The name of Craig Breedlove immediately conjures up dramatic world land-speed-record runs on the wide expanse of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Breedlove was a 5-time speed-record holder and the first person to exceed 500 mph in a land vehicle. A year later, he became the first person to exceed 600 mph.
His records were set in turbo-jet-powered vehicles that shot across the flats with deafening roars. Each of his cars was named Spirit of America.
Today’s video is the first of two vintage films, which shows when in 1964, Breedlove broke the 500-mph mark. On the return run, his braking parachute ripped away and he couldn’t slow down, dangerously hurtling across the salt out of control. The car finally clipped a telephone pole and crashed into a small lake. Luckily, Breedlove wasn’t injured.
The second Breedlove video runs tomorrow. Recently unearthed by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, it shows his return the following year with a new jet car, named Spirit of America Sonic 1, and his conquest of the 600-mph speed record. Again, the chute failed at high speed and Breedlove was on “another wild ride,” though this time averting a crash.
The videos include lots of action footage on the Salt Flats – including in-car sequences –as well as showing the creation of the jet cars, providing a look at the challenges and dangers in Breedlove’s single-minded pursuit of becoming the fastest person on land.