The morning is superficially calm. A palpable tension tightens amongst the spectators and the engineering types milling about the barren floor of the dry lake bed. Once or twice the Spirit of America’s jet engine spools up and purge its afterburners and then shuts down. There is an aura of confusion around the streamliner as it sits in its staging area for hours, all the while with Craig Breedlove suited up and strapped into the womb-like cockpit of his homemade missile. Desert winds begin to kick up dust and storm clouds blew in and cast a pall on the entire landscape. The mood seems to darken with the weather, which acts as a tangent to the reality that the Spirit of America’s permit from the government expires in a couple of days…

MISHAP AT BLACK ROCK! Breedlove’s Record Attempt is Off! (Nitronic Research Wire Service)

Black Rock, NV. October 28, 1996 – While attempting to break Richard Noble’s Land Speed Record of 633.468 mph, Craig Breedlove’s Spirit of America jet car crashed and was severely damaged. The attempt took place two days before his Bureau of Land Management permit to use the Black Rock desert expired.

On the first leg of the required back-to-back runs, Craig was well on his way to breaking the record, which is based upon two timed one-mile averages, when at a speed of an estimated 675 mph a burst of wind lifted the back of the car and pushed it up onto one side. Major damage was inflicted on the rear axle and rear frame of the car. Craig was unhurt, but obviously disappointed to be so close to the LSR after many years of research and development with his GE J79 powered vehicle.

The car will be brought back to the team’s compound in Rio Vista, CA to assess the damage and make repairs, but it appears unlikely that another attempt at the Land Speed Record could be made until early next Spring, permits allowing.

Breedlove is in the throes of a duel with Richard Noble, OBE, who is campaigning a LSR vehicle piloted by Royal Air Force “Top Gun” Andy Green, to be the first to eclipse the Speed of Sound on land. Currently, Noble and Green and their Thrust SSC twin Rolls Royce Spey jet-powered machine are testing in the Jordan desert in preparation for their impending Mach 1 effort at Black Rock.

Breedlove’s ill-fated record run was his first attempt at reclaiming the LSR from Richard Noble, the first goal en route to ultimately breaking the Sound Barrier. Breedlove uses a single J79 – capable of 45,000 horsepower – mounted on the fuselage, directly behind the driver, an engineering approach in stark contrast to Noble’s system of using twin 202 Spey turbofans, each capable of 50,000 hp, mounted on either side of the cockpit in what, in essence, is a 10-ton, rear wheel-steer Batmobile.

Breedlove’s mishap occurred after a promising day of testing the day before. He was able to hit 563 mph, but did have some trouble with the parachutes…


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