Images courtesy Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. Inset photo courtesy Greg Sharp, NHRA Museum.
It’s great that people still remember Craig Breedlove and his daring accomplishments during a battle for the world Land Speed Record during the 1960s. The handsome ex-hot rodder rode his runaway Spirit of America jet car into a briny canal during one record attempt before his Sonic 1 wrested the speed mark away from the late Art Arfons and his Green Monster for good.
Breedlove’s triumph in the jet-fueled Battle of Bonneville was recognized recently when he received the aptly named Spirit of Competition Award from the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. He’s only the fourth such recipient, and the first three, Mario Andretti, Janet Guthrie and John Fitch, reflect the museum’s orientation toward sports cars. It’s a lesser-known fact, however, that Breedlove also set 23 FIA speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1965 driving a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, CSX2287, which is in the Simeone collection.
During his post-award remarks, Breedlove said that he hopes to return to Bonneville in 2013, the 50th anniversary of his first record, in an assault on the 800 MPH barrier, though with somebody else driving this time. He already has located two surplus GE jet engines and started the engineering work necessary for such a run. Recently, interest in the absolute LSR has intensified. Two Australian teams, the Silver Bullet RV-1 and Aussie Invader 5R, hope to break 1,000 MPH, as does the U.K.-based Bloodhound SSC, a consortium led by land-speed vets Richard Noble and Andy Green. An American effort, the North American Eagle, has done a test run with its modified Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. Breedlove was involved in design work for a planned LSR assault by global adventurer and aviation record-setter Steve Fossett. The car, actually an updated Spirit of America, was put up for sale when Fossett was declared dead following a 2007 plane crash.