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Bonneville Salt Flats, 1960: Archive Photos of Mickey Thompson and Challenger 1

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 8/12/2020 John McGann,Eric Rickman
a boat on a body of water: 001-mickey-thompson-challenger-1-1960-bonneville © Eric Rickman 001-mickey-thompson-challenger-1-1960-bonneville

Records are currently being broken at the 2020 running of Bonneville Speed Week, happening on the Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah. As history is being written today, we look back to a historic moment in 1960 when Mickey Thompson became the first person to exceed 400 mph in a race car. Challenger 1 was a streamliner designed to do just that, and Thompson paid special attention to the car's aerodynamic shape, figuring the right shape was critical to achieving his goal.

a group of people on a beach near a body of water © Eric Rickman

These pictures were taken by Petersen's Eric Rickman on Bonneville Salt Flats on August 16, 1960, during what appears to be a test session for the team. Thompson went on to run a land speed record of 406.60 mph on September 8, 1960.

a group of people standing in front of a car © Eric Rickman

Several pictures show strips of twine taped at regular intervals across the car, which when the car is moving, would show areas of turbulence and therefore aerodynamic drag on the car's body.

a person sitting on a motorcycle © Eric Rickman

Challenger 1 was powered by four supercharged Pontiac engines and weighed nearly 7,000 pounds. Check out all the photos in this gallery of a historic race car on the cusp of breaking a world record.


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