New Exhibit - Mickey Thompson: First American to 400 mph presented by Gale Banks Engineering

Posted on January 30, 2010


 Mickey Thompson and Wally Parks together at Lions Drag Strip (circa 1960s)

Mickey Thompson (sitting in the dragster) chats with NHRA Founder Wally Parks at the Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, CA. Mickey is credited for turning the track into one of the country's most successful.

Mickey Thompson was one of that rare breed of men who with little or no formal training could do it all and achieved so much—the quintessential California hot rodder who transcended his humble background to become an American legend from the Bonneville Salt Flats to the brickyard at Indy.

One of Mickey’s greatest, most well-known achievements happened on September 9, 1960 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. In his garage-built machine the Challenger 1, Mickey attained a speed of 406.60 mph making him the fastest man ever on wheels. 

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of this significant milestone, Gale Banks Engineering and the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum are proud to present a special new exhibit, Mickey Thompson: The First American to 400 mph opening to the public on Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 in conjunction with the 50th Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline (Feb. 11-14).

“It’s a great honor for me personally to have the name Banks associated with both Mickey Thompson and the legendary Wally Parks, two men that I was very privileged to call friends. Mickey Thompson was a man that did it all and to this day continues to inspire many including myself,” said Gale Banks, president of Gale Banks Engineering, Azusa, CA.

This exhibit gathers together some of Mickey’s greatest machines alongside dozens of photographs and artifacts shared by family and close friends.

On display through October 2010, the exhibit features:

  • Challenger I Bonneville Streamliner (1960) with four 415 cu. in. Supercharged Pontiacs coupled to four ’37 Cadillac transmissions. First American automobile to exceed 400 mph.
  • 1962 Indy race car, driven by Dan Gurney
  • His 1963 Z-06 Stingray Corvette with 427 Mark II “Mystery Motor”
  • The 1961 Attempt Streamlined Dragster and the 1961 Assault I Streamlined Dragster, driven by Mickey to break both National and International records in standing start mile and kilometer distances.
  • His off-road 454 Chevy truck
  • 1970 Mach I Mustang Funny Car with a 429 cu. in. Supercharged “Shotgun” Ford engine
  • Much more…

“Mickey Thompson is a celebrated figure in American motorsports that we are proud to display,” said Tony Thacker, Museum’s executive director. “We hope this exhibit will serve as a fitting tribute to one of the most significant innovators in motorsports history.”

Tragedy cut Mickey’s life short in 1988 when he and his wife Trudy were murdered outside their home in Bradbury, CA. Following in his father’s footsteps, Danny Thompson remains active in the motorsports industry. In 2008, Danny set a new speed record of 252 mph a 2008 E85 Mustang on Mickey Thompson Bonneville Land Speed tires. During his storied career, Mickey Thompson set nearly 500 national and international speed and endurance records.

Twenty-two years after his death, this exhibit is the first tribute to Mickey Thompson and the Museum will be one of the places where his memory will be cherished forever.

Founded in 1998 and named for the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by Automobile Club of Southern California houses the very roots of hot rodding. Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.

                The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. Current NHRA members are admitted free and Auto Club members enjoy a $2 discount. Admission for non-members is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 60 and older, $6 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five. The Museum is also available for special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit


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