There are objects in life that unite families by the common passion of these members. The story we tell you, united the Thompson fathers and sons through the Challenger 1 and 2 cars for the achievement of the world speed record.
The story begins when Mickey Thompson was nine years old, his father took him to Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA to watch Englishman John Cobbs attempt to break the ground speed record. The UK auto industry wanted to use the new land speed record to promote their products. They had invested a lot in the design and construction of the car, which was great even then.
It contained two huge Napier Lion 16-cylinder aircraft engines to drive the heavy vehicle through the salt. Cobbs started his engine and thundered across the wide, flat surface. Mickey Thompson watched in wonder as the massive car set a new record of 394.2 miles per hour. The international press was there and the world had a new hero. As Mickey stood on the salt flats next to his father, he vowed that one day he would beat that record.
Mickey Thompson then built the "Challenger 1" with four supercharged Pontiac engines, each powering a separate wheel.
An atypical car built by his hands with family and friends without forgetting all his savings.
In 1959, at the same Bonneville Salt Flats, Mickey broke John Cobbs' record on his fifth attempt by crossing the salt at 406.6 miles per hour. While breaking the ground speed record has been a highlight in Mickey's career, it is perhaps his most important legacy.
In 1968, racer Mickey Thompson returned to Bonneville Bonne Flats Saltville with an 1,800-horsepower twin-engine streamliner dubbed the Autolite Special, and a goal of trying to beat his personal best of 406.6 mph.
Unfortunately, the event was rainy and the Challenger II streamliner never raced.
The subsequent loss of his main sponsor, Ford, prevented Mickey from returning to Salt in 1969 for another try. It was the end of the project and Mickey's LSR dreams.
Danny's story is poignant
Fortunately, the story doesn't end there, as Thompson's son Danny brought the Challenger II back to life and carried it well past 406.6 mph at Bonneville over the weekend. last.
Mickey wanted to return to Bonneville with Danny at the wheel in 1988 to get the record he had never achieved. Tragically, Mickey and his wife were murdered outside their home and Danny returned the car to his warehouse. A crime solved in 2007, when a former business partner was convicted of orchestrating the murders.
Danny decided to bring the Challenger II back to life and started working for an entry in the Bonneville Speed Week category.
When Mickey Thompson brought the Challenger II to Bonneville 50 years ago, two Ford 427-cubic-inch V8s drove each axle. One was mounted in front of the cockpit, the other was behind. Danny powered the Challenger II with two 2,500bhp nitro-powered Hemi engines, giving the car a huge power boost. However, much of the car is as it was in 1968, including the aluminum chassis and bodywork.
On the 50th anniversary of his father's original race, Danny pulled the Challenger 2 from the store and brought it to his Huntington Beach store. Steadfast for more than 40 years, he began the exhaustive process of restoring, modernizing and updating the vehicle. Danny wants to put his father's business to rest. For him, that means using the Challenger 2, a vehicle that first operated in 1968, to challenge the ground speed record.
Danny Thompson and Challenger II hit 450.909 mph, averaging 448.605 mph in the opposite direction, for a record 448.75 mph. This makes the Challenger II the world's fastest piston-powered, wheeled vehicle, breaking a previous record of 439 mph.
Then, during Speed Week 2018, the Challenger 2 set a new SCTA AA / FS record of 448.757 mph. To date, this is the fastest ground speed record in the world!
With his streak of records, we think Danny made Mickey a proud man.
The streamliner is four-wheel drive. Each motor drives a pair of wheels. The transmissions mirror each other exactly, so the front engine is actually mounted at the rear of the chassis.
The skin of the car is made of 68 hand-formed aluminum panels. They are connected to the subframe via Dzus buttons.
The engines are dry blocks (without water), which means that all cooling is provided by the fuel. A single run consumes about 50 gallons of a mixture containing 87% nitromethane and 13% methanol. As a result, the weight of the car drops by about 500 pounds in one pass.
The tires are a prototype woven nylon lined with steel bands. There is only 1/32 of an inch of rubber. Any other product would disappear due to heat and expansion. They are custom made by Mickey Thompson Tires.
Main stopping power is provided by four-foot double flower parachutes. The car is also fitted with carbon ceramic disc brakes.
The Challenger 2 is 32 feet long, with a height of 27 inches at the top and 37 inches at the top of the canopy, and a width of 34 inches. It weighs 5,700 pounds when powered.