We’re all familiar with the name Mickey Thompson, but we’re not so familiar with his son Danny. Ever since Mickey was murdered in 1988, Danny has endeavoured to follow in his father's footsteps. Until just recently, Danny has been chasing his father’s 400mph-plus record in a vehicle designed by Mickey. Mickey’s ’60s-designed streamliner, named Challenger 2, is an aerodynamics masterpiece, designed in a time when CAD didn’t exist and engine technology was nowhere near as close to what it is now. During the August 13–19 Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Danny broke his father’s record by a tenth of a second with a 656.23kph (407.767mph) run. 

If only it was as easy as running that speed once, then calling it a record. Unfortunately it’s much tougher than that as drivers have to prove over two runs that their vehicle can pull that speed. The times are then averaged out and used officially. 

If you thought the engines that propelled Challenger 2 back in the ’60s were still in place, you were wrong. Now Challenger 2 runs two 2500hp dry-block Hemis with an 80-per-cent nitro load. According to Danny, once the engines were installed, the rest of the drivetrain had to be designed around them to cope with the newfound power. 

“I can’t quit. We call it salt fever. You just want to come back to Bonneville. You just want to go faster,” Danny said in an interview with CNN. Danny is confident the Challenger will run in the 725–756kph (450–470mph) range in the future, potentially making it the fastest piston-powered vehicle in the world, with the current record being held by Speed Demon at 439.562mph. 

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.