But conversely somebody did run a solid fuel engine and that was Needham?
CRAIG BREEDLOVE: No, that was a peroxide car. The thing about that car that you have to understand is it did not have enough fuel on board to make a full Land Speed Run. They applied to have the rules changed with FIA and FIM – it was a three-wheeled vehicle – to make a one-way run over 1/100th of a mile and that was denied by FIM.
It made a run at Edwards and was clocked at 666 mph on Earl Flanders clocks – a 52 foot trap.
I spoke with Earl in 1983 and I asked him what was the circumstance around the supersonic claim that was made by the Budweiser effort. And he said, “All I can tell you is that the car went 666.” And I said, “You mean you clocked the car on the run,” and he said, “Yes I did.” He said he was under strict contract to Hal Needham and the Speed of Sound group not to divulge anything. I said what was the deal with this 739 and he just rolled his eyes and said, “It didn’t happen.”
Subsequently, I looked for years to get a clocked speed of the car and finally somebody sent me a paper that was delivered to the AIAA convention (aerospace engineers) and on that paper it states very clearly that the electronic time of the Budweiser car was 666.234 mph. The claim that it had gone supersonic was made because of a radar tracking of the car when it was approaching. Now, typically you accelerate all the way to the traps. This is odd that the car would be going 740 and then go through the traps at 660. Then on further investigation, Dick Keller (of Blue Flame fame) contacted the radar company and the radar is not activated by the car. It is activated by an operator who tracks the car by hand. So the speed produced is not by the car, but by the operator. The operator then tracks the car on a television screen with crosshairs by swinging a tripod antenna or transmitter to track the car. Then when you look at the data, they simply average the three highest peaks in the data. Then they claimed that the Air Force sanctioned that. Dick Keller furnished me with a letter from the head of the Air Force stating they disavow any sanction whatsoever and they simply provided Speed of Sound with raw data and any interpretation of that data was purely Speed of Sound’s interpretation and not that of the Air Force. The Air Force disavows any sanctioning or underwriting or statement as to how fast the car went. There were two guys there – Pete Knight – who said he felt the Speed of Sound had reached their objective and General Yeager who said that in his opinion the car reached their objective. But if you look at the data, it doesn’t bear itself out. It is totally uncalibrated.
I’m told that the contract was written in such a way that they were to receive a million dollars upon a successful achievement of setting a new Land Speed Record and breaking the sound barrier. First of all, they could not qualify for the Land Speed Record because of the measured distance and the one-way run thing.
I understand that the (use of the) letters from Yeager and Pete Knight were trying to enhance the possibilities of getting the payment. I don’t know if the payments were made or not. I was told that it was, but I don’t have any way of knowing.
So, simply there are photographs of the car in the lights with the engine still on and the rear wheels off the ground. My question is if, in fact, the car is running out of fuel before it gets to lights, why don’t you go out the next day and move it a little closer to the lights? And get your supersonic time through the lights? They said they couldn’t afford to do it, yet they could afford to fuel the car up and have Chuck Yeager take a joy ride.
The point is the car has not set a World Land Speed Record. The car had no sanction and the Air Force has disavowed any underwriting or support of that data. In my judgment, a claim has been made, but no documentation has been furnished that makes me believe it went that fast. I have stated this before and every time I do Hal Needham threatens to sue me.