Here’s some awesome newsreel-style footage of the world’s greatest hot rodder, Mickey Thompson, and his 400 mph adventure at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1960 with his four-engined streamliner. Don’t miss this.
MCG is a big, big Mickey Thompson fan. For a backgrounder on one of the greatest car guys who ever lived, please see MCG’s biography of M/T, “Life at 400 MPH,” which appeared in the December, 2008 issue of Hot Rod magazine. It’s not the whole story by a long shot, but it hits a few of the high spots.
Smokey Yunick provided one interesting description of his close friend Mickey: “There ain’t now way I can tell you really what this cat was all about. This was a very, very special human. He had the balls of a dinosaur and the persistence of a hungry tiger. His mode of operation was ’bout like a 95,000-pound, 600hp diesel tractor and trailer coming at you running 80. That man did not know what ‘It can’t be done’ meant.” That should help set the stage for the video below.
For one thing, we need to keep in mind when Mickey set out to break the land speed record, this was the turf of well-heeled, corporate-backed teams with aircraft-engined monsters. Unintimidated, Mickey did it hot-rod style in his homebuilt Challenger 1, powered by four junk V8 engines Pontiac had thrown his way. Only a few years later, he would be racing in the Indianapolis 500 with his own multi-car team.
M/T accomplished as much as any one man has in American motorsports, and he did it his way, following his own unique vision. In this little film produced by Goodyear in 1960, we get to see him at work for 12 minutes. Treasure the glimpse.
Note: Mickey’s son Danny Thompson, an accomplished racer in his own right, is chasing the wheel-driven land speed record in a machine conceived by his father. You can read more about it at his website here.