The Spirit of America was the first of the modern record breaking cars, build within new rules with its three wheel design, narrow stream-lined shape and most significantly turbojet engine. Like most of the other competing vehicles the engine was ex-military, the first Spirit had a GE J47 engine from a F-86 Sabre and was tested at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1962, where difficult handling resulted in failure. Before trying again a new stablizer was added and a steerable front wheel. He set his first record on September 5, 1963 at Bonneville, the first man to exceed 400 mph.
After setting the record it was broken in October 1964 by Tom Green and further extended by Art Arfons. Breedlove returned to Bonneville with Spirit and pushed the record over 500 mph, setting it at 526.277 mph on October 15, a record that stood for almost two weeks. In setting the new record, at the end of his second run, the Spirit lost its parachute brakes, skidded for five miles, through a row of telephone poles and crashed into a brine pond at around 200 mph, Breedlove was uninjured. The Spirit was recovered and taken by the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago as an exhibit.
A new Spirit was built over 1964-65 to attempt to beat Arfons, dubbed Spirit of America - Sonic I it was similar to the original but contained a much higher rated GE J79 engine originally from a F-4 Phantom, the same type as that used by Arfons' Green Monster. Another tit-for-tat with Arfons ended with Breedlove setting the record at 600.601 mph on November 15, 1965, a record that stood until 1970. The vehicle is currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum, California.
After a lengthy break from world records Breedlove began work on a new Spirit in 1992, eventually named the Spirit of America Formula Shell LSRV. The vehicle is 538" long, 100" wide, 70" high and weighs 9,000 lb, construction is on a steel tube frame with a aluminium skin body. The engine is the same as in the second Spirit - a GE J79, but it is modified to burn unleaded gasoline and generates a maximum of 22,650 lb of thrust.
The first run of the vehicle in October 28, 1996 in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada ended in a crash at around 675 mph. Returning in 1997 the vehicle badly damaged the engine on an early run and when the British ThrustSSC managed over 700 mph the re-engined Spirit could do no better than 676 mph. Breedlove believes the vehicle is capable of exceeding 800 mph, but has yet to demonstrate this.