Humans are obsessed with speed. There are some who believe the obsession dates all the way back to prehistoric times when our ancestors finally invented the wheel, an invention that laid the groundwork for humans to travel faster than ever before.
For men in particular, the urge to drive fast is likely biological. In 2009, the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes reported the results of a study that explored the link between human men and speed. Participants were asked to drive two different cars, a $75,000 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet and a 16-year-old Toyota Camry.
Participants drove each vehicle for an hour. Hormone levels rose when the men were in the Porsche and saw women on the street. However, they also rose while the men were by themselves speeding down an open road. Testosterone levels decreased when they drove the Camry.
Our innate desire to move as quickly as possible has inspired brilliant minds to spend years dreaming up and building vehicles that have set some wacky land speed records.
Andy Green and the Thrust SSC
In 1997, Andy Green and his team made their way to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada with a vehicle they called the Thrust SSC. The Thrust didn’t look like anything you’d encounter on the road, which was okay. Obviously, the Thrust wasn’t designed for picking up groceries or running errands.
With its twin Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines, the jet-propelled vehicle was designed for just one thing; speed. Green and his team hoped to break the current land speed record. They didn’t realize that during their time in Black Rock that’s exactly what they would do…twice.
The record Green wanted to break had been set by Richard Noble, Green’s team’s project director.
Green’s first record-breaking drive took place on September 25, 1997. In the Thrust, he reached a speed of 714.14 mph. It was the first time anyone had driven over 700 mph.
The second time Green took out the Thrust was on October 15, 1997. During that run, he drove 763.03 mph. Incredibly enough, this not only broke the land speed record he set in September but was also the first time a car broke the sound barrier.
Colin Furze and The Stig
While Colin Furze is officially in the record books as setting a brand-new land speed record, he didn’t travel nearly as fast as Andy Green. However, considering that Colin’s vehicle, The Stig, is a bumper car, going a little slower was probably a good thing.
As a rule, bumper cars don’t exceed 3 mph, but Furze spent three weeks tweaking The Stig. When he took it for his land speed record-breaking drive, the little bumper car reached 100.3 mph, setting a new land speed record for a bumper car.
Martin Bacon and The Co-operative Bean Machine
Most of us hit up the coffee pot first thing in the morning, desperate for a blast of caffeine to jump-start our bodies. Coffee was also responsible for helping set a new land speed record. But probably not in the way you’d expect.
Martin Bacon didn’t just want to know if he could build a car that ran on coffee, he also wanted to know how fast it could go. When he set the land speed record for a coffee-powered vehicle on February 19, 2013, Martin didn’t just drive at 65.536 mph, he also had people wondering if their morning cup of coffee would make an affordable and reliable alternative fuel.
Charles Burnett III and the ‘fastest kettle in the world’
The land speed record for the fastest steam-powered car was set by Fred Marriott in 1906. For more than 100 years, no one could beat Marriott’s record.
Of course, that changed in 2009 when a vehicle that was affectionately referred to as the “the ‘fastest kettle in the world’ was driven by Charles Burnett III and reached a speed of 127.7 mph.
This is just a small sampling of the wacky land speed records that have been set over the years.