Documentary Review: The Spirit of America

The Spirit of America makes a car lovers heart beat faster just looking at it. Its narrow body and three wheels are definitely striking in appearance but what puts this beautiful ride in a category all its own is the turbojet engine. More than 50 years ago, this car’s ancestor was the first land vehicle ever to reach over 400 mph. Unfortunately, when it was built the Spirit didn’t meet Federation Internationale de Automobile (FIA) specs (they required 4 wheels on the ground) so the record was not officially recognized. Many people argued that it was the jet engine and not the fact it had only three tires.

However, Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) did class it as a motorcycle. FIA rules say a qualifying car must be “driven through its wheels,” and since many motorcycles do have 3 wheels FIM had no problems accepting it. Spirit went on to continue setting new records. At the end of a 500 mph run, she lost her parachute brakes and the 5 mile long stop ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest skid mark. That version of Spirit is now on exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

A new Spirit was born in 1964-1965 and was named Spirit of America Sonic I. This Spirit had a 4-wheel design and an even more powerful engine that came from an F-4 Phantom II aircraft. On November 15, 1965 this incarnation of Spirit topped over 600 mph and it would be five years before the record was broken by Blue Flame, a land speed rocket car. The Sonic I can be seen in person at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Car history has been made time and again by the Spirit and it’s well worth a trip to Indianapolis to visit the Hall of Fame.

In 1996 on October 28th a new Spirit was put to the test in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. At 675 mph it crashed, so who can say how fast she might have gone that day if not for that. Steve Fossett, holder of many records bought the Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV and after rebuilding planned to test it in September 2007. However, he was killed in a plane crash while scouting out test routes and in 2010 the Spirit went on the market with a price tag of $ 3 million dollars. A very pricey car, but then, anyone lucky enough to own the Spirit also owns a piece of automotive history.

Sources:
http://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/local/mesquite/2017/01/16/spirit-america/96631452/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_of_America_(automobile)

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