Speed Demon Streamliner Breaks Piston-Powered Land Speed Record With 470-MPH Average
That's more than 20 mph faster than Danny Thompson's Challenger II effort in 2018.
When Bonneville Speed Week rolls around, you know records will soon be set. There's one benchmark, though, that doesn't fall year after year—the piston-powered top speed record. Danny Thompson, son of off-roading and land-speed legend Mickey Thompson, most recently staked his claim with a 448.75-mph average in 2018. But as of Thursday, that all-time best has been surpassed by George Poteet and the Speed Demon streamliner crew's 470.016-mph effort.
Powered by a twin-turbocharged, big-block Chevy engine measuring 555 cubic inches in displacement, the Speed Demon had been especially quick in the AA/BFS class all week. Wednesday afternoon, Poteet managed a five-mile speed of 469.298 mph—Speed Demon's then-fastest speed on the salt. This set the stage for a record run Thursday morning as figures are taken from two-run averages.
After shredding their fair share of tires at speeds more familiar to aircraft than wheeled vehicles, the team lined up for a push in the cool morning hours. With temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a slight breeze from the west, Speed Demon eclipsed 470 mph to lock in the record.
Poteet's run was similar to Thompson's Challenger II effort in several ways. Of course, they were both performed in the AA/BFS (Blown Fuel Streamliner) class. Additionally, Speed Demon achieved the feat one year to the day after Challenger II broke the previously standing record, which just so happened to be held by Poteet at the time. A previous iteration of Speed Demon was running a small-block Chevy back then.
Another piece of trivia that shouldn't be ignored is their age. Thompson was 69 when he set a 448.75-mph average; Poteet is 71.
Other cars have gone faster in the five-mile sprint, though this is a record for internal combustion engines. The Thrust SSC went 760.343 mph in 1997 and became the first car ever to break the sound barrier with the help of two Rolls-Royce jet engines. Likely the most famous land-speed car of modern times is the Bloodhound SSC, a vehicle that's been in development since 2008. The crew behind it has an end-goal of surpassing the 1,000-mph mark, though financial troubles have hamstrung the project over the last few years.
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