Cut to: the SOA press conference at a casino across town. Craig Breedlove is nonplused by the SSC’s arrival and is holding forth on the different approaches to reaching Mach 1. “I spoke to Richard early on in his design process and he’d said that he’d decided they needed a twin-engine design and that was where we differed.

“I said, ‘Well, I really don’t think you need two,’ and he said, ‘All land speed record cars have always underperformed.’ I said, ‘I really haven’t found that to be true – I had a J47 that I really think I could have reached 600 mph with. Maybe you experienced a lot higher drag numbers than I have.’ In any case, that was their philosophy: Really screw the car down, just suck it down with a lot of ground effects. Just power it through – (and) it’s a very stable way to do it.” But not the SOA way.

“The problem I saw at Black Rock early on in this design concept was Richard was sinking in,” Breedlove continues. “I went to Ken Norris and asked what their (Thrust 2’s) ground loadings were and he told me they were at 13,000 lbs. (of downforce). I asked how they were distributed and he said, ‘No, that’s on the front wheels.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re aware that you guys are going to have so much rolling drag that you guys are never going to get the record.’ He said they’ve been discussing that and the only thing is that Richard is very reluctant to point the car up any because of the flying problem.”

Conversely, for his Mach 1 endeavors, Breedlove in essence eyeball-aeroed a projectile in the shape of an arrow. Using a hot rodded J79 General Electric jet engine from a Navy F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft for motivation, Craig visualized a sleek, narrow dart that would partake of the J79’s 22,650 pounds of thrust (45,000 horsepower) and finesse the shockwaves that emanate when a vehicle climbs through a transonic slipstream into – BOOM – a supersonic slipstream.

“When we ran Sonic 1 at 600 mph (1965) we had no weight on the front end. I’m not saying that’s a prudent way to do it, but that’s just the fact of the matter. Somewhere between 13,000 lbs. and zero is the speed record.”


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