Honoring the Challenger 2 and Turbinator II, historic hot rods at auction, and making the scene at the Lonestar Round Up, Jalopyrama, and Southeast Gasser Association race in Alabama.
It has been a busy time lately for the World’s Fastest Piston-powered Man, Danny Thompson. He recently retrieved his 448mph record-setting Challenger 2 from the Museum of Speed in Wilsonville, Oregon, and towed it to the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame museum in Buellton, California (Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps & Petroliana), where he and the car were inducted into the 2019 class, along with Team Vesco’s 503-mph Turbinator II turbine car, and the Gyronaut X1 Triumph streamliner motorcycle.
As soon as that ceremony was over, Thompson headed for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Museum, towing Challenger 2 on an open trailer 3,000 miles to the Daytona International Speedway complex in Daytona Beach. When he arrived he put the car on display next to Challenger 1, which his father, Mickey Thompson, drove to 406 mph in 1960.
At an evening ceremony, Thompson told a rapt audience about the nearly 60-year gap between his famous father’s last run at Bonneville in Challenger 1 and his record-setting runs in August of last year at Bonneville, where he went out
the back door at more than 450 mph and set a new AA/ Fuel Streamliner record of 448.757 mph, making it the fastest piston-engined car in history. Thompson described the eight-year process of taking the 1968 car apart and reengineering every system, including two new Brad Anderson Hemi engines, new clutches, new drivetrain, carbon/carbon brakes, and the new electronics package. He said it took eight years, seven days a week, all the money he had and could raise, and a group of salt-flats experts to complete the program and then test-run the car in 2016 and 2017 before the final assault last August.
He told the group that, on an early run, at 392 mph, the fire bottles went off accidentally, temporarily blinding him to the point that couldn’t even see his gloves and got disoriented for a few seconds. But he managed to save the car and get it slowed down.
Thompson acknowledged that while the Challenger 2 is retired and on tour around the country, he is not. He would like to start all over and build a brand new car—a shorter, lighter, less complex car with a single supercharged nitro Hemi engine, all-wheel-drive, and all the latest technology in order to go 500 mph.
50 YEARS: 50 years after his father took the freshly built Challenger 2 to a rained-out Bonneville, Danny Thompson started rebuilding the streamliner. The record-setting Challenger 2 is now on display with the 406-mph Challenger 1 in Florida. 50 YEARS
TWO THOMPSONS: At the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, Thompson talked about all the modifications needed to take Challenger 2 from its 1968 configuration to today. TWO THOMPSONS
RECORD HOLDER RECORD HOLDER: Danny Thompson earned a place in land-speed racing history with his 448.757-mph AA/ FS record, as his Challenger 2 is now the fastest piston-powered vehicle.