- Written by webmin
Nowadays, when somebody decides they want to tackle some world land-speed record or another, they usually arrive at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a giant enclosed trailer towed by equally giant trucks, with an entire entourage of mechanics, aerodynamics experts, videographers and money men in their wake. In August 1959, Mickey Thompson towed his Challenger I streamliner to the salt on an open trailer behind a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville and let any ol’ kid come up and take pictures of it, as we see from this picture sent in to us by reader Gary Buehler, who was 19 at the time and also headed to the salt flats.
Thompson had just debuted the Goodyear-sponsored Challenger I to the public at the Beverly Hilton a couple weeks earlier, though he wasn’t bringing it to the salt untested: Earlier that summer, Goodyear scheduled a test run for the Challenger I at Edwards Air Force base, one that resulted in a 250 MPH spin but also the continued support of Goodyear. Four Pontiac 414-cu.in. V-8 engines drove all four wheels wrapped in custom Goodyear tires designed specifically for the 400-plus MPH runs that Thompson had in mind. Though he failed to bring the world land speed record back to the United States that year (his best runs that year topped 360 MPH), he would return in 1960 with superchargers atop all four Pontiac engines to top 400 MPH with a one-way run of 406.60 MPH and inspire multiple other attempts to snatch the world land-speed record back from the British. Even in the Goodyear promotional film below that documented the 1960 effort, however, we still see Thompson towing the Challenger I on an open trailer, this time behind a 1960 Pontiac station wagon.
The Challenger I today sits in the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsport Museum. Thanks for the photo, Gary!
UPDATE: In response to para’s question below, Gary said that the picture was taken right in Wendover. “I got to meet Mickey Thompson in person that day, and he invited me out to the salt with him, where he talked to me when he could,” Gary said. “I didn’t know then how lucky I was.”