All about the only car to break the sound barrier: the Thrust SSC

It broke the record in 1997 and no one has managed to beat it ever since.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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  • On 15 October 1997, the car managed to achieve speeds of 763 miles per hour.
  • The record-breaking ride has yet to be beaten by another vehicle.
  • It needed to deploy a parachute to slow down and stop.

Have you ever heard of a car breaking the sound barrier? If not, perhaps it’s because only one car has managed to do so. This car is called the Thrust SSC or Thrust SuperSonic Car, and back on 15 October 1997, it reset the world ground speed record by managing to achieve speeds of 763 miles per hour in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

An uncontrollable ride

The record was set by former British Royal Air Force pilot Andrew Green. According to the Guinness World Records, Green described the vehicle at 500–600 miles per hour as “a massive handful, bordering on uncontrollable.”

“The two huge booms that rang out over the site during Andy’s outward and return run sent his crew into spontaneous cheers – though because he was actually inside the vehicle that caused those sonic booms, he couldn’t hear them himself,” further explained the Guinness World Records.

“Green had driven faster than any other person in history. What’s more, his record-breaking ride came 50 years and one day after the sound barrier was first broken, by Chuck Yeager (USA) in a rocket plane, the Bell X-1. So the letters ‘SSC’ in the car’s name proved prophetic after all: they stood for ‘SuperSonic Car.’”

One of the most exceptional cars ever developed

Today the Thrust SSC is not doing much racing. Instead, it’s on display in the Coventry Transport Museum in Coventry, England, where it can be viewed by the public. But it still remains one of the most exceptional cars ever built. Here is what we know about it:

  • It was powered by two afterburning Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines that are normally used on the British version of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet.
  • It is 54 ft (16.5 m) long and 12 ft (3.7 m) wide and weighs nearly 10 tons.
  • It has a total thrust of 223 kN (approximately 50,000 pounds force).
  • During its now famous ride with Green, it accelerated at 25 miles per hour every second.
  • Because of the way it was engineered, with the rear wheels being staggered, it would tend to pull to the left.
  • The supersonic boom it produced during its famous record-breaking ride was described by Green as the "loudest, highest pitch scream I've ever heard.”
  • The car needed to deploy a parachute to slow down after its intense acceleration.

The now famous vehicle was not meant to be completely retired. According to the Guinness World Records, it was supposed to attempt its record-breaking run one more time in 2016, with Green behind the wheel once more. Unfortunately, it does not seem like that happened. Perhaps in the future?

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