Craig Breedlove

23/3/1937 - 4/4/2023

Record updated 06-Apr-23

Five-time world land speed record holder and the first to reach 400, 500 and 600 mph, using turbojet-powered vehicles named 'Spirit of America.'

Craig Breedlove
 Born in 1937, Craig bought his first car at the age of 13, a little deuce coupe. Three years later, when legally allowed to drive, he got his supercharged V8 1934 Ford Hot Rod Coupe up to a remarkable 154 miles per hour on the Mojave Desert dry lakes burning alcohol fuel.

Four later he later drove a supercharged "belly tank" Oldsmobile engined streamliner to 236 mph on Utah' 5 Bonneville Salt Flats. Growing up in the 1950s in Southern California, the car culture capital, may have had something to do with Craig deciding a career in speed.

He won his first drag race at 16. By 1958, at 21, he was clocking 236 mph in a supercharged Oldsmobile "streamliner" at Bonneville. His father, Norman, was a motion picture studio special effects man. Breedlove's mother, Portia, worked at the studios as a dancer, performing with the likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Craig grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Mar Vista and went to Venice High School. After school, Craig worked at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica as a technician in structural engineering, where he learned many of his design and engineering skills before taking on fire-fighting duty in Costa Mesa.

Employing the aerodynamics he'd learned making model airplanes and working at Douglas Aircraft, Breedlove set to work building a car that would challenge Cobb's record. In the autumn of 1962, his team wheeled Spirit of America onto the salt at Bonneville. It was gorgeous.

At a time when American spacecraft looked more like they'd been built by high school science classes than by rocket scientists, Spirit of America looked like something out of "The Jetsons." It was powered not by conventional internal combustion, but by a surplus J-47 jet engine out of a U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom. In 1959, he paid $500 for a military surplus J-47 engine and began building his first "Spirit of America".

Breedlove clocked a record run of 407 mph in this car at Bonneville in 1963 to return the world land speed record to America after more than three decades.

With sponsorship funds from Shell Oil Co. and Goodyear, Breedlove finished his revolutionary new jet-car in 1962 and took it to Bonneville, expecting to break Englishman John Cobb's land speed record of 394 mph in an effort to bring home the record to America for the first time in more than 30 years.

The new car's handling problems prevented Craig from doing that, but his sponsors hung on. After a lengthy break from world records and making his name as a dealing with real estates, Breedlove began work on a new Spirit in 1992, eventually named the Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV.

The vehicle is 538 in (13.7 m) long, 100 in (2.5 m) wide, 70 in (1.8 m) high and weighs 9,000 lb (4 t), construction is on a steel tube frame with an aluminium skin body. The engine is the same as in the second Spirit - a GE J79, but it is modified to burn unleaded gasoline and generates a maximum thrust of 22,650 lbf (100.8 kN).

The first run of the vehicle in October 28, 1996 in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada ended in a crash at around 675 mph (1,000 km/h).

Returning in 1997 the vehicle badly damaged the engine on an early run and when the British ThrustSSC managed over 700 mph (1100 km/h) the re-engined Spirit could do no better than 676 mph (1088 km/h).

Breedlove believes the vehicle is capable of exceeding 800 mph (1,200 km/h), but has yet to demonstrate this. September 5th, 1963 - Breedlove reached 408.312 mph (657.114 km/h) in the Spirit of America at Bonneville Salt Flats, thus making him the holder of the land speed record in 1963. October 13th, 1964 - Breedlove reached 468.719 mph (754.330 km/h) in the Spirit of America Sonic 1 at Bonneville Salt Flats, reclaiming the land speed record from Art Arfons.

October 15th, 1964 - Just two days later, Breedlove beat his own record and breached the 500mi/h barrier at 526.277 mph (846.861 km/h), still driving the Spirit of America Sonic 1 at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. November 2nd, 1965 - Breedlove reached 555.485 mph (893.966 km/h) in the Spirit of America Sonic 1 at Bonneville Salt Flats, yet again reclaiming the land speed record from Art Arfons. November 15th, 1965 - Thirteen days later, in order to compete with Arfons, Breedlove breached the 600mi/h barrier at 600.842 mph (966.961 km/h) in the Spirit of America Sonic 1 at Bonneville Salt Flats.