If you ever got to drive your dad’s old banger, you might manage a top speed of 30 mph before parts began dropping off and smoke started pouring from the engine.
Racing driver Danny Thompson, on the other hand, just took his old man’s car to a blistering 450 mph. And lived to tell the tale.
The incredible run, which took place on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on Sunday, August 12, makes the Challenger 2 the world’s fastest piston-driven vehicle.
Danny’s weekend speed dash started with a run that hit a hair-raising 446.605 mph. Averaged with an even faster outing the following day that saw the Challenger 2 reach 450.909 mph, the streamliner hurtled into the record books with a speed of 448.757 mph.
We passed tech inspection. We’re officially the world’s fastest piston powered vehicle! Our combined record sits at 448.757mph.
— Danny Thompson (@thompsonlsr) August 12, 2018
Built in 1968 by Danny’s father, racing legend Mickey Thompson, the since modified Challenger 2 draws its power from a pair of nitro-fueled 2500-hp Hemi engines.
Twin three-speed gear boxes link the two engines together and counterbalance output, a setup described by the team as “a marked improvement over the original split-gas-pedal-and-Mickey’s-intuition mechanism.”
The front of the Challenger 2 holds two 30-gallon aluminum fuel tanks that contain just enough nitromethane for one full speed pass, with the total curb weight at almost 5,200 pounds.
Describing the record-breaking drives, Thompson said, “It got a little squirrelly. I was almost lock-to-lock at around 430mph, which was quite an experience.” Indeed, the cockpit video (above) shows Thompson steering the machine a whole lot more than you might have expected him to, but the expert control enabled him to beat the old record by 9 mph.
“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 on his website. “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.”
Having already achieved a record-breaking run of 406 mph in the Challenger 1 in 1960, Mickey Thompson had plans to drive the Challenger 2 himself, but his life was cut short in 1988 when he was murdered by gunmen hired by a former business associate.
But now son Danny has done what he’d always wanted to do, honoring his father by taking his creation onto the flats and piloting it to a new land speed record.