Fastest Cars in the World: The Bloodhound SSC, Thrust SSC, and Turbinator
When we talk about the fastest cars, readers may assume we mean the Koenigsegg, Bugatti or Hennessey. To be honest, these are not the fastest cars in the world; they are the fastest production cars in the world. The cars that we will be looking at in this article can race the speed of sound itself. Koenigsegg, the current fastest production car, can reach a top speed of 278 mph, whereas the fastest car on this list does nearly four times that speed. How’s that for a speed comparison?
The Thrust SSC and the Bloodhound are the only supersonic cars in the world. The third car we discuss here, the Turbinator, is the fastest subsonic car and the fastest wheel-driven car in the world. That means these are the top three fastest land-vehicles in the world.
The Thrust SSC was the fastest car in 1997, breaking the sound barrier at 763 mph. The Bloodhound SSC is the car expected to break the record of the Thrust SSC; a top-speed run of 1000 mph is scheduled for the end of 2019. This jump in speed of nearly 30% would be the biggest jump in record speed by any new record holder. Take a look at the car speed record holders over the years.
Personally, I like the looks of the Thrust more than the Bloodhound, but then it will be the latter which will be the faster one. And, of course, looks are subjective.
We will take a slight departure from my normal listing of fastest to the relatively slower ones. Since the Bloodhound is yet to make the fastest run, we will be looking at it after the current record holder.
So, let’s get on with our current record holder, the Thrust SSC.
1. Thrust Supersonic Car (SSC)
At the moment, the Thrust SSC is the only supersonic car in the world. No other land car is faster than the Thrust.
It is a non-conventional, jet-powered car which can race with sound and end up on the winning side. When we compare it with our known speed kings, the Bugattis, Koenigseggs, and the Hennesseys, it is a one-sided affair. Our production champions, even at a maxed-out state, would look like rickshaws on square wheels. So, let’s look at the car which smokes them all.
Thrust SSC's Speed Run (one before the record run)
The Thrust SSC is a rocket car which broke the sound barrier in 1997. Such was the power behind the wheels that it was driven not by a driver but a pilot. Squadron Leader Andy Green, the driver, was a Royal Air Force fighter pilot. Here are the other interesting details:
- Top Speed: 763 mph (1228.43 km/hr)
- Engine: After burning. Rolls - Royce turbo-fan engine
- Car dimensions: Length – 54 ft (approx); Breadth – 12 ft.
- Thrust (Power): 223 kN
- Fuel Consumption: 55 litres for every km, at the top speed
- Acceleration: Very Fast
- Price: It comes free with any desert you purchase
SSC Breaking the Sound Barrier (Hear the Sonic Boom at 0:15)
The Thrust SSC was a British car, built by Richard Noble, Glynne Bowsher, Ron Ayers, and Jeremy Bliss. It became the first car to break the sound barrier, although there was one other rocket car before it, the Budweiser Rocket, which had claimed to have had achieved that feat. However, the claim was unsubstantiated. Therefore, the Thrust SSC remains the first to break the sound barrier and the fastest car even today!
Actually, in regards to being the fastest, the next car on the list has something to say.
2. Bloodhound Super Sonic Car (SSC)
Here comes the challenger. This will be only the second supersonic car in the world and faster than the Thrust. The Bloodhound was being discussed for a long time. In fact, it was discussed as early as the turn of the century, but project and funding delays made it extend right up to 2018. There seems to be less doubt now, considering it has already done a 210 mph trial run and will be doing another 500 mph run in Africa soon.
As per schedule, the Bloodhound will be doing the 1000 mph run by the end of 2019. I just hope it is a lot earlier!
List of Speed Records
Now, many would know that it is easier to move faster at a higher altitude than lower. Which means the higher we go, the less air there is as well as less air resistance. The reverse is also true. The closer we are to sea level, the denser the air, and hence, higher the air resistance. If we look at the above list of records, it corroborates what we just said. The faster speeds are achieved at higher altitude. It also means that it must be incredibly tough to do supersonic speeds at sea level.
I hope readers appreciate the air resistance that the Bloodhound has to encounter. As a matter of fact, at its top speed, the Bloodhound will have 20 tonnes of drag. That is equivalent to the Bloodhound pulling three and a half elephants while doing 1000 mph.
Here are some vital stats:
- Top Speed: 1000 mph (1610 km/hr) [Expected]
- Engine: EJ200 Jet Engine [90kN] + Hybrid Rocket Engine [122 kN] + Auxiliary Power Unit [800 bhp]
- Car dimensions: Length – 42 ft. | Breadth – 8.2 ft.
- Thrust (Power): 212 kN
- Fuel Consumption: 1.5 tons of fuel over the course of 0 – 1000 mph in 55 seconds
- Acceleration: Very Very Fast
- Price: It comes free with a Thrust SSC. How much is the Thrust? See under Thrust.
