Wierd, freaky, wacky, and downright crazy cars of the past
The days when a brewer could advertise a beer as making men strong and manly are gone now; trades description regulations prevent it. However there is nothing to say that they can't hint at it! Watch any advert for a beer and the ones drinking it are almost inevitably either burly men with a touch of the lumberjack about them or young and attractive ladies. There is never a weedy wimp to be seen.
Did Budweiser try to capitalise on this image when they subsidised the Budweiser Rocket? Perish the thought. However it was long, thrusting, manly; you can probably think of a few more suitable descriptions too.
However: back in the 1970s a movie director from Hollywood called Hal Needham thought that it would be a good idea to build the fastest car in the world; it would be a nice thing to do and perhaps the publicity it generated wouldn't hurt either! He persuaded Budweiser to back the project financially and the Budweiser Rocket was born; a long, slim, phallic, rocket powered tricycle.
Some initial runs were carried out on Bonnevills Salt Flats but it became clear that it simply wasn't powerful enough to break the record, and it wouldn't qualify anyway since it had three wheels not four, and it wasn't capable of doing a return journey; in order to qualify for the world record it would have had to have done at least one journeys over a measured mile or kilometre, in each direction. As a liquid fuelled rocket engine it could do one journey at a time only.
Going back to the drawing board, Needham and his team decided to go for breaking the sound barrier instead! The problem was it still wasn't powerful enough.
Undeterred, they bought six Sidewinder missiles from the United States Navy! Needless to say the explosive bit at the front was removed first. One of these pieces of ordinance was fitted behind the drivers's cockpit and for each attempt on the sound barrier the driver could simply fire up the rocket, keep it going until it had reached its maximum speed, and then fire the Sidewinder.
On a clear day in December 1979 The Budweiser Rocket was taken to a dry lake bed at California's Edwards Air Force Base and a stuntman called Stan Barrett was persuaded to do the speed attempt. All went well until the Sidewinder fired up and the acceleration ruptured a disc in his neck. The car was travelling so fast that the back wheels left the ground and Barrett very nearly lost control of it completely.
Did he in fact exceed the speed of sound? It was claimed that monitoring equipment provided by the American air force recorded a speed of Mach 0.01 (in other words just faster than the speed of sound) but nobody heard the expected sonic boom. No attempt was made to have another run in the opposite direction either and so, in the absence of a recognised monitoring system, very few people indeed believe that the speed of sound was actually exceeded.
However, as the saying goes, you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.