Marion Lee "Micky" Thompson


(December 7, 1928 - March 16, 1988)

Micky Thompson
Micky Thompson
In August 1959, Mickey Thompson towed his Challenger I streamliner to the salt on an open trailer behind a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville and let any ol' kid come up and take pictures of it, as we see from this picture sent in to us by reader Gary Buehler, who was 19 at the time and also headed to the salt flats.
Thompson had just debuted the Goodyear-sponsored Challenger I to the public at the Beverly Hilton a couple weeks earlier, though he wasn't bringing it to the salt untested: Earlier that summer, Goodyear scheduled a test run for the Challenger I at Edwards Air Force base, one that resulted in a 250 MPH spin but also the continued support of Goodyear. Four Pontiac V-8 engines drove all four wheels wrapped in custom Goodyear tires designed specifically for the 400-plus MPH runs that Thompson had in mind. Though he failed to bring the world land speed record back to the United States that year (his best runs that year topped 360 MPH), he would return in 1960 with superchargers atop all four Pontiac engines to top 400 MPH with a one-way run of 406.60 MPH and inspire multiple other attempts to snatch the world land-speed record back from the British. Even in the Goodyear promotional film below that documented the 1960 effort, however, we still see Thompson towing the Challenger I on an open trailer, this time behind a 1960 Pontiac station wagon.
Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
 5.07.1970  March Air Force Base, USA  Mickey Thompson
 Attempt I
Pontiac V8
A-I-8   180.407
  1 kilometre
Standing Start 
18.09.1962BonnevilleMickey ThompsonUSA Harvey-Alumin. SpecialA-I-9281.426
100 kilometre Standing start
18.09.1962BonnevilleMickey ThompsonUSAHarvey-Alumin. SpecialA-I-9280.863
100 mile Standing start
17.07.1968BonnevilleMickey ThompsonUSAFord Mustang 1969-Mach 1A-I-9159.520
500 mile Standing start
17.09.1968BonnevilleMickey ThompsonUSAFord Mustang 1969-Mach 1A-I-9160.210
1000 mile Standing start
17.09.1968BonnevilleMickey ThompsonUSAFord Mustang 1969-Mach 1A-I-9157.180
5000 kilometre Standing start

Marion Lee "Mickey" Thompson was an American off-road racing legend. He won many championships as a racer, and later formed sanctioning bodies SCORE International and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG). He also raced in dragsters and land speed record automobiles.

Thompson was born in Alhambra, California. He was known universally as "Mickey." In his early twenties, he worked for the Los Angeles Times newspaper while becoming involved in the new sport of drag racing. He developed a brilliant career as both a driver and an innovative automotive technician; later as a designer, manufacturer and seller of racing and performance equipment. In addition to being a drag racing champion, Mickey Thompson set more speed and endurance records than any other man in automotive history. He is credited with designing and building the first slingshot dragster. Thompson also was noted for being the first manager of Lions Drag Strip near Long Beach, California in 1955.

In 1960, at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Thompson achieved international fame when he became the first American to break the 400mph barrier hitting 406.60 mph surpassing John Cobb's one-way Land speed record of 402mph. In 1963 Thompson traveled to England where, along with Dante Duce, he demonstrated his Top Fuel dragster at the Brighton Speed Trials. In 1965 he published "Challenger: Mickey Thompson's own story of his life of speed." In 1968, he redesigned the Funny Car, and his vehicle went on to win the 1969 NHRA Springnationals and Nationals for driver Danny Ongais. In his long career, Thompson raced everything from stock cars to off-road vehicles and engineered numerous competition engines. He went into the performance aftermarket business in the early 1960s and then, in 1963 he created "Mickey Thompson Performance Tires" that developed special tires for racing including for Indianapolis 500 competitors.

Thompson founded SCORE International in 1973, a sanctioning body to oversee off-road racing across North America. He and his wife Trudy formed the "Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group" (MTEG) which ran an indoor motocross and off-road vehicle racing show and competition that brought the sport from the back-country terrain to stadiums in the heavily populated metropolitan areas.

