Danny Thompson and his wife, Valerie, have spent much of their time and money over the past 10 years getting the Challenger 2 streamliner, which was originally built by Danny’s father, Mickey, back on the salt and into the record books where it belongs. At Mecum’s 220 Kissimmee sale, they parted ways with the car to recoup some of their investment.
Originally powered by a pair of Ford SOHC 427 V-8s when it was built in 1968, the car wasn’t tested due to poor weather conditions. When Ford pulled its sponsorship soon after, Mickey put the Challenger 2 on the back burner, hoping eventually to get it into the record books. After Mickey’s death in 1988 halted plans for the father-son team to get the car racing again, Danny didn’t look at the streamliner for more than a decade.
Finally lured to the salt, Danny began work on modernizing the Challenger 2 in 2010. The chassis and body, originally built by automotive legends Tom Jobe and Nye Frank (among others) was lengthened. Danny replaced the Ford V-8s with a matching set of Brad Anderson Enterprises Hemi V-8s with aluminum blocks and heads, mechanical fuel injection, and absolutely no water jackets. Each engine spins two of the Challenger’s four wheels and can produce in excess of 2500 horsepower depending on the fuel mix, with a heavy mix of nitromethane going into the tanks when there’s enough traction.
Bad weather plagued Danny and stymied record attempts until 2016. That year, he eclipsed the 406-mph one-way run his father made in the Challenger 2’s predecessor, getting into the Southern California Timing Association’s (SCTA) 400-mph club with a 406.798 mph average over two runs. In 2018, Thompson returned and increased his record in the AA/Fuel Streamliner class to 448.757 mph, making it the fastest record in the SCTA’s record books for a piston-powered vehicle. Only one wheel-driven car has a faster record: the turbine-driven Turbinator 2 streamliner.
Estimates prior to the Challenger 2’s January sale hinted that it could bring between $900,000–$1.5 million, yet bidding stalled around the half-million mark. The anonymous buyer, who ended up getting the streamliner for $551,000 including fees, got one heck of a performance bargain, considering each of the twin Hemi’s horsepower only cost about $100.
Danny had been considering a return to racing and building a new, single-engine, turbocharged streamliner. We’ll be keeping tabs in case he returns, but we wouldn’t mind if Challenger 2 stays off the salt as a monument to two generations of Thompsons and their teams that triumphed at Bonneville.
Twin naturally aspirated Hemis start on alcohol and burn up to 85% nitromethane. Fuel consumption is approximately 10 gallons per mile.