Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks into the history of an unconventional car. Many British motors have earned a reputation for being off the wall and the Thrust SSC is among them. Also known as the Thrust supersonic car, this jet-propelled machine holds the world land speed record, making it the first land vehicle to officially break the sound barrier.
The Thrust SSC was designed by a group of men that included Richard Noble, Ron Ayres and Reece Liebenberg. It featured two afterburning Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines, aerodynamic body and streamlined form. The engine was capable of producing 60,000 bhp and burned around 18 litres of fuel per second.
In preparation for the record, there were extensive test runs. The Thrust SSC was used in the Al-Jafr desert in Jordan, an ideal location for testing high speed vehicles. The car broke the land speed record on the 15th October 1997, reaching a speed of 763 mph. After the record was set, the World Motor Sport Council brought out a message that read:
“The World Motor Sport Council homologated the new world land speed record set by the team Thrust SSC of Richard Noble, driver Andy Green, on 15th October 1997 at Black Rock Desert, Nevada (USA). This is the first time in history that a land vehicle has exceeded the speed of sound.”
The new record broke the previous one set by Richard Noble in the Thrust 2, when he reached a speed of 633 mph. The SSC improved on every aspect of the design, surpassing the Thrust 2.
Today, the Thrust SSC and Thrust 2 are displayed in the Coventry Transport Museum. The SSC is located in a barrel-roofed hall, with visitors being able to board the pit trailer from where vehicle test runs were controlled. There’s also the opportunity to ride a motion simulator that shows the SSC’s record breaking journey.
Currently, several teams are competing to set a new land speed record, such as Richard Noble’s Bloodhound SSC project.
The Thrust SSC is an example of superior engineering and the car has earned its place in history.