50-Year-Old Car Sets New Land Speed Record

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The Challenger 2 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2017. (Photo: thexenophilelife/Snapshot from YouTube)

A half-century after racer Mickey Thompson built what he hoped might become the world's fastest hot rod, his son Danny Thompson has finally achieved his father's dream.

Last weekend, on the salt flats of Bonneville in northwestern Utah, the 68-year-old Thompson used the same Challenger 2 first built in 1968 to break a land speed record for the world's fastest piston-driven vehicle. His first five-mile attempt achieved a speed of 446.605 mph, with the return trip breaking just over 450 mph. Averaged together, the new official record now stands at 448.757 mph.

You can see the view from Thompson's cockpit as he hits the 450-mph mark in the video below.

"In 1968, my dad, the mad scientists at Kar Kraft, and an elite group of Southern California gearheads created a vehicle that they believed had the potential to become the world's fastest hot rod," Thompson said in a statement. "It took five decades, a lot of elbow grease, and a few modifications, but I feel like I've finally been able to fulfill their dream, as well as my own. Thanks guys. I share today's record with all of you."

Honoring a family legacy

In 1960 at Bonneville with the Challenger 1, Mickey Thompson became the first American to cross the 400 mph land speed barrier. A return attempt in 1968 to break his previous best with the Challenger 2 was scuttled due to rain turning the salt flats into a giant lake. Tragically, Mickey and his wife were murdered in 1988 and the vehicle was placed into storage.

Decades later, Danny Thompson, a racing enthusiast like his father, decided to pay tribute to his parents by bringing the Challenger 2 back onto the salt flats once more.

"I got it all back running. Mostly it’s the same as it was," he told RacingJunk in 2017. "The basic shape is the same. It’s about two feet longer and has a couple of little aero tweaks. The air intakes from the front to rear engines are placed differently. It has a different engine and transmission, but the basic car is the same one that ran in 1968."

With the piston land speed record now firmly attached to the Thompson name, Danny believes that he's finally brought some closure to the adventure first started by his dad more than 50 years earlier.

"I'd like to thank all of you for coming along with me on this wild ride," he wrote on his site. "The interest, support, and encouragement has meant a lot to both myself and the crew. We made it happen with your backing. We're in the books! What a fantastic day."

For another view of the record-setting attempt, this time out the main cockpit window, check out the video below (which is not the same video, but they do share the same preview photo.)