Craig Breedlove

Craig Breedlove c. 1968

Craig Breedlove (born March 23, 1937) is an American professional race car driver and a five-time world land speed record holder. He was the first person in history to reach 500 mph (800 km/h), and 600 mph (970 km/h), using several turbojet-powered vehicles, all named Spirit of America.

Land vehicle speed records

In 1962,[1] he made his first attempt, in a freewheeling tricycle (ignoring FIA rules requiring four wheels, at least two driven; in the event, FIM happily accepted it)[1] powered by a General Electric J47 turbojet engine.[1] On August 5, 1963, this first Spirit made her first record attempt, using just 90% of available thrust to reach 388.47 mph (625.18 km/h) over the measured mile.[1] The return pass, on 95% power,[1] turned up a two-way average of 407.45 mph (655.73 km/h).[1] Spirit of America was so light on the ground, she did not even need to change tires afterward.[1]

For 1964, Breedlove faced competition from Walt Arfons' Wingfoot Express (piloted by Tom Green),[1] as well as from brother Art Arfons in his four-wheel, FIA-legal Green Monster.[1] With more engine power, Breedlove upped the record to 468.72 mph (754.33 km/h) "[w]ith almost insolent ease",[1] then to 526.28 mph (846.97 km/h),[1] making him the first man to exceed 500 mph (800 km/h).[1] This pass was not without incident, however, for one of his drogue parachute's shroud lines parted, and Spirit of America ran on for 5 mi (8.0 km) before hitting a telegraph pole and coming to rest in a lake.[1] This record stood all of twelve days before Green Monster broke it, recording a two-run average of 536.71 mph (863.75 km/h).[1]

In response, Breedlove built an FIA-legal four-wheeler, Sonic I, powered by a 15,000 lbf (67 kN) J79 turbojet.[1][2] November 2, 1965, Breedlove entered the FIA record book with a two-run average of 555.483 mph (893.963 km/h).[1] This lasted even less time than before, for Green Monster came back five days later at 576.553 mph (927.872 km/h).[1] On November 15, Breedlove responded with a 600.601 mph (966.574 km/h) record (after turning in an amazing 608.201 mph (978.805 km/h) return pass),[1] which held until 1970.[1] (It would be broken by Gary Gabelich's Blue Flame, which reached 630.388 mph (1,014.511 km/h).)[1] To take the record back, Breedlove planned a supersonic rocket car, "complete with ejector seat."[1] Also in 1965, Breedlove's wife, Lee Breedlove, took the seat in Sonic 1, making four passes and achieving 308.506 mph (496.492 km/h),[1] making her the fastest woman alive, and making them the fastest couple, which they remain.[1] According to author Rachel Kushner, Craig had talked Lee into taking the car out for a record attempt in order to monopolize the salt flats for the day and block one of his competitors from making a record attempt.[3]

During 1968, Lynn Garrison, President of Craig Breedlove & Associates, started to package a deal that saw Utah's Governor, Calvin Rampton, provide a hangar facility for the construction of a supersonic car. Bill Lear, of Learjet fame, was to provide support, along with his friend Art Linkletter. Playboy magazine hoped to have the car painted black, with a white bunny on the rudder. TRW was supplying a lunar lander rocket motor. A change in public interest saw the concept shelved for a period of time.

Lynn Garrison, as President of Craig Breedlove & Associates, obtained permission to use Bluebird on the Utah Salt Flats. This model was used in publicity

They also negotiated for the use of the late Donald Campbell's wheel-driven Bluebird CN7 record-breaker.[4]

After a lengthy break from world records and making his name as a real estate agent, Breedlove began work on a new Spirit in 1992, eventually named Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV. The vehicle is 44 ft. 10 in. long, 8 ft. 4 in. wide, and 5 ft. 10 in. high (13.67 m by 2.54 m by 1.78 m) and weighs 9,000 lb (4,100 kg), construction is on a steel tube or space frame with an aluminium skin body. The engine is the same as in the second Spirit, a J79, but it is modified to burn unleaded gasoline and generates a maximum thrust of 22,650 lbf (100.75 kN).

The second run of the vehicle on October 28, 1996, in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, ended in a crash at around 675 mph (1,086 km/h). Returning in 1997, the vehicle badly damaged the engine on an early run and when the British ThrustSSC managed over 700 mph (1,100 km/h), the re-engined Spirit could do no better than 676 mph (1,088 km/h). Breedlove believes the vehicle is capable of exceeding 800 mph (1,300 km/h), but has yet to demonstrate this.

In late 2006, Breedlove sold the car to Steve Fossett, who was to make an attempt on the land speed record in 2007.[5] Fossett died in a plane crash in 2007, and the car was put up for sale.[6] Breedlove's vehicle, renamed the "Sonic Arrow", was rolled out on the Black Rock Desert for a photo opportunity on October 15, 2007. The effort to run the car continues.[7]

Other Languages
asturianu: Craig Breedlove
español: Craig Breedlove
français: Craig Breedlove