A joint US-Canadian team intends to break Thrust SSC’s 1997 world land speed record of 1 226,57 km/h in a converted Lockheed F-104 Starfighter later this year.

A joint US-Canadian team intends to break Thrust SSC’s 1997 world land speed record of 1 226,57 km/h in a converted Lockheed F-104 Starfighter later this year. Will the British lose their grip on the world land speed record, which they’ve held for 20 years?


Last year, Grant van Schalkwyk set a new South African land speed record of 388,538 km/h in the big block Chevy V8-engined Spirit of Dunlop. But his mark was still far off of the absolute world record, held by RAF pilot Green, who set the 1 226,57-km/h benchmark in the jet-powered Thrust SSC on America’s Black Rock desert in 1997.

North American Eagle will try to beat Green's record in an old Lockheed F-104 Starfighter bought for R183 000. The dismembered plane was once flown by legendary US test pilot Chuck Yeager, but was bought from the US Air Force by Ed Shadle, an ex-IBM project manager in Washington. He spent R3,66 million removing the wings and adding wheels and an engine that will propel the red rocket to 1 343,80 km/h.


"It's pretty ambitious," said Shadle, who's raced 640-km/h cars on Utah's Bonneville salt flats. "The Starfighter is the Ferrari of planes and is rated to 2 253,08 km/h in flight. If we can do a little more than half that, we've got it made."


Shadle, 61, will do all the early test runs in the 29 000 kW car himself, but may seek a new driver for the record attempt at Black Rock, Nevada.