//
you're reading...
Daily History

December 6 1976: Kitty O’Neil new women’s land speed record


On December 6 1976, professional and deaf stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil set the land-speed record for female drivers at the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon,. The record hovered around 400 mph; O’Neil’s two-way average speed was 512.710 mph. (The rules that govern land-speed records require that a driver make two passes across a measured course, one out and one back; officials then average the two speeds.) Observers reported that O’Neil’s car actually reached a top speed of more than 618 miles per hour on her first pass, but she ran out of fuel and had to coast to the end of the course.

O’Neil’s inspiration was wide-ranging. She was born deaf; became a champion three-meter and platform diver whose Olympic aspirations were dashed by a bout of spinal meningitis that doctors said would permanently paralyze her; and survived two grueling sets of cancer treatment, all before her 28th birthday. In 1976, she became a Hollywood stuntwoman and was featured in TV shows like “Quincy,” “Baretta” and “The Bionic Woman” and movies like “Smokey and the Bandit,” “The Blues Brothers” and “Airport ’77.” When she took her shot at the land-speed record, she already held the record for the highest stunt fall by a woman (105 feet).

Through her husband, a stunt performer himself, O’Neil met Bill Fredrick, a jet-car builder who had just put the finishing touches on a hydrogen-peroxide–fueled machine called the “Motivator” and was looking for a driver who could make it famous. So, in early December 1976, O’Neil found herself squeezed into the tiny three-wheeled rocket car on Oregon’s alkali flats. (Alkali flats, or salt flats, are dry lakebeds whose smooth, hard surfaces are perfect for driving low-slung cars very, very fast. For this reason, people pursuing land-speed records often travel to places like Alvord, the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.) On each of her practice runs, O’Neil pushed the car up to speed with ease, and when she officially broke the record, she was still only using 60 percent of the Motivator’s power. “There is no doubt,” Sports Illustrated reported, “that by dialing in more power…Kitty would have gone still faster”–past the overall land-speed record (638.388 mph, set by Californian Gary Gabelich in 1970) and maybe even past the sonic barrier.

But dialing in more power was not an option for O’Neil: under her contract, she was only permitted to drive the “Motivator” to a new women’s record. The movie director Hal Needham had paid $25,000 for the chance to steer the car to a new overall world record, and he was determined not to lose that chance to a woman. So, after O’Neil set her record, Needham rather unceremoniously demanded that she be pulled from the drivers’ seat. (His spokesman even told reporters that it would be “degrading” for a woman to hold the “man’s” record.) While the lawyers squabbled, it began to snow, and Alvord was closed for the season. Needham never even got behind the wheel.

O’Neil retired in 1982. In all, she has held 22 speed records on land and water.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 15,358 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

United States outmanoeuvres Russia once again? 

United States outmanoeuvres Russia once again? 

In a recent briefing, the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines warned, “I would characterize it as the Russians aren’t winning, and the Ukrainians aren’t winning, and we’re at a bit of a stalemate here.” So, where is the Russia-Ukraine war heading? What is Russian President Putin planning next? Is Europe ready for […]

China is defying global order to expand power, US admiral warns

China is defying global order to expand power, US admiral warns

The Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are destabilizing international order in an effort to expand their global power, Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, warned lawmakers during a House hearing on Tuesday. In his written testimony submitted to the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Adm. Aquilino explained that the Department […]

China – Autocracy and decoupling technical tests

China – Autocracy and decoupling technical tests

We have noticed that the embrace with China had become suffocating in the last twenty years. The West universe of consumers and China the factory of the world. We started with modest and low value-added materials and products, to refine the trajectory and revolution to the most refined and complex technologies, such as 5G and […]

Four ways China is growing its media influence in Southeast Asia

Four ways China is growing its media influence in Southeast Asia

As President Biden welcomes leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to a special summit this week in Washington, D.C., his administration is affirming Beijing as the U.S.’s main rival and underscoring the region’s importance in U.S.-China competition. The two-day event is part of the U.S effort to woo ASEAN members caught in a […]

Confronting Russia will deter China, says Japanese defense minister

Confronting Russia will deter China, says Japanese defense minister

A strong international response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is critical to deterring China from embarking on territorial conquests in Taiwan or the South China Sea, said Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi. “China has been carefully observing the current situation of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and they are paying particularly close attention to what […]

How Russia-Ukraine copied Finland war without lessons

How Russia-Ukraine copied Finland war without lessons

Finland is a unique country with a distinct language and culture. However, its possession was always contested between Sweden and Russia. Though Finland mainly remained under Swedish control in 1809, it was annexed by Russia. Using the end of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in late 1917, Finland declared its independence from the […]

China plans system to take out asteroids hurtling toward earth

China plans system to take out asteroids hurtling toward earth

China plans to develop a system for monitoring asteroids that pose a threat to earth, highlighting the nation’s growing ambitions for its space program. The country will also explore ways for taking out asteroids that endanger the planet, Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration, said in a TV interview, according to […]

Russia-Japan tensions flare anew over the Kurils

Russia-Japan tensions flare anew over the Kurils

Formally, Russia is not at war with Ukraine, where it claims to be conducting a so-called “special military operation.” But with Japan, given that Moscow and Tokyo never signed a peace treaty officially ending World War II, the two Asian neighbors remain technically at war. And after Japan recently described four Kuril islands whose ownership […]

Solomon Islands has Washington in state of alarm after a security pact with China

Solomon Islands has Washington in state of alarm after a security pact with  China

A tiny island chain in the South Pacific has Western governments scrambling after it agreed to a security pact with China that the United States and its allies fear could enhance Beijing’s military power in this strategically important region.  The deal between China and the Solomon Islands, a nation of 700,000 people that had deadly […]

China says its ‘future helicopters’ will be equipped with ground-breaking technologies

China says its ‘future helicopters’ will be equipped with ground-breaking technologies

Militaries all around the world are looking at integrating modern technology into their military weapons. China, as usual, appears to be making serious efforts to prepare for the future battleground, this time, with plans to include artificial intelligence and high-speed features in its future choppers. During a recent public lecture, a prominent Chinese military helicopter […]

%d bloggers like this: