2. Wingfoot Express, 413.2 mph
In a sense, the Wingfoot Express
is an American underdog story: the car’s designers had very little budget, so they went to Goodyear to plead their case for sponsorship. And $78,000 later, the car emerged, with Goodyear’s winged foot logo providing the inspiration for the name. One month prior to the record run, the car’s designer and main driver, Walt Arfons, experienced a heart attack after watching the other driver suffer a failed parachute. He saw the car head into a forest at 200 mph—saved only by 300 feet of wire fencing that caught the rear wheels. Nevertheless, chief engineer Tom Green (no, not him
) managed 413.2 mph.
Note: There was a subsequent Wingfoot Express II that went an absolutely insane 605 mph, but it wasn’t for an official run, and thus it never set the land speed record.