There are very few names in the automotive landscape that are more instantly recognized than that of Mickey Thompson. Gearheads of old will likely remember Mickey’s home-built Indy Car exploits, his off-road racing successes, or his star-crossed attempts to claim the piston-driven land speed record at Bonneville. Younger car guys will have certainly heard of his hugely successful wheel and tire company, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels, which permeates into nearly all areas of automotive interest. Race fans young and old can relate to the legacy left by the legend, and how Mickey’s son, Danny, hopes to cross off one glaring item remaining on Mickey’s To-Do list by breaking the record that vexed his father during his life.
In 1960, Mickey hit the famed Bonneville Salt Flats with his four-engined Challenger I and became the fastest man on the planet by ripping off a pass at over 406 miles per hour. However, due to a breakdown, he was unable to meet the required back-up speed on the return run, so the record never officially became his. Mickey returned to Bonneville with a new design in Challenger II with hopes of claiming the record, but Mother Nature decided there would be no Speed Week in 1968. Later that year, Ford pulled the plug on its racing projects, and the slippery streamliner was shelved. The father and son duo had planned to make another run at the record in 1989, but as many of you already know, that would be the year after Mickey and his wife Trudy’s lives were taken outside their Bradbury, CA home.
On the 50th anniversary of Mickey’s 406 mile per hour run, Danny resurrected the Challenger II and began the painstaking task of bringing the car up to current performance and safety standards while retaining as much of its soul as possible. The car retains the same functional layout (twin engines, one fore and one aft of the cockpit), the same chassis, and the same beautiful hand-formed aluminum body. Each of the two Brad Anderson Engines-built Hemi engines will produce roughly the total horsepower of the original pair of Ford SOHC powerplants, putting total output for the current setup around 4,000 horsepower, double what Mickey had on tap in ’68. Power is transferred to the ultra-trick billet wheels via a unique Hadley Box setup, which functions to keep the engines aware of each other’s speed, preventing one from putting down more power than the other, which could lead to a host of problems ranging from “less-than-ideal” to “catastrophic”.
The team, which consists of Thomson, Eric Hoeing, Mike McGuire, Lou Anderson, Frank Hanrahan, Tim Gibson, Terry Herman, Jerry Darrien, Richard Catton, Craig Johnson, Holly Martin, Doug Robinson, Dave Hadley, Tom Mott, Donny Cummins, Art Christman, and George Calloway recently took the car to Bonneville, where they managed to run up to 317 miles per hour in just over half of the five-mile course — a very successful run for a test pass.
Read more about the Hadley Boxes, the trick billet wheels, and the rest of the Challenger II project, plus check out the extensive gallery of beautiful Holly Martin-shot photographs and video clips of the car’s resurrection at thompsonlsr.com.