On the 50th anniversary of his father Mickey’s original 406mph run with the car, Danny Thompson took the Challenger 2 from storage and began the extensive process of restoring, retrofitting, and updating the vehicle to complete the goal the car was unable to achieve back in 1968 – setting a new piston-driven world land speed record. Earlier attempts were foiled by weather and mechanical issues, but Thompson and his team were back at Speed Week on Bonneville, Utah’s Salt Flats for another shot at the record, with 435mph as the target. And they blew by that with ease.
In 2016, Danny set the overall AA/FS record at 406.769mph, but on the opening day of this year’s Speed Week the Challenger 2 recorded a blistering 446.605mph pass. Although Thompson admitted it was a pretty hairy ride, the team was delighted with the speed as the streamliner had never gone faster. But it soon would: Despite a broken valve spring on Saturday’s run the crew was able to get everything repaired for an attempt at a back-up run on Sunday to confirm a new record. Thompson did just that this morning, recording a 450.909mph for the five-mile run to secure his family’s name in the record books. The new official record, which is an average of the two runs, is 448.757mph
Rather than the original Ford 427s, the restored Challenger 2 is powered by a pair of dry block nitro-fueled Hemi V8 engines in an all-wheel drive configuration. Overall horsepower has more than doubled, going from 600 front engine and 1200 rear engine to an even 2500 per. Twin three-speed gearboxes link the two engines together and counterbalance output, a marked improvement over the original “split gas pedal and Mickey’s intuition” mechanism. The front of the car houses two 30 gallon aluminum fuel tanks that hold just enough nitromethane for one full speed pass. The total curb weight approaches 5200 lbs.