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.
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
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.
Chrysler Airflow at Bonneville
Chrysler wanted to demonstrate to the public that its new car, the Airlfow,
was fast and fuel efficient. They took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats for
some test/publicity runs.
Some say that despite their promotional efforts, the future arrived with a
thud when Chrysler introduced its line of Airflow coupes and sedans in
1934. The streamlined car, a product of the science of aerodynamics, had
long been predicted in works of science fiction but no manufacturer had,
heretofore, been bold enough to realize that Buck Rogersesque vision.
Chrysler's engineering triumvirate Carl Breer, Owen Skelton and Fred Zeder
scientifically tackled the aerodynamic challenge and got Walter P. Chrysler
to authorize design testing in a wind tunnel, overseen by no less an
authority than Orville Wright.
The result was more than just a slippery envelope of a body, a radical
departure from virtually all that had gone before. The design of the '34
Chrysler (and DeSoto) Airflow took some getting used to and, sadly, the car
buying public just didn't "get" the snubby deco look, a true "cab forward"
design dictated by the wind. The look was underpinned by a new kind of
construction - the body panels were mounted on a steel cage, not unlike
Saturn's, which was structurally connected to the frame creating a single
stress-bearing unit, the precursor to unit body construction. Airflow body
and frames were wood-free, another departure from tradition.
As it became apparent that the public wasn't as enthused as the engineers
and the media -- Walter P. Chrysler shared the cover of Time Magazine with
his Airflow -- the company scrambled to tone down the radical styling,
losing the deco waterfall grill a/k/a "bull nose" by the second year and
modifying design elements to hark back to more traditional,
Owning an Airflow today is tantamount to having a piece of history to
yourself. The significance of this design, even though it was a commercial
disaster has reverberated through the decades and into another century.
In just about every way, figurative and literal, Chrysler's Airflow was
ahead of the curve and remains a true automotive icon for the ages.
Mickey Thompson Breaks 400 MPH Speed Barrirer
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
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
John Cobb and E.T. Eyston Racing at the Salt Flats
Film from Collection A0185 Joseph Howard McGibbeny Audio Visual Collection.
This film is titled "the Mormon Meteor does it's thing." The problem is
there is no Mormon Meteor in this film. This instead looks to be John R.
Cobb and Capt. George E.T. Eyston Racing their cars, the Railton and
Thunderbolt at the Bonneville Salt Flats. This item is protected by
copyright. For more information regarding this film, please contact the
Moving Image & Sound Archivist by email at email@example.com or by
phone at 801-585-3073.
Mickey Thompson's Challenger Comeback Version 2.5
Built in 1968, then in storage for more than 40 years. This land speed
racer went 400 mph+ in 1968 testing with only 1800 hp. It'll have 4000-5000
for this year at Bonneville Speed Week! Rebuilt by Mickey's son, Danny
Thompson, this is a great story of perseverance and a father and son
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)
Fastest Man on Earth.
Challenger 1", the car Mickey had built and re-built using revolutionary
ideas and materials, had come a long way over eight years. Each new version
of "Challenger 1" had answered hundreds of questions. Now the only question
that remained was -- could Mickey break 400mph and live to tell about it?
Other drivers had died trying to break John Cobbs' record. Everyone who had
worked on "Challenger 1" knew that underneath the pretty blue paint was a
mass of spare parts purchased from surplus stores and junkyards.
After achieveing 371mph on his fourth attempt in 1959, Mickey knew that
finances dictated it was now or never. In 1960 Superchargers and wind scoops were added and
Mickey took "Challenger 1" back to the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The day was windy and driving at high speeds was too dangerous. Mickey was
in and out of the car all day waiting for the wind to calm. Mickey
remembers, "Roland Porter, a good friend of mine and a devout Christian
rushed up to me with tears in his eyes. He'd had a vision that I went out
of control and crashed. He pleaded with me not to get back in the car."
By 3pm the wind had died down, and despite Roland's vision, Mickey jumped
into "Challenger 1", put her into low gear and began his fifth and final
attempt to break the land speed record. At the end of a measured mile,
Mickey Thompson had set a new one-way land speed record of 406.6 mph
(654.349 kph). He had broken Englishman John Cobb's record of 394.2 mph and
become the fastest man on earth. Those low section tyres we had spent so
long making had held together."
Danny Thompson's Mission: 420 MPH Land Speed Record
Danny Thompson attempts to break the 420 mph world land speed record . . .
with his father, Mickey Thompson's, Challenger II built in 1968. It's being
built up to modern specs and go 420+.
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Winning the Baja 1000 Part 1 of 2
Mickey designed some of the fastest off-road cars ever built. In 1979 he
won the Race of Champions at Kresno. But the race he wanted to win was the
Baja 1000 in Mexico -- the toughest test for young men, let alone a 50 year
old. But Mickey wouldn't quit.
The move to Mexico in 1982 was like an army preparing for combat. It was as
if Mickey's whole life had prepared him for this race. There were over 200
cars at the starting line. In a cloud of dust they began their race through
Near Gonzaga Bay Mickey hit a muddy tide pool and flooded his car.
"The mud was so thick I had to scrape it out of my eyes before I could open
them. I poured some gasoline on my flooded engine and set it afire. It
really blazed up. An airplane was flying around and the pilot brought it
down to see if he could help. When the fire flamed real high, everyone
around me scattered. I jumped in the car, hit the ignition and got it up to
100 mph as fast as I could. It blew out the flames so I stopped and hitched
up my harness and put my helmet back on. I'd figured I'd either get the
ignition dry or burn up the car. It was a desperate thing to do but that's
how you survive in Baja."
After ten hours the rough terrain took its toll on Mickey and his car. It
took the crew 45 minutes to fix a brake problem. While Mickey stood beside
his crew, he watched cars fly by that he'd taken hours to pass. In true
Mickey style, he didn't give up. He knew he would just have to pass them
Over the next nine hours Mickey did pass them again, won the race and set a
new speed record of 19 hours, 40 minutes and 23 seconds.
From his home made car that beat the rich kids' store bought cars, to his
junkyard cars that won street races, to his innovative cars that set new
records on the dragstrip, to Bonneville to Indianapolis, to Pan Am to Baja
-- Mickey Thompson succeeded because he never gave up.