Supercars have been around for generations, driven by man’s desire to go faster and further than ever before. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes have been used to test the limits of humankind’s engineering abilities with vehicles that look like they may as well have come from another planet. Despite what form these supercars take, the common goal behind them is to send a human being rocketing toward barriers that were once-thought to be unattainable.
The feats human ingenuity have been able to conquer are astounding. Landing robots on distant planets, breaking the sound barrier, and even leaving the solar system are all accomplishments under mankind’s belt. Aircrafts have represented the pinnacle of man’s speed and distance achievements, and there have even been incredibly impressive accomplishments made on the surface of water. However, on land is where the major battle between man and the infinite has taken place.
It has taken a lot of time and energy, but there have been some valiant efforts at taking on land speed records for many years. We’ve compiled a list of the twenty fastest land-based vehicles ever. There have been some, as in the case of the Budweiser Rocket Car, which posted times that could not be verified, and thus will not be included. Also, motorcycles are being excluded from the list as well, as we’ll cover them more in-depth in another post.
Here are the top 20 fastest land-based vehicles through the years.
20. 9ff GT9-R — 257 mph
Kicking off the list is a modern sports car, the 9ff GT9-R. One of the fastest cars of all time, the GT9-R can hit a top speed of 257 miles per hour, and go from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds. A 4.0-liter flat 6 Twin-Turbo engine supplies 1120 horsepower, giving this car rocket-like speed. The model has been limited to only 20 units, all built during 2008. At the time, it was designed to break the record for a street-legal car, which it did. The car itself was based on the Porsche 911, but was configured for speed more than luxury.
19. SSC Ultimate Aero — 257 mph
Capable of a top speed of 257 miles per hour, the Ultimate Aero is not only one of the fastest cars in the world, but one of the fastest vehicles to hit the road in all of history. A feat of engineering in its own right, this car can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds behind 1183 horsepower, supplied by a twin-turbo V8 engine. The Ultimate Aero spent a few years as the world record holder for fastest car, but was overtaken in July 2010.
18. Koenigsegg Agera R — 260 mph
Topping the SSC Ultimate Aero by a smidgen, the Koenigsegg Agera R can hit a top speed of 260 miles per hour. The Agera R debuted in March of 2011 as a competitor to models from Bugatti and Hennessey. It has the capability to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds, thanks to 1099 horsepower from the 5.0-liter V8 engine. One big advantage of the Agera R are engineering quirks made to optimize the car’s aerodynamics. This car has held land speed records of its own, including accelerating from zero to 300 km/h in just 14.53 seconds, and 0-300-0 km/h in 21.19 seconds. Both were records for production cars at the time.
17. Bugatti Veyron Super Sport — 268 mph
Well-known for its insane top speeds, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport has pasted its place in history with a top speed of 268 miles per hour. Boasting 1200 horsepower from a Narrow Angle 8-liter W16 engine, this is the car that was able to take back the record of fastest in the world from SSC Ultimate Aero in 2010. The car has its roots with Volkswagen engineering teams in the early 2000s, and has since been through several redesigns and produced variations that have led it to the incredible capabilities it has today.
16. Hennessey Venom GT — 270 mph
The fastest car in existence, the Hennessey Venom GT can hit a top speed of 270 miles per hour, enough to give even the most brazen of drivers white knuckles. This is the ultimate performance machine, going from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds. The engine is a 7.0-liter LS7 Twin-Turbocharged V8, supplying 1244 horsepower. Production of the engine takes place in Texas, then sent to England for final assembly. Only a handful of Venom models exist, making it not only the fastest but one of the rarest cars in the world. Although it’s the fastest-street legal car out there, it won’t find its place in the record books due to semantics on the part of the record keepers.
The Venom GT is the final vehicle on the list that sticks to the safety of the road, as the next vehicles down the list employ all-manners of strange designs and propulsion systems.
