After writing previously about the biggest, we thought it was high time we wrote about the fastest…

The car you see above is quick; VERY quick – It’s a jet car and it’s called “Thrust SSC” (Thrust SuperSonic Car) and it currently holds the world Land Speed Record. In other words, it’s the fastest car on earth.

Who, when, where and what speed?

Thrust SSC (or ThrustSSC) set the world record on 15th October 1997 when it was driven by RAF pilot Andy Green in the Black Rock Desert in the state of Nevada. The car reached a mind-blowing speed of 1,228 km/h (763 mph or 341 metres per second), making it the first land vehicle to officially break the sound barrier.

The Thrust SSC record breaking team in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada

The Thrust SSC record-breaking team in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada

About the car

ThrustSSC was developed by Richard Noble, Glynne Bowsher, Ron Ayers, and Jeremy Bliss. Notably, Noble himself was a former Land Speed Record holder, when he broke the record in “Thrust 2” some 14 years earlier in 1983 with a speed of 633mph..

OK, so let’s get a bit geeky about the car’s specs; ThrustSSC is 16.5m (54 ft) long and 3.7 m (12 ft) wide and weighs around 10 tonnes. When operational, it can deliver a reported thrust of 223 kN (approximately 50,000 pounds force). It has two afterburning Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines, which are the same ones that are used in the British version of the F-4 Phantom II jet fighter.

As you can imagine, it’s not exactly eco-friendly or economical to run either, burning around 18 litres (about 4 Imperial gallons) of fuel per second. This means that compared to an average road car, it’ll only do about 0.06 mpg, which is less than 100 metres per gallon – Ouch!

Perhaps even more astonishing is that when ThrustSSC set the Land Speed Record, it was only operating at 12% efficiency

Inside the cockpit at over 700mph

In this fascinating six-minute video from inside the cockpit, Andy Green talks us through his first run. The car is then turned around so it can make the return journey. This is required to measure his speed in both directions and claim the Land Speed Record.

Where is it now?

Unfortunately, the ThrustSSC jet car isn’t in our neck of the woods down south in Kent or London but the good news is that it is still in the UK. So, if you want to get up close and personal with this incredible beast, you can see it in the flesh at Coventry Transport Museum. And, as an added bonus, the museum is also the home of Thrust 2, meaning you get to see the top two fastest cars on the planet in the same visit.

Side view of Thrust SSC at Coventry Transport Museum

A tantalising side view of Thrust SSC at the Coventry Transport Museum – Culture Coventry Trust, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Thrust 2 was driven by Richard Noble when it broke the land speed world record in 1988

Thrust 2 on display at the Coventry Transport Museum AJB83 at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When was the first official record set?

Winding back the clock a bit, the very first officially recognised land speed record in a car was set on December 18th 1898 by Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat, a French aristocrat and race car driver. He drove a Jeantaud Duc Profilée which was a battery-powered (yes, it was electric) vehicle that weighed about 1.4 tonnes. As you can see, the car’s body was adapted to have a pointy front end in the hope of reducing drag to reach a higher speed.

Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat in his battery powered Jeantaud Duc Profilée

Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat in his battery-powered Jeantaud Duc Profilée – Le Sport universel illustré, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The record was set as part of a competition that had been organised by the French car magazine La France Automobile. He completed a single flying 1-kilometre (0.62 mi) run in 57 seconds, giving an average speed of 63.13 km/h (39.23 mph). The record didn’t stand for long though, with  de Chasseloup-Laubat breaking his own record only a month later when he broke the 40mph barrier. He further improved on this time only months later in mid-1899, when he topped 65mph. The rest, as they say, is history

Will the record ever be beaten?

Probably, but when is anyone’s guess. What we can tell you is that on the horizon lurks challengers like the Bloodhound LSR. This car has been in development since 2008 and is also powered by a jet engine. However, the intention is to add a rocket engine to it as well. With this frightening combination of power at its fingertips, Bloodhound LSR is predicted to easily achieve speeds of up to 1,000mph.

The Bloodhound LSR may be rocket powered on its world record attempt

The Bloodhound LSR – Jules1982, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to see a replica of Bloodhound LSR, the Roadshow is currently on tour. It’s taking a route through central London on Saturday, 11th November, and is taking a wider tour of London the next day On Sunday 12th. You may also see it touring the M25.

Wanna drive the REAL Bloodhound LSR on its world record-breaking attempt?

Yep, that’s right, we’re not kidding. The Bloodhound team are actually looking for a new driver for the car. You’ll need pretty deep pockets though as the team are looking for a driver who’s able to bring more funding to enable them to attempt the record.

You can find out more by visiting their website here.

Lead image of ThrustSSC courtesy of Culture Coventry Trust, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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