Mickey Thompson's Challenger 1
In the late 1950s, motorsports tragic legend, Mickey Thompson, designed a bullet that stepped out of the realm of land speed's "typical" setup by introducing a quad-motor configuration encased in a beautifully blue-hued bonnet. Christened Challenger 1, the chromatic streamliner had the front two engines facing backwards that drove the front wheels, as well as a rear pair of motors facing forwards that drove the rear wheels. Four separate manual transmissions were hand-shifted in unison by one set of controls, and a maze of cable and drive systems that would give a network cable specialist at NASA a seizure snaked throughout the bowels of the car.
As the creator and driver of the Challenger 1, Mickey Thompson had to wear an oxygen mask inside the car, as the fumes from over 1,600 cubic inches of engines directly in front of him burning racing fuel inside an enclosed body would have been lethal to even his motorsports superhero status, not to mention the forward view for the driver was limited because the configuration only allowed for a laid-back lounge-chair position with the driver's feet directly above the rear transmission. All in all, the Challenger 1 would push Mickey to the limits of comfort and skill in his driving talents.
In terms of the overall construction of this beast, despite the complex mechanical spaghetti of Challenger’s inner design, the fluid compound curves of the nose cone sweep back into elegant wheel shields and the long parallel hood scoops that feed air into the engines had an elegant profile that repeated in the driver’s canopy and parachute housing in the rear.
Challenger I carried Mickey Thompson to a new land speed record of 406.6 mph in September of 1960. A mechanical problem on the return run kept Thompson out of the official record book, but perhaps more importantly for him, he had captured the unofficial title of Fastest Man on Earth, and became the first American to cross the 400mph barrier.
The beautiful bold build and extensive engine ingenuity of Mickey Thompson's Challenger 1 puts the streamliner in high acclaim here at the shop, right along with Craig Breedlove's Spirit of America, and again confirms the supremacy of the American trailblazers in the infant stages of Land Speed Racing.