15. Blue Bird — 301.129 mph
The Campbell-Railton Blue Bird was a car built to break land speed records from the get-go. Designed by Reid Railton and driven by Sir Malcolm Campbell, the Blue Bird was able to achieve a top speed of 301.129 miles per hour in 1935. The Blue Bird’s engine was a 36.7-liter supercharged Rolls-Royce R V12, supplying it with an incredible 2,300 horsepower. Campbell was able to break the 300 miles per hour barrier for the first time in a land vehicle with the Blue Bird, making him the land-speed world record holder. Not yet finished, he also used the Blue Bird to set water speed records, hitting a top speed of 141.7 miles per hour in a Blue Bird variant.
14. Buckeye Bullet 2.5 — 307.666 mph
The Buckeye Bullet 2.5 is the fastest electric vehicle of all time. Capable of speeds in excess of 307 miles per hour, the Buckeye Bullet 2.5 used A123 Systems 32113 cylindrical cell lithium ion batteries for propulsion, hitting its record-breaking speeds in 2010. The Bullet was designed by a team of students from Ohio State University, mostly from the engineering department. The Bullet team is currently working on what will be the fourth version of their vehicle, with goals of eclipsing 400 miles per hour upon completion.
13. Jack Beckman’s Funny Car Dragster — 333.66 mph
The world of drag racing is somewhat off the radar for a lot of people, but it’s a place where mechanics and engineers are constantly pushing the envelope. Jack Beckman is the record holder when it comes to top speed in drag racing, having hit 333.66 in his drag race Funny Car, earning him the nickname “Fast Jack.” Beckman set the record in Pomona, California, during an event in 2006, and it seems unlikely to be broken due to shortened track distances. Drag racers and Funny Cars actually hit incredible speeds of more than 300 miles per hour quite often, making it quite difficult to include them all on the list. Because of this, we’re letting Beckman’s record stand in place for all the others as well.
12. JCB DieselMax — 350.452 mph
The JCB DieselMax holds the world record as the fastest diesel-powered land-based vehicle on the planet. The DieselMax was able to break the 350 miles per hour barrier in 2006, completely shattering the previous record for a diesel-powered vehicle of roughly 236 miles per hour previously set in 1973. During its record-setting run, the DieselMax was piloted by none other than Andy Green of the British Royal Air Force. Green is the current land-speed world record holder, but he did not achieve the feat behind the wheel of the DieselMax. More on Green a little further down the list.
11. Thunderbolt — 357.49 mph
During the 1930s, a supercar called the Thunderbolt was the fastest land-based craft in the world. The Thunderbolt, piloted by Captain George E.T. Eyston, first set a record of 312 miles per hour in 1937. Eyston was able to incorporate redesigns and improve the Thunderbolt’s performance, and eventually hit speeds of 357.49 miles per hour in September 1938. The Thunderbolt used two Rolls-Royce R-Type V12 aero engines, the same type used in the Blue Bird of years prior. Although the vehicle was destroyed in a fire sometime after its retirement, a surviving engine can be seen at the Science Museum in London.
10. Railton Mobil Special — 394.196 mph
The Railton Mobil Special, previously known as the Railton Special, was the chief rival to the Thunderbolt in the 1930s. Pilot John Cobb has engaged with a fierce rivalry with Captain Eyston of the Thunderbolt, and both men where able to secure land-speed records during their speed battles. Powered by two supercharged Napier Lion VIID W12 aircraft engines, the Railton Mobil Special was the first vehicle to break the 350 miles per hour barrier. After World War II, Mobil Oil took up sponsorship and helped with a redesign, ultimately leading to the vehicle reaching a top speed of 394.196 miles per hour in 1947.
9. Goldenrod — 409.3 mph
The Goldenrod was the wheel-driven land-speed record holder for a very long time, from 1965 until 1991. Powered by four fuel-injected Chrysler Hemi engines that supplied 2400 horsepower, the Goldenrod was owned by Bob and Bill Summers, who had the help of a Lockheed engineer in perfecting its design. In 1965, the Summers brothers were able to take the Goldenrod to speeds of 409.3 miles per hour, handing them the speed record for the time. The car has since been purchased by The Henry Ford Museum and was restored. It’s been on display since 2006.
