October 23, 1970
The Blue Flame rockets into the record books
On this day at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, American Gary Gabelich attained a record 631.367mph average speed in The Blue Flame, a rocket-powered four-wheeled vehicle. Momentarily achieving 650mph, Gabelich’s vehicle was powered by a liquid natural gas, hydrogen peroxide rocket engine that produced a thrust of up to 22,000 pounds. Gabelich’s achievement ended the domination of Craig Breedlove, the American driver who set a series of astounding victories in jet-powered vehicles during the 1960s, breaking the 400mph, 500mph, and 600mph barriers in 1963, 1964, and 1965, respectively. The Blue Flame’s land-speed record stood until 1983, when Briton Richard Noble raced to a new record in his jet-powered Thrust 2 vehicle. The Thrust 2, a 17,000-pound jet-powered Rolls-Royce Avon 302 designed by John Ackroyd, reached a record 633.468mph over the one-mile course in Nevada’s stark Black Rock Desert.