Craig Breedlove shown in the mid 1960s. (NSSN Archives photo)

‘King Of Speed’ Dies At 86

A love of cars and aircraft collided for Craig Breedlove, who became a household name in America after breaking the land-speed record five times between 1963 and 1965. 

According to reports, Breedlove died on April 4 at the age of 86.

Born in Los Angeles in 1937, Breedlove bought his first car when he was 13 and drove a 1934 Ford to a speed of 154 mph on the dry lakes of the Mojave Desert when he was 16.

Four years later, he drove a supercharged Oldsmobile-powered streamliner to 236 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

After high school, Breedlove worked at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica and learned many of his design and engineering skills. In 1959, he bought a military surplus jet engine for $500 to create his first land-speed record vehicle. 

Inspired by President Kennedy’s “Ask what you can do for your Country” speech, Breedlove named his car “Spirit of America” with the goal of being the first American in 30 years to hold the land-speed record. 

Breedlove finished his revolutionary new jet-car in 1962 and took it to Bonneville. While that first attempt failed, Breedlove returned the following year and set a record of 407 mph.

His record would be broken the next year, however a few days later, Breedlove set another new record of 526 mph. The new record came at a high price, as he crashed at the end of the run and his Streamliner went nose down into a pond. He swam from the wreckage.

He set another record in 1965 when he became the first to drive faster than 600 mph. 

Breedlove broke many other speed records during his lifetime and his widely regarded as America’s King of Speed.