Throughout the last century, engineers have developed a myriad of creative approaches to building the most powerful and aerodynamic vehicle possible. The goal was to go as fast as possible without becoming airborne or losing control of the vehicle.
Now, we've recently covered the 10 fastest street-legal cars in the world. But the vehicles on this list are far faster and more extreme than any production car has ever been. You're about to see ridiculous spaceship-like cars, some of them mounted with colossal jet turbines and even massive wings, all to keep them glued to the ground while going fast. And don't even dream of taking any of these cars on a public road; the following records are so extreme they all had to be set in a controlled environment with miles upon miles of flat surface. So, buckle up for the 10 fastest land vehicles ever created!
10 Spirit of Rett — 414 mph
Feast your eyes on the fastest single-engine car in the world. Using a single-engine to travel over 100 mph faster than the fastest road car ever built, it set the record back in 2010, on a run at the popular Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, driven by Charlie Nearburg.
In the first run, it achieved a 417 mph average, while the returning run averaged at 411.7 mph, bringing the official average down to 414 mph. The highest recorded speed in the Spirit of Rett was 422.6 mph. Tough, the record it set was not enough to make it the fastest wheel-driven car overall. That title still belongs to the Vesco Turbinator II.
9 Burkland 411 Streamliner — 415.8 mph
Many of the cars on this list use jet propulsion to achieve their ridiculous speeds, yet the 411 Streamliner secured a spot while being fully wheel-powered. The record was set in 2008, at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah and read an official top speed of 415.896 mph over a 1-mile run.
The car reached a maximum of almost 428 mph. To achieve this speed, it allegedly used the power of two 492-ci (7.4L) Donovan Hemi engines that are able to send a combined output of 3,000 horsepower to all four wheels. Although the car is 24 feet long and party constructed out of steel and stainless steel, it weighs in at just about 4,200 lbs.
8 Speed Demon Streamliner — 439 mph
The year was 2010 and a man named George Poteet had just finalized what was projected to be the fastest piston-driver car in the world. It was dubbed the Speed Demon and used a custom 4.9L Hellfire V8 engine able to put out an astonishing 1980 horsepower to the ground.
Two years later, the team managed to set an official record for the world's fastest piston-driven car, clocking in at 439 mph (707 km/h). The main engineer behind the project and the person who built all the engines for the Speed Demon, Kenny Duttweiler, stated the team's intention on soon breaking the overall world record for a wheel driven car, currently held by Vesco Turbinator II.
7 Challenger 2 — 448.757 MPH
Mickey Thompson is credited as being the first person to exceed the 400-mph mark. He did so in 1960 behind the wheels of his Challenger 1. Eight years later, he constructed the Challenger 2, which he hoped would become the world's fastest piston-driven car. Unfortunately, Mickey never got to see his dream come true and died in 1988.
Fast forward to 2018, and Mickey's son, Danny, was determined to achieve what his father set out to do over 50 years earlier. He dusted off the old Challenger and packed it two 2500-horsepower nitro-fueled Hemi V8 motors connected to all four wheels, aside from additional aerodynamic features. The Challenger 2 was now finally ready to return to the Bonneville Salt Flats and claim its record. And indeed, with a recorded average speed of 448.757 mph, Thompson's car became the world's fastest piston-driven car, and overall one of the fastest land vehicles in the world, finally providing some closure for the family.
6 Vesco Turbinator II — 482.646 MPH
Vesco's Turbinator has been at it since 2001 when it recorded a record-breaking 470-mph top speed. The Vesco team consistently improved the vehicle throughout the years. So in 2018, they again took it out to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where it set the world record for the fastest wheel-driven vehicle, with a 482.646 mph official average speed.
But, the Turbinator's faster than that, as it promptly recorded the top speed of 503 mph. Unfortunately, due to the bad weather conditions, it was unable to repeat that speed on its way back, which meant it couldn't officially become the new world record. To this day, the only land vehicles faster than the Turbinator are jet-powered.
5 Green Monster — 576 MPH
With the Green Monster, we enter into the domain of jet-powered vehicles. Built by brothers Art and Walt Arfons, the Green Monster took the title for the fastest land vehicle from the renowned Craig Breedlove on multiple occasions, before ultimately losing the speed battle when Breedlove recorded a 600,6 mph average speed in his Spirit of America in 1965.
The Green Monster is jet-powered, using the engine straight out of an F-10 Starfighter jet. As opposed to Breedlove's car, this one utilizes a more streamlined design with no wings, and the driver occupies a spot on the left-hand side of the massive jet turbine. The last record it set was in 1965 when the car clocked in at an average of 576 mph, before being subsequently beaten by the Spirit of America.
4 Spirit of America — 600 mph
Craig Breedlove is legendary when it comes to land speed records. With a resolve to test out the limits of how fast cars can travel, he was solely responsible for breaking the 400 mph, 500 mph, and in 1965, the 600 mph speed barrier. The latter was set behind the wheel of the Spirit of America and is still one of the highest speeds a human being has ever traveled on land. It was also used as a clever marketing strategy for Goodyear tire company.
Spirit of America is a jet-powered car equipped with an engine from an F-4 Phantom. The returning trip of the record-breaking run actually averaged at 608 mph, with a combined average being 600.6 mph. Rumors have it that the vehicle's able to go at least 675 mph, but no proof was ever provided.
3 The Blue Flame — 630 MPH
Breedlove's record stood for four years before being shattered by Gary Gabelich, who had managed to create an all-out rocket-powered car. He called it the Blue Flame, and in 1970, it recorded an official average speed of 630.388 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Now hear this, as the engine in the Blue Flame was essentially rocket-powered, it was able to push the car with 58,000 horsepower. The highest speed the vehicle ever reached was approximately 650 mph and it took 13 years for the Blue Flame to be dethroned as the official fastest land vehicle in the world.
2 Thrust 2 — 634 MPH
The year is 1983 and the Thrust 2 has just set a record for the fastest land vehicle in history, at 634 mph. The vehicle was jet-powered, using a single Rolls-Royce Avon 302 power unit able to put out about 30,000 horsepower. The design reverted back to the Arfons brothers' Green Monster, and used no wings and measured 27 feet and 4 inches in length.
Despite having a four-tonne weight, the car was able to accelerate to 650 mph in under a minute, which was also the highest speed ever recorded in the vehicle. No one was able to beat the Thrust 2 on the ground for 13 years, when the car's driver Richard Noble decided to take another go at the record.
1 Thrust SSC — 763 mph
In 1997, British company Thrust set out to combine military know-how, government funding, and technological advancements to test out the limits of what's possible for a land vehicle. The speed record this thing set is so ridiculous that it still stands untouched to this day.
Packed with two colossal jet turbines, the Thrust SSC's 1997 visit to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada left it the first and only land vehicle to break the sound barrier. Pushing out 110,000 bhp as it accelerates, the SSC marked the Guinness Book of World Records with an astonishing 763-mph official top speed.
The thing is massive, and more a jet than a car, spanning 54 feet in length and 12 feet in width. It also weighs no less than 10.5 tonnes (about 23,000 lbs). Sounds hard to believe? The SSC is displayed at the Coventry Transport Museum in England, so you can go and see it for yourself.