By the way, an interesting observation is that the Auxiliary Power Unit’s 800 bhp alone is more than the Bentley Bentayga’s total power output of 600 hp. Now, you can imagine the total power of the Bloodhound.
Bloodhound's First Public Run (200+ mph)
Much like the Thrust, the Bloodhound will also be piloted by Andy Green.
The Bloodhound is an engineering marvel and it is supposed to be not only the fastest but the biggest engineering educational program to understand what has gone into building the biggest bullet in the world, which, by the way, can outrun a bullet!
2018: Bloodhound Shelved | 2019: Bloodhound Relaunched
Until the Bloodhound completes the record run, we may have to live through many heartbreaks and ecstasy. By December 2018, the funds dried out for the Bloodhound leading to the closure of the project. However, Mr Warhurst, an entrepreneur, bought over the car first and later the project in March 2019 to continue the dream of breaking the 1000 mph barrier. In line with this change, the car's exterior paint and logos have disappeared. So, it is no longer blue that we had seen previously, but it is white with a red combination. Mind you, under the skin, it is the same car; no changes there, thankfully!
So get used to seeing the new Bloodhound SSC.
Update: February, 2020
The Bloodhound has completed a 628 mph run and will now move on to the next leg. The idea is to first target 800 mph and if there is further interest then target 1000 mph.
Further runs are expected by the end of 2020.
Here's the 628 mph
The team had expected to touch 600 mph but went over the planned speed and ended up at 628 mph. In the process, they did a 1010 kmph too, which was an unplanned benefit of the extra speed that the Bloodhound could rake out.
In a list dominated by supersonic cars, the Turbinator is the only subsonic one. Why is it here? Because this is the fastest wheel-driven car in the world. It’s not only the car but also the driver who is of interest here.
Don Vesco drove the car at a speed of 458 mph and thereby, created a record for the wheel-driven cars. But who is Don Vesco?
To start with, he is the only person to have received the Hot Rod Magazine’s prestigious Top Time Trophy for both cars and bikes. By creating records in two different vehicle categories, Don shares the space with legends like Donald Campbell, who in 1964 held the water-speed and land-speed record.
The 470 mph speed run
Talking about bikes, much like Andy Green was the first to break the sound barrier, Don Vesco was the first to break the 250 mph, 400 kmph, 300 mph, 500 kmph speed barriers for bikes; and one of the biggest jumps in speed record as compared to the previous record holder on a streamlined bike. His passion for speed continued into the four-wheeler space too and culminated in the form of the Turbinator. The Turbinator speed run was carried out in October 2001.
Here are the stats:
- Speed Record thru a two-way run: 458.44 mph (738.1 kmph)
- Top Speed: 470 mph (756 km/hr)
- Driver: Don Vesco
Don passed away in 2002, roughly a year after his record run in the Turbinator. He was 63 and will always remain a legend!
What’s the difference between the SSCs and Wheel Driven Cars?
Jet engines propel the SSCs (Thrust and Bloodhound) with no power delivery to the wheels. In other words, the wheels are only to move and hold the orientation of the car.
Wheel driven cars, on the other hand, have power delivered to the wheels much like conventional road cars. So, the wheels are the ones propelling the car forward.
That’s the difference.
Turbinator II | Dave & Erick
And as with legends and their vision, Don Vesco’s dream lived on even after him. Team Vesco went ahead to achieve Don’s dream of 500 mph on the Turbinator II. The run which took place in September 2018 saw the Turbinator II achieve a world speed record of 483.65 mph for a wheeled car. Not satisfied with the record, the team came back in October of the same year and achieved a top speed of 503.332 mph.
Here are the stats:
- Speed Record thru a two-way run: 483.646 mph (778.7 kmph) [Sep 2018]
- Top Speed: 503.332 mph (810.4 km/hr) [Oct, 2018. Not a record]
- Driver: Team Vesco
- Year: 2018
The 503 mph run was not a record run as the salt flat was flooded for the team to do a two-way run. So the speed run remains unofficial, however, breaking the 500 mph barrier has only bolstered the team’s spirit to set their eyes on the 600 mph barrier. The message to the readers, therefore, is - watch this space!!
Back to the Pit
Much like improvements across all areas of our lives, someday even these records will be surpassed. The only difference will be the time taken to break these records. Going supersonic on land was a fantasy, until the Thrust did it in 1997. The same team is building the Bloodhound, so we shouldn't be surprised if the next wave of speed demons also come from them. What is true for supersonic cars is also true for subsonic cars; we can expect Turbinator's record to be broken in the future.
But Andy Green will remain the first human being to go supersonic on a land vehicle and Don Vesco will remain the first to break various speed barriers throughout his career. A fitting tribute to the men who made speed history!
Which car did you like the most?
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Savio Koman