell's Blue Bird to today's fastest jet-powered
streamliners. What started as just a sport has evolved into a vibrant
culture anchored in history and a shared love for living life at the
The Downshift appears every Tuesday on the new Motor Trend channel.
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Thrust SSC -over the sound barrier !
October 1997, UK managed to break the sound barrier on earth, using the
fantastic Thrust SSC vehicule. I made this video because there was too few
videos about this remarkable event on the web. (music credits: Spa 24 hours
- Stephen Baysted)
Burt Munro's 1920 Indian Scout
This is the 1920 Indian Scout built and driven by Burt Munro. Jay Leno on
commentary. Three times during the '60's it set the World's fastest flying
mile record for motorcycles under 1000cc at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
This is not the reproduction used in the "The World's Fastest Indian"
starring Anthony Hopkins, but the actual bike that set the record.
Fortunately this is the second year of the Concours d'Elegance to feature
motorcycles on the green. This year they featured the salt flat racers and
their contribution to Hot Rodding. I was very lucky to see and hear this
amazing piece of history.
For more information about Burt Munro, visit
Or buy "The World's Fastest Indian" because it's a true story. It's one of
my favorites, and surely will not disappoint any gear head. Anthony's
perfectly cast for the role.
Eyewitness-1971 Jet Car Crash Dallas International Motor Speedway
For full version of story go to my blog at:
My memories of the day: There had been showers that morning and the sky
was still a dull gray when I arrived at the Dallas International Motor
Speedway. I was working part time for KTVT Channel 11 in Ft. Worth and had
been assigned to shoot Art Arfons' 280-mph jet-powered dragster as he tried
to better the world quarter mile land speed record. His new two seat "Super
Cyclops" was scheduled to make 3 runs, the first, with a WFAA-TV news man.
As the car approached the line I pressed the shutter release. The ground
was shaking and the sound was painful but even after hearing the incredible
roar from the roll up I wasn't prepared when the Super Cyclops blasted into
that quarter mile run. It parted my hair! The first thought in my mind was,
there's no way I'd get in that car... My God, it could go straight up as
easily as forward. I stayed with the shot, following the jet down the
asphalt for the 6.01 seconds it took to reach the finish line and then
beyond. The jet shut down and immediately there was the blue smoke of
skidding rubber and wreckage flying. Then, farther down the strip, a column
of smoke. I jumped through a break in the guardrail, and ran toward the
As I got nearer I rolled film on a man who was crying and I asked if he was
OK? He couldn't speak but gestured to a pile of debris down the track. As I
ran closer I began to see it was a human torso scattered among several
other body parts. After reaching a little over 183 MPH the dragster had
blown a tire, spun 180 degrees and slammed through the guardrail on Thomas'
side, striking a track worker with such force that it propelled him into
another worker killing him as well. The carnage was overwhelming but I shot
the scene as best as I could playing down the grim details I knew would
never air anyway. I had shot all 100 feet of film but had another tin in my
pocket as I and a young still photographer started to run the several
hundred feet farther down the track to the burning jet car wreckage.
As we ran a car pulled in front of us, blocking our way, and several large
security guys jumped out and backed us into a retaining wall. One of the
men demanded we give him our cameras and to my surprise the young still
photographer complied. The man immediately opened the back, pulled out the
film and exposed it to the light. Although I was out of film I had
pretended to shoot the man as soon as he got out of the car and was still
doing so when he turned to me. The Bell and Howell's handy leather strap
made it a pretty good club as I backed against the wall and raised the
camera above my head. "I'm dropping the first guy that touches me", I
warned. I wasn't the biggest guy in that group but I sure wasn't the
littlest either. I was going to be a lot more trouble than that young guy
with the still camera. They didn't come any closer and I agreed to stop
taking pictures of them as more people arrived on the scene to see what was
going on. A truce of sorts was worked out when the security man contacted
the control tower about the situation. He talked in front of me on the
radio to a supervisor who told them not to touch me or the camera and
politely asked me to return to the tower with them. I agreed.
In the office I was met by Mike Landess who was working part time at WFAA
and freelancing as PR for the track. There were several other people in the
room who seemed to be speedway officials. They didn't demand the film but
wanted to talk to my boss at Channel 11 and I gave them the number. I heard
the conversation as they threatened to sue the station if we showed
anything inappropriate. After several minutes they handed the phone to me
and I was told to get shots of the wrecked car and then get back to the
station with the film as quick as possible. The security people took me
back to the crash site and I got my final shots. The story aired that night
and the station never was sued.
Not long after the crash I was filming an interview with Harry Reasoner,
then of ABC, at the Dallas Press Club when I ran into Travis Lynn, the news
director at WFAA-TV. I'd been making the rounds of all the TV stations that
summer trying to move up the news ladder, so Travis knew who I was. He
complimented my work on the jet car crash and offered me a job at channel
8. This after telling me just a few weeks earlier that I needed more
experience. I worked there for three years often with Mike Landess who I
met at the track office and later worked with at KBTV. He's now an
anchorman at KMGH in Denver.
So that's how it happened, my first TV news job in a major market. Although
I took his picture, I never met, Ch 8's, Gene Thomas but his career ended
the day mine really began. Life and death... My, how we blunder along. In
the news business you're confronted with that over and over. After awhile
you begin to see it's just part of the story.
Speedweek 2008 the Burkland Streamliner
A closeup of the Burkland Streamliner. This car has run over 450 MPH one
way. It is powered by two aluminum Donovan 417 Aluminum Hemi Chrysler
Racing Engines on Methanol and Nitromethane.
Trevor Slaughter land speed record attempt, Weekend Today, 19 Jan 2013
To break Donald Campbell's long standing Australian Record of 403.10mph
(648.73kph) and achieve the world record of over 458mph (737kph) at the
Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA, Trevor's Land Speed Streamliner will be
fitted with unique Mickey Thompson Bonneville LSR (Land Speed Record)
200 MPH Motorcycle Crash
wiped out twice while trying to set a world record