The Land Speed Record Cars
This timely video takes a look back at vehicles which land speed racers used to set records. Some of these land speed records would be surpassed by modern day Interstate traffic. Many of the engines used in these early land speed record cars had less horsepower than today’s mini-vans. Yet the era when the records were set was when safety was less of a concern than setting a land speed record for your class. The video shows the cars as they were raced for land speed records then and where they are now.
Some of the cars featured in this video:
#SUNBEAM 350HP – Kenelem Lee Guiness / Malcolm Campbell. Kenelem Lee Guiness was a member of the famed Guinness brewing family.
#DÉLAGE DH V12 – René Thomas
#FIAT MEPHISTOPHELES – Ernest Eldridge. In Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles is the personified principle of negation, betting with God that he would succeed to make Faust turn away from God. In The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett, Mephistopheles is the name of a highly intelligent goat befriended by one of the characters. Mephistopheles is able to count to 20 and use the privy. The car itself was named so because of all the noise it made.
#SUNBEAM TIGER V12 – Henry Segrave
#BABS – John-Parry Thomas. BABS started off as Chitty #4 named for the series of cars using aero engines by Count Louis Zborowski’s famous series of cars named: Chitty Bang Bang.
#NAPIER-CAMPBELL BLUE BIRD – Malcolm Campbell
#SUNBEAM 1000HP MYSTERY – Henry Segrave
#TRIPLEX SPECIAL – Ray Keech
#GOLDEN ARROW – Henry Segrave
#NAPIER-CAMPBELL BLUE BIRD – Malcolm Campbell. This Blue Bird was the third car to bear the Blue Bird name.
#CAMPBELL-RAILTON BLUE BIRD – Malcolm Campbell. This Blue Bird was actually a rebuilt car using a 2300 horsepower Roll-Royce R V12 engine in place of the former supercharged Lion power plant. The other tracks proving to be too rough meant the team would have to move the next record attempt to Bonneville. The team’s record attempt at a new speed record was Malcolm Campbell last record attempt earning him the record of being the first land speed racer to pass the 300 mph mark. His record: 301.129 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
#THUNDERBOLT – George Eyston. The Thunderbolt used two of the same Roll-Royce R V12 engines which Malcom Campbell used to break the 300 mph barrier. Each of these 36.5 liter V12 monsters put out 2300 HP which meant the Thunderbolt came on the salt with 4700 HP at its disposal.
#RAILTON SPECIAL – John Cobb. Half of the car used two supercharged Napier Lion W12 engines. One engine drove the front wheels; the other engine drove the rear wheels making the Railton Special a four-wheel drive land speed racing vehicle. Many records set by John Cobb in the Railton Special stood unbroken until Craig Breedlove arrived on the land speed racing scene with his jet powered vehicles.
#SPIRIT OF AMERICA – Craig Breedlove. The Spirit of America was the first of many thrust powered land speed racers. Basically a land-based aircraft the Spirit of America pushed to record over the 400 mph when Craig Breedlove set the record at 407.447 mph. After his 400 plus record was broken by Tom Green and Art Arfons in ’64, Breedlove returned to the salt a week later to over 500 mph. The new record: 526.277 mph.
#BLUEBIRD CN7 – Donald Campbell. Campbell, son of famed land speed racer Malcolm Campbell, in Bluebird CN7. This version of the Bluebird land speed race vehicles was powered by a Bristol-Siddeley Proteus gas turbine supplying power to all four wheels. During the record attempt the vehicle crashed causing extensive damage to the Bluebird and Donald Campbell as well. After extensive reconstruction the Bluebird CN7 set a record of 403.10 making this attempt the last time a wheel-driven vehicle would break the outright land speed record.
#WINGFOOT EXPRESS – Tom Green. A jet powered land speed racer built by Tom Green and Art Arfons which Tom Green piloted to a land speed record of 413.20 mph holding this record for only 3 days.
#GREEN MONSTER – Art Arfons. Breaking the land speed record twice in 1964, Art Arfons drove the Green Monster to 576.56 mph. He never could repeat the record breaking speed because he crashed the car running over 600 mph in ’66. While Arfons survived the crash the Green Monster did not.
#SPIRIT OF AMERICA SONIC 1 – Craig Breedlove. Although the name of the car makes one think the Sonic 1 might break the sound barrier, it never got close to it. The jet powered car did give Craig Breedlove a new record when he passed the 600 mph mark. This accomplishment gave Breedlove the distinction of being the first to break the 400, 500 and the 600 mph marks.
#BLUE FLAME – Gary Gabelich. So far (as of 2018 that is) the Blue Flame is the only rocket-powered car to break a land speed record.
#THRUST 2 – Richard Noble. Noble broke the 13-year-old land speed record previously held by the rocket-powered Blue Flame setting the new land speed record at 633.468 mph.
#THRUSTSSC – Andy Green. Powered by not one but two Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines, the same jet engines used in the Phantom jet fighter producing an unheard of 110,000 HP. Andy Green drove the ThrustSSC past Mach 1 to a new land speed record of 763.035 mph.