5,000-HP Challenger II Land Speed Record Holder Designed by Mickey Thompson Heads to Auction
What has 1,000 cubic inches of displacement, weighs almost three tons, and can reach a top speed of 450 mph? That’d be the Challenger II.
The Mickey Thompson-designed Challenger II land speed racing car that is independently recognized as the world's fastest piston-engined land vehicle will be sold at auction this upcoming January.
Built back in the 1960s, the Challenger II was supposed to be Thompson's way of breaking the piston-powered land speed record. A 1968 shakedown proved the car was capable of exceeding 400 miles per hour, but after sponsors backed out, Thompson was forced to mothball the car. He and his son Danny tried to bring the car out of storage in early 1988, but Thompson was murdered in March of that year and the Challenger II again returned to the warehouse, this time for almost 30 more years. It took until 2018—50 years after the car's construction—for the Challenger II to hit the Bonneville Salt Flats again, where the car at last touched its top speed of 450.9 mph.
The purpose-built Challenger II is capable of hitting speeds like those thanks to a body consisting of 68 hand-formed aluminum panels and a pair of 8.2-liter V8s, which chug nitromethane with a twist of methanol. They stir 5,000 horsepower into heavy-duty, three-speed automatic transmissions and give the slightly porky, 5,800-pound car a power-to-weight ratio that'd make Christian von Koenigsegg weep for joy.
Thompson's Challenger II will hit the auction block next January at Mecum Auctions' Kissimmee, Florida event. If you have fantasies about slapping some turbochargers on the thing and besting Danny Thompson's record yourself, be forewarned that land speed racing is one of the most dangerous forms of motorsport and that even the smallest problem can be fatal at-speed.