Mickey Thompson Attempt


After successfully setting a number of national and international records in his Assault I dragster at March AFB on May 14, 1960, Mickey Thompson returned on July 9 the following year with a fleet of cars. His intention: To break as many records as he could in the day allotted on the 8,000 ft. runway.

The four-car team consisted of a Class F Dragmaster powered by a blown two-cylinder Pontiac Tempest, the fully streamlined Attempt powered by Class D and E four-cylinders, the blown 303 Pontiac-powered Assault I from the previous year and a 389-powered Pontiac Catalina. This time all the cars were painted dark blue and despite the 109-degree heat Mickey hopped from car to car and drove to 14 of 18 possible records.

Seven inches shorter than the Assault, the Attempt had a 96-inch wheelbase Dragmaster frame built by Jim Nelson and Dode Martin. Front tread was 38 inches while the rear was just 35 inches. Unlike the Assault, Attempt had a fully streamlined aluminum body hand-formed by Jim Burrell of Burbank. Mickey was rightly convinced that aerodynamics played an important role in high-speed records attempts. A plastic canopy completed the package, however, Mickey had to wear a mask with an air supply.

 
Photos courtesy of Holly Martin

Photos courtesy of Holly Martin

 

The rear tires were Goodyear Blue Dragon slicks while the fronts were likewise Goodyears but shaved to a width of just 1.5 inches and mounted on 12-spoke spindle mounts.

Mickey had planned to run two engines, both ’61 4-cylinder Pontiac Tempests, however, strong side winds caused him to abandon the D Class attempt. This engine was de-stroked 1/4-inch to 3-1/2 inches to reduce displacement to 180 ci. The bore was stock at 4-1/16-inches. Inside, there was a factory-optional, forged steel crankshaft and M/T aluminum rods, pistons and a roller tappet camshaft. A 4-71 Jimmy was driven at 94 percent of engine speed for 22 psi of boost. Air was inducted through a hole in the body and directed to the blower with flexible hose. With a blend of methanol and nitro, horsepower was estimated at 460 at 7,000 rpm.

The Class E engine had sleeved cylinders of 3-9/16-inches bore and a stroke shortened from 3-3/4 –inches to 3-inches, the capacity was just 120 cubic inches. The blower was a 3-71 GMC driven at 1.13 times crankshaft speed resulting in 20 psi of boost. The engine was rated at 420 hp at 7,400 rpm.

Mickey started his runs at 6 am and was finished by 10 minutes after noon. Unfortunately, the winds and the poor surface of the runway caused by constant bomber landings made the dragsters difficult to handle—the ruts throwing them from side to side. Nevertheless, Mickey achieved eight new records over the kilometer and mile.

Running in Class E, the Attempt broke Rex Mays’ kilometer record set in an E.R.A., bumping the speed from 89.73 to 96.368 mph. Over the mile distance he bested Liechenstein’s record of 94.01 mph set in a Bugatti by going 114.349 mph.

Long after these cars had been mothballed, sometime in the mid-1980-s, a wildfire raged through the Bradbury, California hills where Mickey lived and stored his collection. Despite fighting the fire with a 2-inch hose up to the door of his house, the cars were badly damaged. Soon after, in March 1988, Mickey and then wife Trudy were brutally murdered in their driveway. Eventually, however, Jim Travis with some help from Mickey’s son Danny restored the cars and for many years the Attempt and the Assault I, along with the Challenger, resided in the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, Pomona, California. In 2013, the Attempt was acquired by the World of Speed as part of its permanent collection in Wilsonville, Oregon.



Further Reading:

Francisco, Don. "King of the Kilo." Hot Rod Magazine, September, 1961, 84-87, 108-109. 
Thoms, Wayne. "Mickey Thompson Bats .777!." Car and Driver, October, 1961, 24-25, 68.