craig breedlove spirit of america


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Samuel Hawley is a writer of narrative nonfiction and fiction. His books are highly eclectic. He has written about 16th-century East Asian history, 19th-century Korean-American relations, Olympic sprinting and land speed racing and a circus elephant named Topsy who was electrocuted in 1903. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.


craig breedlove spirit of america jet car
Craig Breedlove and his Spirit of America land speed jet car, circa Sept. 1962. (courtesy Ron Christensen)

spirit of america jet car bonneville 1962
Shell workers filling Spirit's tank for a run. (courtesy Bob Davids)

land speed record spirit of america
Trouble on the salt flats: Craig can't steer the car. That's Bob Davids pushing on the nose, Bob Johnson on the air duct. (courtesy Ron Christensen)

spirit of america bob davids
Spirit team member Bob Davids facing the camera; engineer Rod Schapel with his back turned at left; Craig's wife Lee Breedlove just visible over Rod's left shoulder. Bob Davids writes: "The ducts are off the car. We had a lot of trouble with the starter motor overheating and we had to disassemble the car to get to it. Craig’s 1956 Ford `chase truck’ is in the background towing the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) used to run the starter motor of the J-47. Note the `turn-around dolly’ under 'Old Blue Nose.' That was what we called the car then." (courtesy Bob Davids)

spirit of america nye frank bob davids
Spirit crew members (left to right) Jim (relative of Lee Breedlove's), Alan "Buzzy" Buskirk, Bob Davids and chief mechanic Nye Frank. Bob Davids writes: "The sunglasses were distributed as official crew equipment the first year, which identifies this as a 1962 pic...We spent a lot of time waiting."  (courtesy Bob Davids)

spirit of america breedlove wendover 1962
Spirit of America crew waiting for parts in a hangar at Wendover Air Base--the hangar where the B-29 bomber Enola Gay (the one that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima) was kept during WWII. That's engine mechanic Dick Compton on the cot, Walter Sheehan (back turned) looking down at him, Bob Davids seated second from left.  (courtesy Bob Davids)

spirit of america rod schapel
Trying to figure out what's wrong with Spirit. Bob Davids provided the following identifications: "People from left to right: Bob Johnson sitting; Rod Schapel at board talking to Quincy Epperly (in hat); Jim (squatting, cannot remember his last name, he was a relative of Leota’s [Lee Breedlove]); Tommy (a Brit exec from Shell sponsor); Jim Diest, standing with big belly; the next face (dark complexion) I do not remember, he was a visitor; Bob Davids, right foreground w/ back to camera; Craig Breedlove, standing (sunglasses); Nye Frank, arms crossed, head clipped from pic. The pic was taken inside the service tent that was attached to the 40' Fruehauf trailer workshop, paid and outfitted by the Premier Bolt Company." (courtesy Bob Davids)

spirit of america land speed record
Craig tries again and again but he still can't steer Spirit. (courtesy Ron Christensen)

craig breedlove land speed record spirit
Spirit of America in a Wendover Air Base hangar, Wendover, Utah, 1962. (courtesy Ron Christensen)

breedlove spirit of america cutaway drawing
Bill Moore's cutaway drawing of Spirit, rebuilt with a tail in 1963. (courtesy Bill Moore)
(Bill, a professional graphic artist and Craig Breedlove's oldest friend, was extremely generous to me with his photos and memories while I was doing research for Speed Duel, even though he was in failing health and didn't have long to live. He passed away shortly thereafter. You can see some of Bill's fine art here)

craig breedlove spirit of america 1963
Craig Breedlove at the press unveiling of the rebuilt Spirit, 1963. (courtesy Bob Davids)

craig breedlove lee breedlove
Craig and Lee Breedlove, circa 1963/64.

hawley speed duel land speed record

copyright 2011 Samuel Hawley