The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Chasing speed records was, is, and always will be a crucial driving force in developing the kinds of vehicles people dream about. And over the past century, we've seen these speed machines go from early records, like 100 kmh (or 62 mph), to supersonic speeds.

The following selection of land speed record cars—such as the Green Monster, which we remembered last week—shows monster vehicles designed specially to overcome competitors' records. Their history is truly fantastic, sometimes crazy, often deadly.


Here's Belgian race car driver Camille Jenatzy and his torpedo-shaped electric speed record car. The "La Jamais Contente" was the first purpose-designed land speed racer. On April 1899, Jenatzy reached 105.88 km/h (65 mph), the first record over 100 km/h (62 mph).

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Korunk technikája, 1964. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1964.


Arthur MacDonald at the wheel of a Napier racing car. He captured the land speed record at Daytona beach in a Napier in 1905.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images


Babs, aka Chitty Bang Bang 4, was John Godfrey Parry-Thomas's speed record car. It set the record at 270 km/h, or just over 167 mph, on April 28th, 1926. The Welsh engineer and racer was the first driver to die during a land speed record attempt, in 1927.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


World land speed record holder Malcolm Campbell during an attempt to break the land speed record in his Napier-Campbell Blue Bird II, at Pendine Sands, Carmarthen Bay, Wales, January 23rd, 1927.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: E. Bacon/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


The 1000 horsepower Sunbeam Mystery, in which Major Henry Segrave set a world land speed record of 327 km/h (or over 203 mph) on March 29th, 1927.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: E. Bacon/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


November 25th, 1927: Jules Foresti drives his Djelmo car down the ramp at Pendine Sands Camarthen for an attempt at the land speed record.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: L. Blandford/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


American racer Ray Keech in the White Triplex Special as he passes the flag to record a new World Land Speed Record of 333 km/h (almost 207 mph) in Daytona Beach, Florida, on April 21, 1928.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: AP


American racing motorist Frank Lockhart, before his attempt on the world land speed record, in his Stutz Black Bear on Daytona Beach, Florida, on April 25, 1928. Lockhart was killed in his attempt.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: AP


January 14th, 1929: Napier-Campbell 'Blue Bird III', a Napier Arrow Aster Car belonging to Malcolm Campbell, with its engine exposed.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Edward G. Malindine/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


April 1929: The Golden Arrow, a record breaking car in London. Prior to this, Major Henry Segrave set his final land speed record at 372 km/h (231 mph) using this car in Daytona, in March.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images


British racing driver Kaye Don and his new racing car the Silver Bullet at Wolverhampton, England on February 21, 1930.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Putnam/AP


March 27th, 1930: Kaye Don takes the Sunbeam Silver Bullet on a trial run at Daytona Beach, Florida. Powered by two supercharged engines of 24 liters each, the car failed to achieve any records.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Keystone/Getty Images


British racing driver Malcolm Campbell with his son Donald standing by the Campbell-Napier-Railton Blue Bird, the car in which Malcolm Campbell set the land speed record of 396 km/h (246 mph) on February 5, 1931.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


The Campbell-Railton Blue Bird, Malcolm Campbell's final land speed record car. Its first run was at Daytona, setting a record of 438 km/h (272 mph) on February 22nd, 1933.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Korunk technikája, 1964. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1964.


Malcolm Campbell makes an attempt at the world land speed record on Daytona Beach, Florida.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: R. H. Lesesne/Fox Photos/Getty Images


August 17th, 1935: Captain George Eyston's record-breaking car Speed of the Wind at Maida Vale, London.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: David Savill/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


September 12th, 1937: Captain George Eyston's twin engine car Thunderbolt broke the land speed record with a speed of 556 km/h (345 mph).

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Davies/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Thomas Goldie Gardner was the first English racing car driver to exceed 322 km/h (200 mph) in his specially-engineered MG, in 1939.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Source: Arcanum


John Cobb's Railton Mobil Special was powered by two supercharged W-12 aircraft engines. It was the first ground vehicle to break 640 km/h (400 mph) in 1947.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Korunk technikája, 1964. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1964.


The Fiat Abarth 750 Monza speed record car, from 1957, was designed by Pininfarina.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Korunk technikája, 1964. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1964.


Earlier Abarth speed record cars:

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Ternai Zoltán: Korszerű gépkocsiszerkezetek. Műszaki Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 1961.


Donald Campbell's Bluebird-Proteus CN7, the last land speed record car that was wheel driven, was built in 1960 and rebuilt in 1962. Campbell set a record of 648.7 km/h (403 mph) in July, 1964.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Korunk technikája, 1964. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1964.


