Craig Breedlove, a Pioneer in Land Speed Racing, Dies at 86
Craig Breedlove, a pioneer in the world of land speed racing, has passed away at the age of 86. The news of his death was reported by multiple media outlets, including the company that made a documentary on his record attempt. We very much recommend you watch it. Breedlove set astonishing land speed records in the 1960s, becoming the first person ever to exceed 500 mph and later reaching 600 mph in his land speed record runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Breedlove's passion for speed began when he was 13 years old, driving at drag racing events in Southern California. From then on, his love for driving at speeds once thought impossible only grew. Later in life, he purchased a jet motor for $500 after the Korean War and used welding methods he learned while working at a performance shop in Santa Monica to build his legacy.
Breedlove's turbojet-powered racer, Spirit of America, was a three-wheeled speed devil that shattered land speed records in the 1960s. He set three records from inside the first iteration of the car, which used a mighty General Electric J47 turbojet engine. The car was built with a $250,000 budget and continued to push the boundaries of speed up as high as 526 mph in 1965, before a violent crash led to its replacement by the Spirit of America Sonic 1.
Breedlove didn't achieve all of his accomplishments alone. He watched his then-wife, Lee Breedlove, become the fastest woman in the world when she drove the Sonic 1 to 308 mph in 1965. Together, they set speed and endurance records at more places than just Bonneville, in an AMC Javelin and AMX.
Breedlove's legacy in land speed racing was solidified when he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2009. He spent the end of his life working to build a car to beat the current 763-mph land speed record set by Andy Green in 1997.
In a 2018 interview, when asked if there was anything he would've done differently, Breedlove replied, "I don't think so. It's been a pretty exciting ride. Not that it wasn't fraught with a few problems, but that's life, and you grow from that. I'm really satisfied with everything I've done so far, and hopefully, we'll get to build this other car. If I last that long."
Craig Breedlove's accomplishments in land speed racing will forever be remembered as he paved the way for future generations to push the boundaries of human achievement. His passing is a great loss for the world of motorsports, but his legacy will live on.