Streamliner sets new land speed record on its 50th anniversary
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.