Mickey Thompson

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Challenger I world record car from 1960
Mickey Thompson in the Harvey Aluminum Special # 35 before the 1962 Indianapolis 500 (which this car did not qualify for); standing next to it on the left the representative of the sponsor Harvey Aluminum and on the right the designer John Crosthwaite
One of the Chevrolet Camaro nachempfundener 1st generation Dragster of the Funny Car class of Mickey Thompson, Dallas 1971

Marion Lee "Mickey" Thompson (born December 7, 1928 in Alhambra , California , † March 16, 1988 in the San Gabriel Mountains ) was an American racing driver , designer , businessman and inventor . He founded the SCORE International Off-Road Racing Series in the discipline in which he enjoyed many successes as a driver. He began his career with drag racing and missed with his Challenger I only just the land speed record .

World record vehicles

Mickey Thompson was working as a printer for the Times-Mirror ( Los Angeles Times ) when he began to be interested in racing with dragsters and became a professional: He invented the design with the driver's seat behind the rear axle. It was more or less by chance that he took his dragster to Utah in 1958 , where he reached 473 km / h on the salt lake . So it was only 160 km / h short of breaking John Cobb's record of 1947, and Thompson began to design a special vehicle for this . It happened to him that Pontiac under the then head of that GM division, Semon E. Knudsen , wanted to change the "image of the old-fashioned car company" and look for its "future in the young market" and contributed four V8 engines of 6718 cm 3 . The Challenger I equipped with four engines arranged in a rectangle was his vehicle for record attempts on the Bonneville Flats . He designed the car himself, George Hill was responsible for the design of the body and Fritz Voight was involved in the construction as a mechanic. The procedure was unconventional: the engines were placed on the floor of the workshop and the outlines of the car were drawn around them with chalk.

On October 6, 1959, he set the mark for the A / BFS class at 363.48 mph (585 km / h), a record that lasted until 1990 when Al Teague broke it at 389.37 mph. On September 9, 1960, he drove at 406.60 mph (654.35 km / h) faster than any human before, but only in one direction due to a gearbox damage, which is why this was not recognized as an absolute speed record. A few days later, a drive chain slipping on a compressor caused problems - the four additional GMC 6-71 loaders installed this year were supposed to add another 1000 hp to the 1600–2400 hp that were otherwise available  . When Thompson competed again in the 1962 National Speed ​​Trials with his six-meter-long and two-ton car, he was handicapped by a back injury sustained in a racing boat accident on Lake Mead . Flat seating, no suspension, rough track: enough reasons to give it up this year, but since the track seemed too short at all, once and for all.

500 miles from Indianapolis

Thompson's many interests then also included building cars for the Indianapolis 500 mile race . He entered for the first time in 1962 with three vehicles of his own design. These vehicles, fitted with Buick engines in the rear, generated considerable attention. The V8 engines used by Thompson had unchanged engine blocks compared to the production version . While car no. 35 failed to qualify, rookie Dan Gurney achieved the seventh best qualifying time with the no. 34. However, he retired in the race with rear axle problems.

A later design, the Sears Thompson Allstate Special, was sponsored by the Sears department store and its own brand Allstate . The best result of a Thompson was rookie Al Miller's 9th place in 1963.

One of the biggest accidents during the "Indy 500", an event that cost the drivers Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs their lives in 1964 and never let Thompson go, is closely related to Mickey Thompson . Carroll Shelby had warned Dave MacDonald, who had driven for him, about the Thompson car that he felt that the vehicle and the driver needed further development. On the second lap of the race, MacDonald lost control of the car after “corner four”, crashed into a boundary wall and triggered a collision between several vehicles.

further activities

The name Mickey Thompson is also associated with other business activities that he often ran with his wife Trudy. Shortly before his world record attempt in September 1960, he founded Mickey Thompson Enterprises , a company that specialized in the sale of components for racing and high-performance vehicles, especially for Pontiac.

In 1963 Mickey Thompson Performance Tires followed in Stow (Ohio) , which was originally limited to the production of special tires for the Indianapolis 500 mile race. Soon, however, the business area was expanded to include road vehicles . Many muscle cars of that time were "upgraded" with such tires. In 2003 a 40-inch special tire for light commercial vehicles and a radial tire for dragsters with road approval followed. In the same year the company was taken over by the Cooper Tire & Rubber Company .

At the beginning of the seventies he developed a funny car class based on the Pontiac Grand Am . the yellow painted vehicle was named Revelleader after its main sponsor, the plastic model manufacturer Revell , and was driven by Dale Pulde . Of course there was also a model kit of this dragster in stores.

Finally, there was also the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group which organized shows for hot rods and custom cars , but mainly ran an indoor motocross show and an off-road racing show and did a lot to spread these sports in the agglomerations of the big cities the US contributed.


