Apologies for the delay in this post, real life has crept up on us and we have had to go to work to feed our Land speed racing habit. Work is continuing on the car at a relatively slow pace. Our new gearbox has now been obtained and the rest of the associated items, clutch, bellhousing and flywheel are being gathered. Once they are together they will all be sent over from the US on a single pallet in a futile attempt to save a bit of money on shipping. We are also hoping to have a new set of high speed racing tyres on the same pallet.
We have been out and about and attended Ian’s open day at his motorcycle shop in Horley. There was an awful lot of interest in the car and once the beer started flowing many people tried to get in the driver’s seat, to much hilarity for those spectating.
This however brings us to the title of this update. It could be argued that we, as a team, have already proven that we are attempting to live every moment of our lives. This of course by definition means we have been in situations where we had even greater opportunities to miss out on events greater than our own.
Allow us to tell you a short story.
Back in the late 1950’s a young hot rodder named Mickey Thompson decided that he would promote his drag racing business by having a shot at the ultimate land speed record. He built a car named Challenger, with four Pontiac engines he actually took the fastest speed recorded in the world in 1960 over 400 mph.
Mickey was a bit of a character and became very famous, not just because of his land speed racing exploits but he made his money promoting drag racing all over America. He had a larger than life personality and established himself as major figure in motor racing. He even attempted the Indy 500 in a number of cars that he built himself. Whilst he never achieved the win in that particular field he did build a very successful motor racing empire making race parts for all sorts of things and the still available MT tyres.
Mickey was married and had a number of children including his son Danny. Having ‘grown up’ in the early days of drag racing and hot rodding he saw too many people killed or injured and so forbade his son from racing. However in his later years he decided to have another go at land speed racing this time with his son, who like most young men, had completely ignored his father and started racing anyway.
Before he could finish the Challenger II he and his wife were viciously murdered at their home. Taken well before his time he left a number of things undone and the Challenger II car was garaged away out of respect.
Out of respect the car was stored up, but the bug started its inevitable course within the psyche of Danny. This was unfinished business as far as Danny was concerned (something we know a lot about!) and to honour his father Challenger II was taken out of storage with a view to achieving the completely non-existent (by his own admission) land speed record of the fastest piston driven vehicle.
In 2018 after a forty year hold up the car was shipped out to Bonneville and managed an average speed of 448.757 mph officially the fastest speed for a piston driven vehicle and the fastest speed of the event until the Turbinator with its helicopter sourced turbine engine managed 455.106 mph driven by Dave Spangler who set his first land speed record in 1985.
Now this sort of brings us up to date as last year while we were going through tech inspection for speed week someone pointed out Danny Thompson and the Challenger II car. At the time we just thought well of course, where else are you going to see a Thompson Challenger car?, he must be here every year. What we didn’t appreciate was quite how momentous an occasion it was to be on the salt at the same time as Danny and his team.
We missed the opportunity to go and meet the team, assuming they were like everyone else we met during speed week, we’re sure they would have been more than happy to show us round their car and spend some time chatting. We also didn’t take the time to stop and watch any of these 400+ mph runs. We certainly heard them, you really can’t miss the fantastic noise these machines make at full chat!
Upon our return next year (hopefully) we will certainly do a bit more research into the other competitors and make a point of meeting these wonderful interesting people. From our experience with other land speed racers we are confident of a warm reception.