Streamliner sets new land speed record on its 50th an­niver­sary

Calgary Herald - - DRIVING - NI­CHOLAS MARONESE Driv­

Danny Thompson set a new (un­of­fi­cial) land-speed world record for a pis­ton-pow­ered ve­hi­cle on Aug. 12, clipping 725 km/h in his fa­ther’s 50-year-old twin-Hemi streamliner, Hem­mings re­ports.

Thompson’s Chal­lenger 2 made a pass of 718.741 km/ h on Aug. 11 on the Bon­neville Salt Flats in Utah, and backed it up the next day with a 725.668-km/ h pass for an av­er­age of 722.204 km/ h.

Break­ing the record marks the cul­mi­na­tion of a dream of Thompson’s fa­ther, fa­mous hot rod­der Mickey Thompson, who wanted to make an at­tempt for it in 1968 in the same car — then named the Au­to­lite Special — but had to give up af­ter the Salt Flats flooded.

Ford pulled its spon­sor­ship of the land-speed record (LSR) car the next year, mak­ing it too ex­pen­sive for Thompson to try again.

Mickey Thompson and his wife were mys­te­ri­ously mur­dered in March 1988, a year be­fore a prospec­tive re­turn to the Salt Flats, but in 2010, Danny de­cided to re­store the Chal­lenger 2 and set the record his fa­ther never could.

At­tempts for the record in the newly re­fin­ished Chal­lenger 2 be­gan in 2014 but were thwarted by parts break­ing un­der stress over and over. Nev­er­the­less, he man­aged to break sev­eral class records at speeds ex­ceed­ing 643 km/ h.

This year, one of Thompson’s ear­lier at­tempts in the car — which is pow­ered by two nat­u­rally as­pi­rated Hemi V-8s — saw it get “very side­ways” at 482 km/ h.

How­ever, the team pressed on to take the pis­ton-pow­ered world record, ful­fill­ing Mickey Thompson’s dream.

The Chal­lenger 2, hav­ing com­pleted what it was (re)built to do, will fi­nally be re­tired this sea­son.


Danny Thompson, fore­ground, and the crew of the Chal­lenger 2 at the Bon­neville Salt Flats in Utah. He has set an un­of­fi­cial land speed record of 725 km/h in his late fa­ther’s ve­hi­cle.

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