SMI Motivator


Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
6/12/1976 Alvord Desert Kitty O'Neal USA SMI Motivator Romatec V4 Hydrogen Peroxide rocket   512.710 mph  
1979 Muroc Stan Barrett USA SMI Motivator Romatec V4 Hydrogen Peroxide rocket   739.666 mph Never recognised

They called it the SMI Motivator. Hot Rod magazine called it potentially the worlds fastest tricycle. Sponsored by the somewhat unusual Success Motivation Institute, the vehicle was campaigned by Bill Fredric and Billy and Paul Meyer. Billy, of course, was the fresh-faced kid who turned the drag racing world on it's head in 1972 when, at the age of 6, he won the Manufactures Funny Car Championship at OCIR.

Powered by a Romatec V4 Hydrogen Peroxide rocket system capable of producing 48,000 horsepower, the aim was 743 miles per hour.

It all started back in the mid-’70s when designer/builder Bill Fredrick and owner Hal Needham began working on a two-stage, rocket-powered, tricycle-style streamliner (much like Breedlove’s first and ill-fated Spirit of America) to exceed the then-standing mark of 630 mph set in 1970 by Gary Gabelich driving the Institute of Gas Technology’s “Blue Flame.” Fredrick’s assault vehicle was a 39-foot-long trike powered by a Romatec V4 hybrid that combined liquid and solid propellants to produce 24,000 pounds of thrust (48,000 horsepower), augmented by a jet-assisted take-off unit (JATO) in the form of a 12,900hp Sidewinder missile.

During 1976 both Needham and Kitty O’Neil tested the Budweiser/SMI Motivator –sponsored vehicle in excess of 600 mph on a huge dry lake located in Oregon. Three years later fellow Hollywood stuntman Stan Barrett lit the fuse at Rogers dry lake (aka Muroc/ Edwards Air Force Base) and literally rocketed off the starting line. Some 12 seconds into the run, Barrett punched-in the Sidewinder at 612 mph, which pushed him to a terminal speed of 739.666 mph (or Mach 1.0106), duly recorded by Edwards’ state-of-the-art tracking radar and the team’s own on-board computer-telemetry equipment.

However, the rub is this: FIA rules state that any land speed attempt must be made under its or an appointed agent’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, the attempt must be “two-wayed” within an hour over the same piece of real estate. None of these conditions were met. So the purists, including Craig Breedlove, feel the Fredrick/Needham/Barrett mark is, at best, unofficial. Needham doesn’t let these “details” bother him. “We were interested in breaking the sound barrier, not setting an FIA record,” Needham says. “We did it, and we can prove we did it no matter what Breedlove or those other guys say. [The Motivator] is in the Smithsonian now, and [that museum] doesn’t display bogus cars.”