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Thrust SSC team members visit Coventry for 25th anniversary

12 October 2022

On Saturday 24 September, members of the Thrust SSC team visited Coventry ahead of the 25th anniversary of its record-breaking drive on 15 October.

A huge cake with an icing model of Thrust SSC on the top. There are mountains painted on the side, as well as various other Thrust-related objects made out of icing, including support vehicles, mile markers, fluffy dice and a pet dog

The team behind the land-speed record – considered one of the greatest feats of engineering of the last century – have been in Coventry to look ahead to a major anniversary for the project.

Thrust SSC, which now has pride of place at Coventry Transport Museum, hit a speed of 763 mph in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, making it the first ever land vehicle to break the sound barrier on October 15, 1997.

Richard Noble, one of the lead developers of Thrust SSC, and nearly all of the team who worked on the project 25 years ago visited Coventry Transport Museum to recall the events and look ahead to the special date in October.​​​​​​​

Richard said the vehicle and the record had a lasting legacy and showed the potential of engineering and ingenuity in the UK.

He said: “I can’t believe how quickly the 25 years have gone – almost as fast as Thrust SSC itself!

“It was so nice to see everyone again and to look back on what was an incredible achievement – not by any single individual – but by a team of great people.

“Looking back to when we started, we had already got the land-speed record with Thrust2, which is also housed here at Coventry Transport Museum, but we caught wind that there was a team in America that wanted to break the sound barrier and also the McLaren F1 team were looking at it too.

Richard Noble standing next to Thrust SSC in Coventry Transport Museum

“We said to ourselves: ‘we’ve got to do this’. At that time, we had no money and no engineers but we had the idea, and ran with it.

“Ron Ayers led the way on the aerodynamics and that was the key to our success – we were ten years ahead of anything they had done in F1.

“One of the biggest obstacles we had to overcome was actually transporting the vehicle out to the desert because it was 100 tonnes of equipment and it was going to require one million litres of jet fuel to get it there, which was very expensive.

“We’d recently launched a website and it became one of the best viewed anywhere in the world at the time so we decided to fundraise through that and we managed to secure the money we needed.

“Andy Green, our driver, was incredibly brave. It was a difficult car to drive but he battled away and we managed to go supersonic twice.

“The sonic booms could be heard for 40 miles around, we shook the houses in the local town and knocked the heads off the sprinklers in the local school! But we had done it!

“The project is now one of only 270 to be in the American Society of Engineering’s Landmark programmes – up there with the Space Shuttle and Lunar Module and one of only eight from the UK!

“It was a fantastic achievement and, for me, shows what we can do here in Britain when we have the ambition and everyone pulls together to make it happen. It is great that we can get together in this way and we look forward to celebrating on October 15.”

The majority of the team will travel to the town of Gerlach in the USA for the anniversary with plans for a live link back to Coventry Transport Museum currently being planned.

Stephen Spencer, of Coventry Transport Museum, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Thrust SSC’s incredible achievement and we are so fortunate to have the vehicle here in the city, alongside Thrust 2 and Bloodhound as part of our land-speed collection.

“They have been an inspiration to the people of Coventry for many years as an example of what great things can be achieved through science and engineering.

“We hope the anniversary will attract more people on the day so they can come and celebrate with us!”

Ron Ayers cutting the Thrust anniversary cake pictured above

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