Thompson's contributions to motorsport included the introduction of the traffic light start and the foul light system on dragster racetracks, the aforementioned special tire for circuit racing, nitrogen shock absorbers in the USA, and a watershed for racetracks and highways

Tragic ending

He and his wife Trudy were shot dead on March 16, 1988 in their Bradbury home . It quickly emerged that the act had been committed by two professional killers who had come on bicycles. In December 2001, her former business partner Michael Goodwin was arrested and accused of having given these murders in order after a deal had gone wrong and Goodwin civil law was sentenced to a payment of US $ 500,000. The formal charges were brought only on 8 June 2004 after Goodwin several months in custody had spent. At the time, the prosecutors do not seem to have sought the death penalty. Goodwin was found guilty in January 2007. He also claimed to be innocent and the target of a large, depraved conspiracy. The two shooters have not yet been found.

Thompson competed in over 10,000 races in his life, drove over a million racing miles and won at least one championship in the midget car , sprint car , off road , stock car , dragster and sports car categories . He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.


Thompson's journeys on the salt lake had followed Denis Manning when he was thirteen - he himself became the designer of record-breaking vehicles, such as the Harley-Davidson Streamliner . As a last resort, Thompson's departure from Bonneville had not taken place either. In 1968, the Challenger II, a sophisticated successor to the "Hot Rod" of the late 1950s, was built, but the withdrawal of the major American automakers from racing in 1969, and the associated loss of important sponsors, thwarted the project. The car was preserved until 1988, when Thompson and his son Danny agreed to initiate a record attempt with him as a driver in 1989. The Thompson assassination eventually seemed to put an end to that plan as well. From 2003, however, Danny Thompson went regularly to the Salt Flats. An attempt to break a record with the Challenger II failed in 2014 when Bonneville Speed ​​Week was canceled due to flooding of the salt flat. On August 14, 2016, it was still enough to set a record in the AA / FS vehicle class at 654 km / h, and on August 12, 2018, Thompson made the Challenger II the fastest car with a piston engine at 722 km / h .


Individual results in the sports car world championship

season team race car 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 10 11 12 13 14th 15th 16 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st 22nd
1953 Alberto August Ford 6 United StatesUnited States SEB ItalyItaly MIM FranceFrance LEM BelgiumBelgium SPA GermanyGermany ONLY United KingdomUnited Kingdom RTT MexicoMexico CAP
1954 Mickey Thompson ford ArgentinaArgentina BUA United StatesUnited States SEB ItalyItaly MIM FranceFrance LEM United KingdomUnited Kingdom RTT MexicoMexico CAP

Web links

Commons : Mickey Thompson  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Dani Heyne: The record hunter Danny Thompson , auto motor und sport 19/2013 (accessed on September 15, 2014)
  2. ^ A b Paul Clifton: The fastest men at the wheel. The history of the world speed records in the automobile , ( The fastest men on earth, New York 1964, German), trans. by Günther Görtz, Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1968, pp. 201–220
  3. John De Lorean : The car buyers pay on it , Der Spiegel No. 21/1980, p. 220 [1]
  4. a b c d e f g h i j http://www.hemmings.com/mus/stories/2005/12/01/hmn_feature22.html
  5. Erik Arneson: Mickey Thompson. The Fast Life And Tragic Death Of A Racing Legend , excerpt from "highperformancepontiac.automotive.com"
  6. Mickey Thompson , Internet portal "archive.is" ( Memento from September 7, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
  7. [o. V.]: Nobility obliged , Der Spiegel No. 40/1960, p. 88 f. [2]
  8. Dave Wallace, Jr.: Honoring Mickey Thompson, First American to 400 MPH , The New York Times , February 18, 2010 [3]
  9. a b c d e http://www.conceptcarz.com/z19804/Mickey-Thompson-Harvey-Aluminum-Special.aspx.aspx
  10. a b c Ann O'Neill: What drives Danny Thompson? Cnn.com website (accessed September 8, 2014)
  11. ^ Art Garner: Black Noon: The Year They Stopped The Indy 500 , Automobile, May 19, 2014 (accessed September 13, 2014)
  12. David E. Davis, Jr .: "Lone Star JR" Johnny Rutherford , Automobile, June 9, 2003 (accessed September 12, 2014)
  13. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2927445/Court-upholds-conviction-murder-famed-auto-racer-wife.html
  14. Denis Manning. Builder of innovative streamliners that have set motorcycle land speed world records , Internet portal "AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame" (accessed on September 13, 2014)
  15. ^ Website "thompsonlsr" (accessed on September 7, 2014)
  16. Deepa Bharath: Mickey Thompson's son takes up speed-record pursuit , Orange County Register, August 29, 2014 (accessed September 8, 2014)
  17. ^ 66-year-old racer Danny Thompson sets land speed record , FoxNews.com, October 11, 2016
  18. Phillip Thomas: Mission Accomplished: Mickey and Danny Thompson's Challenger II Breaks Records at Bonneville , "hotrod.com", August 12, 2018