We love skidding; always have. But it was only last week when we were filming a new little feature for XCAR on the British Land Speed Record cars that the question came up: What was the World’s longest skid?

Well, a quick bit of Googling threw up some interesting answers, and while a couple of wags on the Saxo forum may have laid claim to that record in the car park of Ipswich’s Toys R Us last May, we also unearthed the fabulous story of one crazy Yank called Craig Breedlove and his jet-powered Spirit of America land speed record car.

From the time the Brits took their first land speed record at Brooklands in 1914 (Lydston Hornsted hitting a heady 124mph on the banked circuit) we would continue to hold the record for 21 out of the next 22 attempts that saw the LSR pass the 400mph mark with Donald Campbell’s Bluebird CN7 in 1964 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. CN7 was an engineering marvel for its time, with four-wheel drive, honeycomb aluminium chassis, a head-up display and a 4000bhp Bristol-Siddeley gas turbine engine.

CN7_bluebird_proteus_turbine_car_minus_wheel_spats_bonneville_salt_flats_jacks_tents

However, after 50 years of British domination the Americans got pretty cheesed off with teams of posh Englishmen continually bringing over LSR cars to play with in their backyards. And so, with typical gung-ho American zeal the colonials set about winning it back for Uncle Sam … by cheating; changing the rules and building jet powered monsters rather than proper wheel-driven motorcars like what we did. ‘Unsporting’ was how the London Times reported Breedlove’s three-wheeled turbojet machine, cobbled together from an old USAF F-86 Sabre fighter. Well, that told ‘em, but after half a century of British domination the LSR was to stay with a plucky bunch of American wheelmen for the next two decades.

 

In October 1964 in an attempt to better his previous record of 407mph Craig Breedlove dusted off Spirit of America for another run at Bonneville. Conditions were perfect and on the first run Breedlove became the first driver to smash the 500mph barrier setting a new record of 526.277mph. However, at the end of his second run, disaster struck: Spirit lost its parachute brakes, and went into an uncontrollable arcing skid across the salt flats for over six miles, through a row of telephone poles and nose down into a brine pond at nearly 200mph. Drenched and battered, but largely uninjured, Breedlove clambered out of the sinking car before jubilantly announcing to the rescue team “for my next trick I’m going to set myself on fire.”

 

Sadly, Breedlove’s LSR in Spirit of America only stood for two weeks before it was beat by his arch rival, but his lucky escape earned him another, much longer standing, place in the Guinness Book of Records for the World’s Longest Skid. Maybe, just because I’m a big kid at heart, that sounds like a much cooler world record to me, and that is why Norman Craig Breedlove is MotorPunk’s Tally-ho Hero of the Month. Check out the footage below.

 

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