In 1960, Mickey Thompson, a racing pioneer and innovative genius who built cars for Indy, for drag racing, and for off-road competition, set out to become the first American to exceed 400 miles per hour in a piston-driven vehicle.
He built built a Bonneville-style streamliner, Challenger I, and used its four supercharged Pontiac engines to cover a measured mile at 406.6 mph, nearly 100 mph faster than the world record. Unfortunately, Thompson was denied that record because his car could not complete the second half of the required two-way run on the Utah salt flats.
Five years later, the record was broken, by the Summers Brothers and their four-engined Goldenrod, which completed the necessary two-way run and boosted the wheel-driven record to 409.189 mph.
Undaunted but even more determined, Thompson built a new car. Officially known as the Ford Autolite Special because of its pair of Ford engines, Thompson's Challenger 2 was rained out of its bid for a record run in the fall of 1968, and the entire effort was put on hold when Detroit automakers withdrew their financial support of motorsports programs the following year.
Thompson went on to other his racing endeavors, but early in 1988 he approached his son, Danny, and suggested they revive the quest, with Mickey preparing the car and Danny driving.
"A month later, my father was killed," Danny recalls, tears still filling his eyes 23 years later as he stood at the SEMA Show and announced his plan to update his father's car and to make an attempt late next summer "to finish my dad's dream and to fulfill my dream."
Remarkably, since 1965, the wheel-driven speed record Mickey Thompson pursued and Danny Thompson seeks has climbed only to 417.020 mph, though cars recently have exceeded 440 on one-way runs at Bonneville.
Danny Thompson is fitting what he calls Challenger 2.5 with a pair of nitro-fueled 500-cubic-inch engines he anticipates will provide 3000 horsepower to a set of Mickey Thompson-brand tires that already have been "spun" to 590 mph.
Thompson's eyes brighten as he pronounces such speed -- "five-hundred ninety miles per hour!" He says he'd love to hit 500, but his realistic goal, he says, is to push the record to at least 420.
Hartung Collection brings nearly $4 million
With a 1911 Flying Merkel Twin Belt Drive motorcycle selling for $201,250, a 1950 Veritas BMW going for $195,500, and the 1950 Pebble Beach-winning Edwards R-26 roadster bringing $143,750, the Lee Roy Hartung Collection of vehicles and automobilia raised nearly $4 million at an Auctions America by RM event.
In 1950, the late Lee Roy Hartung began collecting license plates. Working in the salvage and general hauling business, Hartung's collection soon expanded to cars, motorcycles, bicycles and much more. He shared his passion through a private museum in Glenview, Illinois, until his death earlier this year.
Legislation would boost low-volume vehicles
Congressman John Campbell (R-California) recently introduced a bill to enable low volume car manufacturers to provide a range of specialty vehicles for customers nationwide. The legislation directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a regulatory structure to facilitate the production of such cars, which include replica street rods, customs and sports cars primarily used in exhibitions, parades and occasional transportation.
Vehicles would meet current emissions standards.
Currently, the United States has one system for regulating cars. The system is designed for companies that mass-produce millions of vehicles.
The "Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2011" creates an alternative regulatory framework for American manufacturers producing 1,000 or fewer vehicles a year, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association, which supports the bill.
"Rep. Campbell's bill will allow U.S. companies to produce safe, clean, one-of-a-kind vehicles that are virtually impossible to build under today's one-size-fits-all regulatory framework," said SEMA president Chris Kersting. "This program will create skilled-labor jobs in the auto industry and help meet consumer demand for these niche vehicles."
Goodguys honor Ring Brothers
Mike and Jim Ring, renowned designers and builders of cutting-edge muscle cars and street machines are the dual recipients of the Goodguys Rod & Customs Association's 2011 Trendsetter Award.
Projects emerging from the brothers' shop in Spring Green, Wisconsin, include the "Reactor" '67 Mustang and "Razor" '69 Camaro, back-to-back winners of the Goodguys Street Machine of the Year award.
The brothers grew up building vehicles with old lawn mower engines they salvaged.
1936 Delahaye ‘best' at Santa Barbara
Ken and Ann Smith's recently restored 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition Convertible with coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi was awarded Best of Show honors at the Santa Barbara concours d'elegance, where Andy "Mr. 500" Granatelli was the grand marshal.
The concours included a display of vehicles just returned from the inaugural Mille Miglia North America Tribute, a three-day, 1,000-mile California driving excursion featuring cars built between 1927 and 1957.
Mark your calendars...
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indiana and Western Art in Indianapolis will host an exhibition, Steel Ponies, featuring motorcycles as "symbols of adventure, freedom, individualism and even danger," from March 10 until August 5, 2012. See www.eiteljorg.org for details.
Click here for event calendar.
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