8. Wingfoot Express — 413.2 mph
The Wingfoot Express made waves around the same time as the Goldenrod, and was able to set records with a speed of 413.2 miles per hour. Because it was jet-powered, the Wingfoot Express’s record was classified differently than the Goldenrod, landing both vehicles in the record books. The vehicle was powered by a Westinghouse J46 turbojet engine, originally designed for use in aircraft by the U.S. Navy. A sponsorship from Goodyear inspired the name, and the extra funding helped propel it into the record books. Later redesigns ended up seeing newer versions go faster than the original, which has since been lost.
7. Burkland 411 Streamliner — 415.896
Wheel-driven land-speed records fell again in 2008, when Tom Burkland took the Burkland 411 Streamliner to speeds of more than 415 miles per hour at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Using an IC supercharged Hemi engine, the salt flats of Utah hadn’t seen speed of that caliber since the Vesco Turbinator made its runs earlier in 2001. In fact, it was in 2001 that the Streamliner suffered a crash and was heavily damaged. It took years for the Burkland family’s racing team to rebuild it, which eventually led to redesigns and engineering changes that made a big difference.
6. Green Monster — 434.03 mph
The Green Monster won land-speed records a few times during its hayday in the mid 1960s. It was built by Art Arfons and his half-brother Walt, using an F-104 Starfighter turbojet engine. Originally built in the early 1950s, the Green Monster saw many variations, one of which still survives and tours to this day. In the ’60s, the Green Monster was a chief competitor to the Wingfoot Express, which it eventually beat out. Later Green Monster models would go on to set further records, but it was during the speed battles of the 1960s that it solidified its name in history.
5. Vesco Turbinator — 470.444 mph
Blasting across the salt flats at more than 470 miles per hour is the Vesco Turbinator. The Vesco team isn’t done there, either. They have set their sights on hitting 500 miles per hour in the near future, with some redesign work and engineering tweaks in the works. The Turbinator was able to surpass the 470 miles per hour mark in 2001, a year before team leader Don Vesco passed away. As work continues on new variations of the Turbinator, it is hoped that changes to the air intake will supply more speed and help achieve that mythical 500 miles per hour mark in the near future.
4. Spirit of America — 600.601 mph
The Spirit of America was a record-smashing vehicle that held its own against the Green Monster and Wingfoot Express in the ’60s. Piloted by Craig Breedlove, the Spirit of America utilized a F104 Starfighter fighter jet engine, the same as the Green Monster, but with greater success. In 1965, Breedlove was able to break the 600 miles per hour barrier, a feat that had not been accomplished until then. During a failed run in 1964, the Spirit of America actually crashed, leaving skid marks for five miles before crashing into a pond. This earned the Breedlove another dubious place in the record books, for longest skid marks.
3. Blue Flame — 630.388 mph
The Blue Flame found its way into the record books on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats on October 23, 1970, with a top speed of 630.388 miles per hour. The Blue Flame used a combination of high-test peroxide and liquefied natural gas to power its rocket engines. Built in Milwaukee by Reaction Dynamics, the project received backing from the American Gas Association and Institute of Gas Technology, leading to its unique fuel mix. The Blue Flame now resides in the Sinsheim Auto and Technik Museum in Germany.
2. Thrust2 – 650.88 mph
With the aesthetics of a Batmobile-locomotive hybrid, the Thrust2 was able to break world records in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert on October 4, 1983, by hitting a speed of 650.88 miles per hour. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon jet engine from an English fighter jet, the Thrust2′s propulsion system was inspired from earlier models in the 1960s, most notably the Green Monster. The Thrust2′s record would stand for the next fourteen years, by the same pilot, Richard Noble. The Thurst2 is available for public viewing in Coventry, England at the Coventry Transport Museum.
1. Thrust SSC – 771 mph
The current world record holder for the fastest land-based vehicle of all time is the Thrust SSC. Engineers were able to achieve a maximum top speed of 771 miles per hour with the Thrust SSC, which made it the first land vehicle to ever break the sound barrier. The record fell on October 15, 1997, in the Black Rock Desert in Utah. The Thrust SSC was powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines, which are also used in fighter jets. The two engines supplied the vehicle with 110,000 horsepower, burning 4.8 gallons of fuel per second. The Thrust SSC has held the crown since 1997, but engineers are hot on its tail. Until another vehicle is able to reach mach-level speeds, the Thrust SSC is the only vehicle to achieve such a feat.