Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 25, 2013
Thrust SSC

Thrust SSC

September 25, 1997: A new land speed record is made. A land speed record is the fastest speed achieved by a wheeled vehicle on land, as opposed to speeds in the air or on water. The first regulators for measuring and validation were the Automobile Club de France beginning in 1902. By 1924, with a variety of standards causing confusion, a new group – AIACR – set up standards and rules for all. The AIACR changed their name to FIA in 1947. The fastest vehicles were trains for many years.

On April 29, 1899 Camille Jenatzy of France topped the 100 km/h bar at 65.79 mph or 105.88 km/h. The first to surpass 100 mph was Louis Rigolly of Belgium who raced to 103.56 mph (166.66 km/h) in 1904. The last speed record on a beach reached 276.71 mph (445.32 km/h) on March 7, 1935 when Malcolm Campbell of Great Britain was racing his Campbell-Railton Blue Bird at Daytona Beach, Florida.

Speed trials moved from the beach to the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US. From 1963 on, the speed records have been set by jet and rocket propulsion vehicles. Since jet engines don’t drive axels, the FIA did not sanction the early speed records for these types of cars. A new category was added for non-wheel-driven vehicles. Speeds approached and then topped the 400 mph (640 km/h) mark. Breaking the sound barrier (outracing the speed at which sound waves move) was officially broken by Chuck Yeager on October 14, 1947 when he flew his X-1 aircraft fast enough. On this date, Andy Green broke the sound barrier on land when he drove his Thrust SSC over Black Rock Desert at 714.44 mph (1,149.30 km/h).

The Thrust SSC (SuperSonic Car) is British in design. The jet propelled car was designed by Richard Nobel, Glynne Bowsher, Ron Ayers, and Jeremy Bliss. It is powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines. The car was driven by RAF Wing Commander Andy Green. The car was once again raced on October 15, 1997, 50 years and 1 day after Yeager’s record flight. This time the speed reached was 763.035 mph (1,227.99 km/h) making it the first supersonic land record. Green reached Mach 1.016 speeds. Green and Nobel are working together with Bloodhound SSC and hope to break the 1000 mph limit.

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Speed provides the one genuinely modern pleasure.” – Aldous Huxley

“Every car has a lot of speed in it. The trick is getting the speed out of it.” – A J Foyt

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Bonneville Salt Flats are located in Tooele County in Utah and is one of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake. Geologist Grove Karl Gilbert named the area after Benjamin Bonneville, a US Army officer and explorer who mapped the region in the 1830s. It was first used as a raceway in 1907 when Bill Rishel and two others raced a Pierce-Arrow across the flats. A railway first crossed the flats in 1910. The first land speed record was set there in 1914 by Teddy Tetzlaff who drove a 300 HP Benz at 142.8 mph (229.8 km/h). The salt makes a somewhat slick surface and cars start out slower on the flats, therefore no 0-60 records are broken here. There are two to three tracks for racers to run and reach their high speeds. However the flats are shrinking. The salt is being used for other purposes and once covered 90.000 acres but today is down to an area of about 30,000 acres.

Also on this day: The Supremes – In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.
Lots of Water – In 1513, Balboa reached the Pacific Ocean.
Spread the News – In 1690, the American colonies got their first locally printed multi-page newspaper.

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