Some records were meant to be broken. Others, not so much. Think of the world’s fastest airplane, for example, the SR-71 Blackbird, which carved its name into the history books four decades ago and has yet to be dislodged by more modern technology.
There are certain automotive records that also seem destined to endure, their longevity assured by either the laws of physics, the unique set of circumstances that made them possible, or sheer stupidity that seems impossible to equal for a second attempt.
Check out our list of the five automotive records that will never be broken and see if you agree with our analysis.
World Landspeed Record: ThrustSSC
Going fast in a straight line sounds easy – until you try it. It’s then that you encounter the complex web woven by aerodynamics and, more specifically, how to prevent your landspeed record attempt from adding an airborne exclamation mark to your afternoon. Throw in things like the cross-winds and head-winds that frequently plague the wide open spaces where there’s enough room to get up to eyeball-popping speeds, and the need to run once in each direction in order to take the overall average, and, well, it’s complicated.
Enter the Thrust Supersonic Car (SSC), which was a jet-engined bullet built by a British team in the 1990s. With a pair of hulking Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans slung over the side, the SSC delivered over 100,000 horsepower, or more accurately, 50,000 lb-ft of thrust, and consumed fuel at the rate of 18 litres per second. That’s about 5,500 L/100 km in case you’re wondering.
Who do you get to drive your jet car in an attempt to break the sound barrier? Why, none other than a former RCAF fighter pilot, Andy Green. On September 25, 1997, Green blew away the previous landspeed record by over 120 km/h, clocking in at an average of 1,148.055 km/h. A month later, he did it again – and this time, went supersonic in Black Rock, Nevada, with a speed of 1,223.657 km/h.
It’s been over twenty years, and no one has even come close to breaking the sound barrier with a car for a second time. It feels safe to say that Green’s ThrustSSC record will stand the test of time.
World’s Longest Skidmarks: Spirit of America
You might be wondering: how do you slow down from a landspeed record attempt? In thearlier days of trying to up the straight-line ante, safety was a secondary concern, which lead to all sort of shenanigans out on the Bonneville Salt Flats where most teams made their play. The Spirit of America, driven by Craig Breedlove, was a single-jet missile with wheels and a wing, and while it managed to set the landspeed record several times, perhaps the vehicle’s greatest claim to fame came during a parachute failure in 1965 at 846.961 km/h. The car skidded for eight solid kilometres, leaving marks on the sand as it went, before finally crashing into a set of telephone poles and then splashing down in a pond. The driver, Breedlove, was completely unharmed, and he managed to set two records that day: fastest car, and longest skidmarks. No one thought to check his underpants for a possible third record.
Largest Car Burnout: Summernats Car Festival
Is it any surprise that the record for the most cars performing a burnout at the same time is owned by Australians? They are a people whose love for muscle is both well-documented and well-organized: Canberra’s Summernats Car Festival has set this particular record not just once, but twice! The first achievement came in 2013 with 69 cars participating, while the second obliterated the previous try by convincing 103 gearheads to shred their rear tires for a total of 30 seconds just three years later.
Most Parking Tickets: Jennifer Fitzgerald
Word to the wise: never let your ex have the keys to your car. When Jennifer Fitzgerald finally found the Chevrolet Monte Carlo that her jilted lover had surreptitiously dumped in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport parking lot three years later, it had accumulated 678 parking tickets. That’s not a typo: Fitzgerald was shocked to discover that she owed the city over $106,000.
Jennifer lost her driver’s license because of her former boyfriend’s shenanigans, and was unemployed at the time her car was finally located. A local lawyer took her case on for free and filed suit against Chicago and the ex, because as it turned out he had secretly registered the car in her name without anyone’s knowledge. The fines were eventually reduced to less than $5,000, with Brandon Preveau, the instigator of the entire debacle, shouldering roughly a third of the costs.
Most Mileage on a Single Car: Irvin Gordon
Sure, over-the-road truckers put on millions of kilometres as part of doing business, but when was the last time you looked at the odometer in a friend’s car and saw over 3 million miles (4.8 million kilometres) showing on the dial?
Probably never, and not just because odometers are incapable of breaking out of their five or six-digit displays. No one drives that much, and if they do, they certainly don’t do it all in the same vehicle – unless they are Irvin Gordon, a teacher from Long Island who has been plying his 1966 Volvo P1800 almost 100,000 miles a year, every year, since he bought it new.
The first half-million miles only took 10 years to achieve, thanks to a long work commute, and by the end of the ‘80s he was at a million. Every ten years, almost like clockwork, the next half-million Guinness-certified count gets added on, and only minimal maintenance has kept this particular Volvo on the road long past the majority of its kin. Incidentally, Volvo actually gives Gordon a brand new car each time he tops the million mile mark, but it seems like they’re mostly garage ornaments given that the P1800 is still his ride of choice.
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