Gary Gabelich


(29/08/1940 - 01/1984)

Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
October 23, 1970 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA Gary Gabelich USA Blue Flame
Reaction Dynamics Liquid fuel Rocket
630.389 mph (1014.52 km/h) 622.407 mph (1001.67 km/h) First record over 1000km/h
First record set by a rocket powered car.

Gary Gabelich (born August 29, 1940, died January 1984) was a Croatian-American who won (land speed records are "set" and not "won")the land speed record with his rocket powered automobile "Blue Flame" on October 23, 1970, achieving the average speed of 622.287 (record speed was 622.407)miles/h (1001.452863 km/h) on dry lake bed at Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah. This record was the first record over 1000 km/h, it remained unbeaten until 1983, when Richard Noble broke it driving Thrust 2. Gabelich was seriously injured in the crash of an experimental 4 wheel drive Funny Car. Gabelich died in January 1984 in a motorcycle crash.

Motorsports Memorial

Gary Gabelich
Complete name: Gary Gabelich
Birth date: 29.Aug.1940
Birth Place: San Pedro Hill, CA, United States
Death date: 26.Jan.1984
Death Place: Long Beach, CA, United States
Nationality: United States
Gender: male

Gary Gabelich, which family was of Croatian origins, was the driver of the "Blue Flame" that signed the Land Speed Record at the speed of 622.407 miles per hour (1001,67 km/h). He was killed in a road accident when his motorcycle crashed against a truck on 26 January 1984 at Long Beach, California.

Gabelich had his racing debut at the age of 16, winning first place in the stock eliminator drag racing class at Santa Ana Dragstrip, California. In 1959 he won world’s first side-by-side jet dragster race, topping 250 mph and then traveled 356 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Wendover, UT, in a jet car, probably this was a record for a teen-ager. In 1963 he won the first United Drag Racing Association driving a Double A Fuel dragster. Then he worked for North American Rockwell, eventually becoming a test astronaut for the company, but he decided to get back into racing, competing in the 60s as a drag racer of both automobiles and boats. In 1968 he won the American Power Boat Association fuel hydro Championship, and the following year he set a National Drag Boat Association record of 200.44 mph (322.38 km/h).

Near the end of 1969 he was signed up by Reaction Dynamics Inc. to drive the Blue Flame, a 37-foot-long, three-wheels vehicle powered by a liquid natural gas-hydrogen peroxide rocket engine. Another drag racer, Chuck Suba was signed up before him but he was killed in a racing accident shortly thereafter. The first run for the Blue Flame land speed record attempt was scheduled for September 1969, but it was postponed due to tuning trouble until one year later, on 22 September 1970. This attempt was a failure, reaching Gary Gabelich a speed of only 426 mph, compared to Craig Breedlove's five year-old Land Speed Record of 600.601 mph. On 15 October 1970 Gabelich hit 609 mph on a new run, before a mechanical problem forced him to stop the second run. The same thing happened eight days later, when the first run reached 621 mph. Finally, on 23 October 1970, the Blue Flame driven by Gary Gablich averaged 617.602 mph on the first run and 627.207 on the second for a new Land Speed Record of 622.407 (1,001.67 km/h). This record was set over a measured mile at Bonneville Salt Flats, UT, it was the first record over 1000 km/h, it remained unbeaten until 1983, when Richard Noble broke it driving Thrust 2 at a speed of 633.468 mph (1019,469 km/h).

After setting the record, Reaction Dynamics Inc. stopped the Blue Flame activity and Gabelich came back to drag races. During his career he also drove go-karts and racing cars in circuit races, in 1969 Gabelich had driven the Beac City Chevrolet Corvette funny car to speed over 200 mph and in 1975 he finished 2nd at Riverside, California, in the Mickey Thompson’s off-road race. Then he scored a win in the Toyota Charity Slalom at the Rose Bowl in 1979 and the following year a second place in the Toyota Pro Challenge Race at the Michigan International Speedway. Unfortunately in 1972 he had his right hand severed in a drag racing accident. It was reattached, but his racing career was over. In 1977 Gabelich worked as an actor in Mel Welles' and Ronald C. Ross' movie "Joyride to nowhere". May we never forget the last American to ever hold the ALSR in his rocket car Blue Flame


The San Pedro native began drag racing at 16 and won the first-ever jet-powered drag race in 1959 - topping 200 mph - at 19 years old.

After setting the Land Speed Record, Gary Gabelich drives a 4 wheel drive Funny Car, a car doomed to make one run. During a closed photo-op for some drag racing magazines at Orange County International Raceway, it is agreed that Gabelich will merely “smoke the tires” for photographers. Caught in the moment, Gabelich stays on the throttle and the car climbs onto the guardrail and rolls, unraveling like a tin lid on a can opener. Gabelich’s body is not exempt from the slicing and dicing and a hand is severed as well as other limbs sliced open like so much canned fruit. Through a stroke of luck, after being stuffed into a station wagon and raced to the hospital with severed limbs in tow Gabelich is sewed back together by a crack team of neurosurgeons. He was said to never be quite the same, unfortunately. He is later beheaded in a motorcycle accident with a diesel truck on the streets of San Pedro, CA. As a testament to free-wheelin’ lifestyle, he is eulogized more in biker magazines than in any hot rodding publications.

The New York Times
Gabelich, 43, Dies After Accident

Published: January 27, 1984
Gary Gabelich, who held the world land-speed record for almost 13 years, was killed in a traffic accident here today, the police said.

According to the police, Gabelich was riding a motorcycle ''at a high rate of speed'' when he ran into the right side of a truck. Gabelich, of nearby Long Beach, died nearly three hours later at San Pedro Hospital of injuries suffered in the accident, the police said.

Gabelich, who was 43 years old, set the land-speed record in a rocket- powered car of 622.407 miles per hour on Oct. 23, 1970. The record stood until Richard Noble of England averaged 634.051 m.p.h. on Oct. 4, 1983.

Wingfoot Express
Wingfoot Express
Wingfoot Express
Wingfoot Express
Gary Gableich and Craig Breedlove
Wingfoot Express
Wingfoot Express
Bronze plaque in memory of Gary Gabelich in a Los Cerritos Park