NHRA Motorsport Museum

Mickey Thompson's Challenger 1

Speed merchant Mickey Thompson created so many of hot rodding's memorable machines that it would be difficult to single out any one of them as best, but ranking at the top would have to be his Challenger 1 land speed record car, which utilized four supercharged Pontiacs to become the first car clocked at 400 mph on a land speed record course.

(© 1999 NHRA Photographic Services)
On Friday morning, Sept. 9, 1960, Thompson drove the awesome machine to a one-way speed of 406.60 mph. He needed only a return pass of 392.6 mph to back up the record but broke a driveshaft on the run. Still, the achievement of becoming the first American racer to break the 400-mph barrier made Thompson an international motorsports celebrity and enabled him to produce many successful racing projects for years to come. Thompson took special pride in the fact that the car was a combination of 100 percent American automotive parts and engineering and outperformed many higher-financed entries from other countries.

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