The Bloodhound SSC is aiming to reach over 1000mph
The Sunbeam 350HP, 1000HP, Golden Arrow and Bluebird line up for the world's most epic drag race
La Jamais Contente was built in 1899, electrically powered and hit 62mph
The bare chassis of the 1930s Thunderbolt on the production line at Bean Cars in Tipton
Few have the historical connection with the LSR as much as the Campbells and their Bluebirds
The Sunbeam 350HP was the first car Sir Malcolm Campbell drove to a world record in 1922
The Campbell-Railton Bluebird had 2300bhp from its Rolls-Royce aircraft engine
The Campbell-Railton Bluebird ultimately hit 301.337 mph at Bonneville in 1935
The Campbell-Railton Bluebird with its crew
The 1000HP Sunbeam was powered by two aircraft V12s and hit 203.79mph in 1927
The Sunbeam 1000HP following its successful record attempt
The Golden Arrow was one of the first land speed record cars designed with aerodynamics in mind
The Bluebird-Proteus CN7 nearly killed pilot Donald Campbell in 1960 but got the record in 1964
The Green Monster designed by brothers Art and Walt Arfons originated as a drag racer
Skoda achieved the land speed record for 2.0-litre supercharged car; 600bhp and 227.07mph was possible
Bluebird-Proteus CN7 had four-wheel drive to help get grip on salty or sandy surfaces
The Bluebird-Proteus CN7 fell short of its 500mph target due to wheelspin
Babs was built and raced by John Parry-Thomas
The car got the record in 1926, but when Parry-Thomas tried again in 1927 he lost control of the car and died of a head injury
The Wingfoot Express was piloted by Tom Green in 1964 to 413mph
Thrust2 was the first LSR car driven by Richard Noble
Powered by the engine from a Lightning fighter jet the car achieved 633.468mph
The project originally started with a budget of just £175
The cockpit is more akin to a fighter plane than that of a car
Andy Green readies himself in the Thrust2's replacement, the SSC
The Thrust2 with the team that took it to the land speed record
The rocket-propelled Blue Flame was an American response to British land speed superiority, hit 622.407mph in 1970
The JCB Dieselmax had to be pushed to 30mph by a JCB digger before it could engage first gear
The JCB Dieselmax currently holds the diesel land speed record at 350.092mph
The car set the record on the 22 August and then broke it again 24 hours later
Toyota got the Hybrid land speed record in 2004, hitting 130.794mph with minimal modifications
In 2006 the HondaFormula 1 racing team tried to achieve the F1 land speed record, they were just 2mph off their 248mph goal
The spirit of Bluebird lives on in this Bluebird Electric car with a goal of 500mph
The Lola/Drayson B12/69 EV is an electric vehicle with giant performance; it achieved electric vehicle record of 203mph
The Bloodhound SSC project uses a jet engine alongside a hybrid rocket
Pitched at becoming the world’s first car to surpass 1000mph, Bloodhound SSC utilises the turbojet engine from a Eurofighter as well as a rocket to produce a staggering 133,000bhp. But Bloodhound is just the latest in a long list of land speed record vehicles, built with the sole purpose of taking the ultimate Earth-based speed crown.
Rewind back to 1898 and it was in fact an electric car, the French-built Jeantaud Duc, which held the record for being the world’s fastest car. Piloted by Chaselloup-Laubat, the first record holder crept its way up to 39.24mph and into the history books.
But those craving more speed only had to wait six years before the first major landmark was surpassed when fellow Frenchman, Louise Rigolly, raced past the 100mph barrier to 103.56mph in his internal-combustion engined Gobron-Brillie. The motor-vehicle was still in its primitive stages of development, but the age of speed had well and truly arrived.
Engines grew, aerodynamics improved and competition exploded; the race to be the fastest person on land saw men and women risking their lives to take the crown. Such was the rate of development in these early years that records were made and broken in the space of days. But the glamour of the crown saw drivers return and engineers push boundaries, the dream of being the world’s best keeping them firmly focused on their goal.
The first Briton to grab the title of world’s fastest was Lydston Hornsted, a racing driver who drove a modified version of the Blitzen-Benz at Brooklands in 1914. Producing just 194bhp from its mammoth 21.5-litre engine, the Blitzen raced around the Surrey circuit at 124.09mph, laying down a record speed that stood for eight years.
From here on land speed record cars began to demand longer, straighter roads in order to stretch their legs towards the next major landmark. With the peace of post-war Britain releasing land from military occupation, Pendine beach in Wales became a popular choice for UK-based record attemptees, thanks to its long, flat landscape. It was here that the 1925 Sunbeam Bluebird surpassed the 150mph mark, edging its way just over to 150.76mph, piloted by Sir Malcolm Campbell.
Two hundred was the next number to conquer for the world’s most daring drivers, but the beaches of England and Wales were too short even for an 890bhp car to reach it. So Sunbeam’s not-so-accurately named 1000HP was shipped across to the US to Daytona where the beaches provided just enough space for it to reach a 203.79mph top speed.
Unsurprisingly, tragedy was never too far away. Just one year later Indy 500 winner Frank Lockhart’s 1928 record attempt resulted in him dying on the Daytona beach after a tyre blow-out led to a high speed flip, throwing him from his car before a record could be set.
Despite this, improvements to car performance came fast and in 1935 the 300mph limit was passed, with Sir Malcolm Campbell edging his way up to 301.13mph in his Railton Rolls-Royce Bluebird. Conventional internal-combustion engines were reaching fantastic speeds for the time, but they were soon to be replaced by new technology.
As the depression of the ’30s faded to a distant memory, the freedom of the swinging-’60s spawned a new era of alternative power-sources. The year 1964 finally saw 400mph officially demolished with Sir Malcolm Campbell’s son, Donald, reaching 403.14mph in his turbine-engined Bluebird-Proteus CN7.
This was followed by a raft of jet-powered attempts, resulting in records blasting beyond 600mph in just one year. However, 700mph wouldn’t be reached until the turbofan-jet Thrust SSC II was created, the predecessor to Bloodhound maxing out at a supersonic 763.04mph in 1997.
That record still stands today, and remains the mark for attemptees to surpass if they want to see their name etched into the record books. Such is the competition that just beating 763.04mph isn’t enough - today’s main contenders are all targeting 1000mph.
A favourite, Britain’s Bloodhound SSC, is expected to reach 1000mph in 2016. But with competition from The North American Eagle (a modified fighter jet), Fossett LSR, Aussie Invader 5R, Jetblack, Sonic Wind LSRV, The Bullet Project and even a possible return from descendants of Sir Malcolm Campbell and his Bluebird, Bloodhound faces a monumental challenge.
Such a lengthy list shows how even over a century on from the first record, man’s quest to be the fastest is still very much alive. And with Bloodhound SSC expected to make its first test run next year, it’s clear that this speed addiction is no more prominent than here in Britain.
Sam Sheehan & Mike Vousden