Cutaway drawing of Campbell's Bluebird.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Korunk technikája, 1964. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1964.


Donald Campbell's Bluebird, powered by a Bristol Siddeley Proteus free turbine engine.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Autó-motor, 1964. VIII. 6.


Two technicians of Motor Panels Limited of Coventry, builders of the chassis and body of Donald Campbell’s Bluebird car, work on the front section of the frame at the Coventry works, England on June 30, 1960.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: AP


Campbell's Bluebird after an attempt to break the World Land Speed record.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Keystone/Getty Images


Another shot of Campbell's Bluebird:

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Autó-motor, 1967.I.21.


Craig Breedlove of Los Angeles and his jet-powered Spirit of America streak across the western Utah salt flats October 13th, 1964, to set a world land speed record of 754.3 km/h (468 mph).

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: AP


Craig Bredlove and the Spirit of America.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Korunk technikája, 1964. Gondolat Kiadó, Budapest, 1964.


The Soviet Hadi-5 was built with an internal combustion engine in 1964-1966. Hadi-5 set three national speed records in the late 1960s, driven by Vladimir K. Nikitin, head of the Laboratory of Fast Cars Hadi.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Autó-motor, 1973. XI. 6.


The Hadi-7 was created in 1966, set up with a 400 horsepower helicopter gas turbine engine. Its estimated speed was more than 400 km/h (248 mph), but that speed was never achieved due to the lack of suitable tracks.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Autó-motor, 1973. XI. 6.


The Soviet's Hadi-7 and its driver dressed up in special suit.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

In: Autó-motor, 1970. II. 6.


The jet-powered Green Monster set the land speed record three different times in 1964 and 1965, the highest at 927 km/h (576 mph) at Bonneville.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


The Blue Flame performs test runs just before Gary Gabelich set the new land auto speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, on November 4th, 1970. The rocket-propelled car, which averages 1001.67 km/h (622 mph), is powered by liquified natural gas and hydrogen peroxide propellants.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: AP


September 25th, 1980: The jet-propelled car Thrust 2 driven by Richard Noble, breaking the British land speed record at RAF Greenham Common airbase in Berkshire.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Ian Tyas/Keystone/Getty Images


Former land speed record holder Craig Breedlove races in his jet-powered car Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV on October 23rd, 1996. The car was designed to break the sound barrier, but failed to do so.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP


1997: Royal Air Force fighter pilot Wing Commander Andy Green poses with Thrust SSC, the first car to officially break the sound barrier.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Getty Images


The British jet-propelled Thrust SSC holds the World Land Speed Record, set on October 15th, 1997, at a speed of 1,228 km/h (763 mph).

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: David Taylor/Getty Images


Colin Fallows of Northampton drives his afterburning jet car Vampire in an attempt to break the British Landspeed Record of 483 km/h (300 mph) on July 7th, 2006 in Fairford, England.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images


Charles Burnett III drives the British Steam Car at Rogers Dry Lake, where he broke the land speed record for a steam-powered car on August 25th, 2009 in Edwards Air Force Base, Mojave Desert, California, USA. Racing at 223.7 km/h (139 mph) he beat the 204.3 km/h (126 mph) record set by Fred Marriott in his Stanley Steamer in 1906.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Chris Ison/Getty Images


The Bluebird Electric car makes a test run at Gloucester Airport on August 11th, 2011 in Gloucester, England. Driver Don Wales, the grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell and nephew of Donald Campbell, holds the current UK record of 220.5 km/h (137 mph) reached at Pendine Sands in 2000.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images


The Bloodhound Super Sonic Car displayed at Downing Street on June 24th, 2013 in London, England. The jet powered car is currently in development. Its goal is to set a 1,000 miles per hour (1,609 km/h) world land speed record. Wing Commander Andy Green will be driving the Bloodhound SSC.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Dan Dennison/Getty Images


The JCB Dieselmax driven by Andy Green set a new unofficial world diesel-powered land speed record of over 527.8 km/h (327 mph) over two runs on Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006, on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Douglas C. Pizac/AP


An electric car designed and built by Brigham Young University engineering students and nicknamed Electric Blue set a world land speed record for its weight class at Bonneville after averaging 250.7 km/h (155 mph) over its two qualifying runs.

The Blazing Fast Evolution of Land Speed Record Cars

Photo: Jaren Wilkey/BYU/AP


Top photo: 14th November 1945: A view of the driver's cockpit of the 3,000 horsepower Mercedes Benz at the Daimler Benz works in Stuttgart. It has been designed to break the land speed record with expected speeds of 450 miles per hour. (Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images)