Menu

Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

3 September 2019

Bugatti's 300mph Chiron has been over a century in the making

By Iain KellyIain Kelly
Powered by a 36.7-litre supercharged Rolls Royce V12 engine, Campbell’s Blue Bird clocked an average of 301.129mph over two mile-long passes.

Bugatti’s recent smashing of the 300mph (483km/h) barrier with their modified “long-tail” Chiron has set the world on its ear, but the scale of the achievement only gets more impressive when you consider the history of humans trying to break this mythical speed barrier.

On September 3, 1935 and Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Campbell-Railton Blue Bird broke the 300mph barrier for the first time in land speed racing history. Campbell was the first to set a land speed record at the Bonneville salt flats, with his 36.7-litre supercharged Rolls Royce V12 aero-engined monster, clocking an average of 301.129mph (484.955 km/h) over two mile-long passes.

Sir Malcolm Campbell’s "Blue Bird" broke the 300mph barrier for the first time in land speed racing history. Sir Malcolm Campbell’s "Blue Bird" broke the 300mph barrier for the first time in land speed racing history.

Nearly 57 years later, in March 1992, drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein was the first person to break the 300mph barrier on the quarter-mile while qualifying for the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Accelerating from a standstill, Berstein’s 9000hp (6711kW) supercharged nitro-burning V8 covered 400m in 4.82 seconds at 301.7mph (486km/h).

In 1992, Kenny Bernstein was the first person to break the 300mph barrier on the quarter-mile. In 1992, Kenny Bernstein was the first person to break the 300mph barrier on the quarter-mile.

Turbocharging and ground-effects technology saw a surge in the top speeds of Formula One and Group C sports car race cars in the 1980s, with the 400km/h barrier broken regularly at super-fast tracks like Le Mans. Due to a rule change in the early 1990s outlawing Group C prototypes, Porsche had Swiss race team Dauer build their legendary 962LM race car as a road-going machine, with a passenger seat, leather trim, and a small luggage area. The 730hp (544kW) Dauer 962 was timed at 251.4mph (405km/h) in 1998 making it what Evo Magazine called the “fastest street-legal production car in the world” until the Veyron pulled 253.81mph (408km/h) in 2007.

In '98 the Porsche Dauer 962LM was the “fastest street-legal production car in the world”. In '98 the Porsche Dauer 962LM was the “fastest street-legal production car in the world”.

The late 1980s supercar boom saw a surge of interest in cars capable of insane top speeds, but they were still a long way off the fabled 300mph barier. While factory supercars were flat out breaching 300kmh or 200mph, tuned-up twin-turbo monsters like Ruf’s CTR “YellowBird” (213mph/343km/h) and the Callaway SledgeHammer Corvette (254.76mph/410km/h) rewrote the definition of street car speed.

  • The twin-turbo Ruf CTR “YellowBird” topped out at 213mph/343km/h. The twin-turbo Ruf CTR “YellowBird” topped out at 213mph/343km/h.
  • The Callaway SledgeHammer Corvette rewrote the definition of street car speed being able to reach 254.76mph/410km/h. The Callaway SledgeHammer Corvette rewrote the definition of street car speed being able to reach 254.76mph/410km/h.

Last year a modified 2006 Ford GT built by M2K Motorsports hit over 300mph at a standing mile race event in Texas. With an estimated 2500hp (1838kW) at the wheels, the turbocharged 5.4-litre V8 supercar passed 240mph by the half-mile point to be timed at 300.4mph at the full mile (1.6km). So far this and the record-breaking Chiron are the only non-racing-cars to have passed the 300mph mark.

Built by M2K Motorsports, this modified Ford GT recorded 300.4mph at the full mile (1.6km). Built by M2K Motorsports, this modified Ford GT recorded 300.4mph at the full mile (1.6km).