The land speed record goes back 110 years. First set by Arthur MacDonald on Daytona Beach. For the time it was an eye watering, and likely bone rattling 104.65mph.
It’s a little amazing that they managed to accurately record to the 100th of a second, apparently it was mostly by hand, but it was scrutinised several times for accuracy.
The First World War intervened leaving a gap of almost 20 years before Malcom Campbell broke the record twice in 1924.

While the understandable hiatus for the war prevented actual attempts during this period, it might be considered that some of the progresses in engineering that took place helped to shape the remarkable looking Bluebird.

IMage of the land speed record attempt

Artists impression of Bloodhound SSC

Powered by a 450 bhp 12-cylinder Napier Lion aero engine, it took the record a number of times in 1935, recording a top speed of 301.129 mph.
John Cobb was next to take the land speed crown with the sleek and futuristic looking “Railton Mobile” reaching 369.74Mph. The same car underwent engineering changes and in 1947 reached 394.196 mph

For the observant among you, yes, they now measured speed to 1/1000th of a mph

The early 1960’saw Malcom Campbell’s son Donald hit 400 mph in his new Bluebird while Craig Breedlove just managed to edge this then push on to 468.72 mph in the “Spirit Of America” a vehicle which looked remarkably in profile like a 1960’s jet fighter. Unsurprisingly as the vehicle was powered by a jet engine.
Art Afons kept with jet engines and in his “Green Monster” managed 576.533 mph in 1965.

In 1970 Gary Gabelich managed to set the pace in a drag-rocket styled vehicle hitting 622.407 mph
In case you are wondering. Yes, in metric this is 1000 kmph almost exactly. 1001.666 kmph to be precise.

Richard Noble, first with his Thrust 1 attempt then later with Thrust 2 managed to achieve 633.468 mph at Black Rock in the early 1980’s In the late 1990’s Andy Green in Thurust SSC was the first to break the sound barrier, hitting 763.035 mph in a stunning twin rocket vehicle with more than a little “stealth bomber” about its appearance.

This leads us on to Bloodhound SSC and a serious attempt to smash the previous records and reach 1000 mph. This, if achieved would be the largest increase in the land speed record since it began beating the 197mph added by Malcom Campbell more than 90 years ago.


Time Magazine gallery of images

WIKI history of the land speed record