Mickey Thompson was a mad scientist obsessed with speed. In 1960, he became the first American to go over 400 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats on a wild, four-engined streamliner he called the Challenger I. Mickey came back to Bonneville in 1968 with the two-engined Challenger II, but rain kept him from running. Later in 1969, a loss of sponsorship canceled his return to the salt flats. With Mickey’s demise in 1988, any hope of the Challenger 2 running at Bonneville died. Until his son Danny Thompson decided to fulfill his father’s lifelong dream.
With a large crew of volunteers, and with money raised through a variety of means, the Challenger II – the same car Mickey built 50 years ago, shattered the piston-powered, wheel-driven land speed record at Bonneville with a blistering two-way average speed of 448.757 mph.
Danny ran Challenger II with two nitro-fueled 2500-hp Hemi engines, giving the car a massive power boost. But, much of the car is as it was in 1968, including the chassis and aluminum bodywork. Two years ago, he drove it to 406.70 at Bonneville but knew he could go faster. This year, he finally did.
“We did it!” Thompson wrote on the team’s website. “On Sunday morning, eight years of hard work culminated in a 450.909 mph return run. Averaged with yesterday’s speed of 446.605 mph, we achieved a new two-way AA/FS record of 448.757 mph, enough to make us the world’s fastest piston-powered car.”