Mickey murdered, but Danny up for the Challenger

COMING up in January is your chance to own a sizeable piece of motoring history: Challenger 2.

The aerodynamic one-seater is powered by twin Hemi V-8 engines and holds the world record for the fastest piston-powered, naturally-aspirated car in history. 

The 1968 Challenger 2 Streamliner was built by racing and promotional personality and tyre maker Mickey Thompson in partnership with Michigan-based Kar Kraft.

Thompson wanted a car that could challenge the 400-plus-mph records (about 650km/h) with more finesse than his earlier four-engined Challenger 1 Streamliner, that broke down on him at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1960 — before a return run could cement his very meagre 6km/h edge over rival John Cobb. 

He returned to the Flats in 1968 with the Challenger 2 Streamliner and managed a 400-mph run before flooding shut down the event. 

After that nature-interrupted attempt, Thompson lost his sponsorship and went on to pursue other racing interests. 

When Thompson and his wife were murdered (by a former tyre business partner) in 1988, a return to land speed record racing had been in the making. 

Mickey was to partner with his son, Danny, to make yet another attempt, which never eventuated.

Danny still had the bug, however, and returned to Bonneville on the 50th anniversary of the Challenger 2 Streamliner’s previous attempt to give it another go.

On August 12, 2018, he set the new record of 448.757 mph (718km/h) — a record that still stands today. 

The car was originally built with twin Ford 427 SOHC engines, thanks to support from Ford. 

As part of Danny Thompson’s effort to rehab the car for its 2018 run, those motors were chucked out and replaced with twin Brad Anderson 500 cubic-inch V8s, each driving one set of wheels. 

They run on 87 percent nitromethane and 13 percent methanol.

In 1968, the twin Ford 427s would have produced about 1800 horsepower. Now, that figure is closer to 5000. 

Each axle has its own 3-speed transmission and heavy-duty, quick-change differential. 

The engines are linked by belt-driven connectors. Both axles sport aluminium wheels fitted with . . . take a guess? 

Michelins, Pirellis, Goodyears? 

Yep, you were right: Mickey Thompson Bonneville LSR tyres that were specially reinforced for 400-mph duty, plus carbon-ceramic brakes for added stopping power. 

Danny Thompson’s refresh of the car included new engine mounts, controls, air tanks and a three-bottle fire suppression system.

The Challenger 2 Streamliner goes on sale at Mecum’s massive Kissimmee auction, which runs for nearly a fortnight, starting from January 2, 2020.

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