In order for Mickey Thompson to beat the Land Speed Record (LSR) he must surpass the old record (409.277-mph) by 1%, and make two runs with a average taken from both.
The course was very poor and very wet, so Thompson started his first run at half throttle only and a computer in the tail of the car recorded a speed of 411-mph. Although this is faster then the old record set in 1965 by the Summer brothers and there Chrysler powered four engine streamliner called "Goldenrod", it didnt exceed the 1% rule which required a new speed of 414-mph. Thompson still had to make his second pass so 10% more throttle was applied, about halfway through the run, the car slide out of controll at 600-ft-per-second straight for the USAC timing shack, Thompson managed to stop the car just short of hitting the shack. Mickey said that his car was built to exceed the 500-mph mark but track conditions were way to wet. Thompson made plans to return to the salt in July or Aug of 1969, but by then Fords President was fired and Ford withdrew its funding of the project.

Micky Thompson
New York Times
August 30, 1964, Sunday
Thompson Ordered To Give Up Racing Because of Ailment
Section: SPORTS, Page S7
SALT LAKE CITY, Aug. 29 (AP) -- Mickey Thompson, the millionaire race car driver who holds almost 200 speed records, today was ordered to retire from racing because of a suspected heart ailment. Record Attempt Slated Thompson was driven to Tooele Hospital, 60 miles east of Bonneville, by Craig Breedlove

Mickey Thompson runs 411-mph in a twin engine streamliner with twin Ford 427SOHC engines producing 2,070-hp. Thompson beats the world land speed record but does not set it.
In July 1968, Ford President Knudsen produced another advertising and sales campaign effort, a world land speed record car, Mickey designed and built he car in four months at a cost of $100,000 with Ford Motor Company flipping most of the bill. Both engines were built at Holman-Moody/Stroppe in California, with a $1,200 billit crank that has a 3/8-inch longer stroke and produced 470ci. The rear wheels are powered through a B&M 3-speed automatic and a supercharged 427SOHC using Hilborn fuel injection and running 100 methanol, this engine produces 1260-hp. The front wheels are also powered through a seperate 3-speed automatic tranny and backwards mounted 427SOHC with 12.5 compression running on 90% methanol and 10% nitro through Hilborn fuel injection, this engine produced 810-hp to the front wheels.

Micky Thompson
Micky ThompsonMicky ThompsonMicky Thompson
Micky ThompsonMicky ThompsonMicky Thompson

Murder, investigation, and associated trials

On March 16, 1988, Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy were killed by two gunmen at their home in Bradbury, California in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Trudy was deliberately killed first to make Mickey feel more pain. The two gunmen were waiting Mickey's arrival from the side of the garage, and once he walked out shoved a gun in his face. The gunmen tried to shoot Trudy who was still in the car and she had no choice but to try and drive away. Unfortunately she hit the side of the house and had to escape the vehicle. While crawling on the steep drive way she broke every manicured nail she had and scraped her knees while begging for her life. After shooting Trudy in the head, the gunman put the gun to Mickey's left ear and shot him.

Mickey and his pets are interred in the Rose Hills Memorial Park, in Whittier, California.

An intense police investigation led nowhere until thirteen years after their deaths when former business partner Michael Frank Goodwin was charged in Orange County, California with the murders. However, that case was overturned on jurisdictional grounds by the California District Court of Appeal. On June 8 2004, Goodwin was formally charged in Pasadena in Los Angeles County. In October 2006, a Pasadena Superior Court judge ordered Goodwin to stand trial for the murders.

On January 4, 2007 a jury found Michael Goodwin guilty of two counts of murder in the death of Mickey Thompson and his wife. Goodwin was sentenced to two consecutive life-without-parole terms for the murders of Thompson and his wife. The judge also denied Goodwin's motion for a new trial.

The murder investigation was the subject of the April 28, 2007 episode of the CBS television program 48 Hours Mystery.

The murder investigation was also the subject of an episode of NBC's Unsolved Mysteries.

History of Mickey Thompson - as told by Danny Thompson
Challenger II driven by Danny Thompson
Danny Thompson Bonneville Salt Flats Racer