On October 23 1970, at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Gary Gabelich set a new World Land Speed Record in his rocket-powered car The Blue Flame. Here are some of the key facts about the car and driver.
23 October 1970 – the date Gary Gabelich set a new World Land Speed Record, driving his jet-powered car The Blue Flame at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
622.407 mph – the record breaking speed recorded for the measured mile (1,001.667 km/h).
630.389 mph – the speed recorded for the flying kilometre (1,014.513 km/h).
5 years – the length of time the previous record had stood (4 years, 11 months, 8 days) set by Craig Breedlove in Spirit of America Sonic 1.
13 years – the length of time that The Blue Flame retained the record for the measured mile.
27 years – the length of time that The Blue Flame retained the flying kilometre record (see ‘Did You Know?, below).
Did You Know?
New World Land Speed Records are only counted if they beat the existing record by at least 1%. Therefore, whilst Thrust 2 set a new record for the measured mile in 1983, it did not usurp the kilometre record, as the speed of 634.052 mph was within 1% of the time set by The Blue Flame. The kilometre record was only broken in 1997, by Andy Green in Thrust SSC.
58,000 bhp – the intended power output of Blue Flame, measured in brake horsepower (37 MW – Megawatts).
22,500 lbf – the potential maximum thrust of the car measured in pound-force, a standardised value for acceleration (98 kN – kilonewtons).
20 seconds – the length of time that the engine was designed to run at maximum thrust.
11,000 lbf – the actual thrust configured for the 1970 season (49 kN); this followed the demands of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, who did not want the car run above 700 mph due (1,126.541 km/h) due to safety fears. The reduction in thrust was achieved by reducing the flow of liquified natural gas (LNG) to the rocket.
Did You Know?
The car used tyres specially designed by Goodyear, which featured a smooth tread surface to reduce the buildup of heat during the runs.
37.4 feet – the length of The Blue Flame (11.3m).
7.8 feet – the width of the car (2.3m).
8.1 feet – the height of the car, to the top of the tail fin (2.5m).
25.5 feet – the wheelbase (7.7m)
4,000 lb – The Blue Flame’s empty weight (1,814 kg).
6,600 lb – The Blue Flame’s weight when fully-fueled (2,994 kg).
34.8 inches – the outside diameter of the wheels (880mm).
29 August 1940 – the date Gary Gabelich was born, in San Pedro, southern California, USA.
16 – the age at which Gabelich first started racing, winning first place in the stock eliminator drag racing class at Santa Ana, California (1958).
17 – the age at which he won the world’s first side-by-side jet dragster race (1959).
250 mph – the approximate speed Gabelich reached in this dragster race.
1964 – the year Gabelich, then aged 24, married Rae Marie Ramsey (born 13 November 1946).
26 January 1984 – the date Gabelich died, killed in a motorcycle accident.
43 – Gabelich’s age at his death (43 years, 4 months, 28 days).
1985 – the year in which a Long Beach park, Gabelich Park, was named in his memory.
Blue Flame Videos
The Blue Flame – Speedquest
(Above: A home movie produced and narrated by Dick Keller)
Break the Record
(Above: A short promotional documentary produced by the American Gas Association)
(Above: Compilation of footage from the AP Archive of The Associated Press)
The Blue Flame Animation
(Above: A short animation of The Blue Flame created by 3DA)