fastest cars in the world

Monday 15 October marked 21 years since Thrust SSC set the current land-speed record of 1,227.985 km/h (763.035 mph) in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

The land-speed record, aka the fastest car on Earth, remains one of the benchmarks of technological development.

The quickest of them all, Thrust SSC, made headlines around the world back in October 1997 when its driver, RAF wing commander Andy Green (UK), took the car to an unprecedented 1,227.985 km/h (763.035 mph; Mach 1.020) over 1 mi (1.6 km) in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA.

Thrust SSC 2

In breaking the land-speed record, Thrust SSC also became the first car to break the sound barrier.

It’s therefore poignant that the people behind Bloodhound, which aims to reach 1,000 mph (1,609 km/h) and become the fastest car in the world, announced on the same date 21 years later that their project had gone into administration.

The 13.4-m-long (44-ft) car has been tested up to 200 mph while the its engines have also been tested out the vehicle. If a further £25 m ($33 m) can be found then the 18km-long, 1,500m-wide section of the dry lake Hakskeen Pan in South Africa is ready for the Bloodhound car's record attempt.

But there are more speed records up for grabs without needing to reach 1,000 mph or spend millions of dollars. Here, in increasing order of velocity, is our selection of the fastest cars to take to the road (and to the seas and even space!)

Fastest solar-powered car

Solar-powered vehicle

Rally driver Kenjiro Shinozuka drove Ashiya University’s (both Japan) Sky Ace TIGA to a speed of 91.332 km/h (56.75 mph) at Shimojishima Airport in Miyakojima, Okinawa, Japan, on 20 August 2014. The location for the record attempt had been carefully chosen to provide the most suitable weather conditions in terms of sunlight strength, sun elevation and temperature.

Fastest coffee powered car 

Coffee-powered car

Yes, it’s not just human who get a boost from coffee! The Fastest coffee-powered vehicle – dubbed The Co-operative Bean Machine – attained an average speed of 105.451 km/h (65.536 mph) and was built and driven by Martin Bacon (UK), in Stockport, UK, on 19 February 2013.

Fastest compressed air powered car

Compressed-air-powered car

Toyota’s three-wheeled KU:RIN car reached a top speed of 129.2 km/h (80.3 mph) at the Japan Automobile Research Institute’s Ibaraki test track on 9 September 2011. This fast car has a compressed-air “fuel tank” – as air is released, it generates thrust. 

Its final speed was taken from a timed average of two runs. “Ku” and “rin” are Japanese for “air” and “wheel”.

Fastest Bumper car

Bumper car

The Fastest bumper car/dodgem achieved a top speed of 161.476 km/h (100.336 mph)! It was built by Colin Furze (UK) and tested by BBC Top Gear's The Stig, at Bentwaters Airfield near Ipswich, Suffolk, UK, on 23 March 2017.

Fastest steam-powered car

Steam car (FIA-approved)

On 25 August 2009, the British Steam Car Team’s Inspiration reached 225.05 km/h (139.84 mph), driven by Charles Burnett III (USA) at Edwards Air Force Base in California, USA. The record was approved by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). It beat the record of 205 km/h (127.7 mph) by Fred Marriott in a Stanley steam car in 1906 – an astonishing 103 years earlier.

Fastest electric car

Electric car (FIA-approved)

The Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3 achieved an average speed of 549.211 km/h (341.264 mph) over a two-way flying mile at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA, on 19 September 2016. The electric car was designed and built by engineering students at The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research, in partnership with French electric car designers Venturi. It was driven by Roger Schroer (USA).

Fastest diesel-powered car

Diesel-engined car

On 23 August 2006, Andy Green drove the JCB Dieselmax to a speed of 563.418 km/h (350.092 mph) at Bonneville. Green broke his own record, achieved the day before at 526.027 km/h (326.858 mph). Remarkably, he was not even in top gear. The previous mark of 379.413 km/h (235.756 mph), by Virgil Snyder in the streamliner Thermo King-Wynns, had stood since 1973.

Land speed record female

Car (female driver)

Kitty Hambleton (USA, née O’Neil) achieved a speed of 825.126 km/h (512.710 mph) in the rocket-powered SM1 Motivator on 6 December 1976 in the Alvord Desert, Oregon, USA. Hambleton, who lost her hearing in infancy, was a professional stunt performer who made unprecedented stunt falls from more than 100 ft (30 m) and also set a women’s waterskiing speed record.

Fastest rocket car

Rocket car

Blue Flame, a rocket-powered vehicle driven by Gary Gabelich (USA), attained a speed of 1,016.086 km/h (631.367 mph) over the first measured kilometre at Bonneville on 23 October 1970. The car was powered by a liquid natural-gas/hydrogen-peroxide rocket engine, which could develop thrust up to 22,000 lbf (9,979 kgf; 97,860 kN).

Thrust SSC

Car (land-speed record)

On 15 October 1997, Thrust SSC became the first car to break the sound barrier when it reached 1,227.985 km/h (763.035 mph; Mach 1.020) over 1 mi (1.6 km) in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA. The resultant sonic boom caused sprinkler covers to fall off in the town of Gerlach, around 10 mi (16 km) away.

Thrust SSC was piloted by Andy Green (UK), a wing commander in the RAF. The project director was Richard Noble (UK), who in 1983 had set the previous land-speed record of 1,020.406 km/h (634.051 mph) on board Thrust 2. The car is powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey 202 jet engines which generate 222 kN (50,000 lb) of thrust. Thrust SSC broke the sound barrier almost 50 years to the day after Captain “Chuck” Yeager (USA) made the first supersonic flight, on 14 October 1947.

You can read about more record-breaking cars Guinness World Records 2019, find out where you can buy your copy.

GWR 2019