70 PERCENT IS A LOUSY ROCKET FUEL (1973)

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”The skies were black with clouds and the season was late, so any storm represented the official end to the runs for the year. Gary made a successful first run, the car was turned and fueled for the return through the ’Flying Mile,‘ it was a moment of ’should he or not?‘ The timers gave Gary the radio call that the decision to go or not was his. He sat in silence (he was always sort of spiritual). Suddenly the clouds parted and a ray of sun pierced the windshield, Gary’s words were: ’That’s a sign from God‘ and he lit the match for the record setting run.“— Blue Flame crewmember Paul Stringer.

Inspired by the US moonshot and Gary Gabelich’s achievement in the Blue Flame (a cool two-way average speed of 622.407 mph on October,1970), Craig Breedlove uses the drag strips to shake down his English Leather rocket dragster, powered by a hydrazine-fueled lunar module motor. His ultimate target speed with the rocket is the Speed of Sound, but Uncle Sam intervened and confiscated Breedlove’s eye-dropper and chemistry set. Or as Craig puts it, “We actually built the English Leather rocket car as a prototype test vehicle to develop a hypergolic rocket system for a Land Speed car… We ran that engine on unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine and nitrogen tetraoxide for an oxidizer. We were able to order it at will, TRW was able to vouch for us that we were not a bunch of dingbats out there. In 1974, all of that was outlawed.”

Nonplused, Breedlove begins to r&d a hydrogen-peroxide rocket car. Different design, same results. “We changed the design of the car to four peroxide thrusters because they had not yet restricted hydrogen peroxide in any way,” he explains to me in the SOA compound on Black Rock in 1997. “After we made the switch, all of a sudden you couldn’t manufacture or sell peroxide in any concentrations higher than 70 percent. And 70 percent is a lousy rocket fuel. At that point the entire rocket-powered land speed vehicle was trashed.” Disheartened and almost destitute, Breedlove jettisons his dream of going Mach 1 and began living on his sailboat, a sad statement on the Spirit of these here United States. With the government putting the kibosh on lunar module fuels in the private sector, Gabelich’s rocket-powered record run was the final chapter for Bonneville as the playpen for truly unlimited thrust. Bummer.

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