Sunday 16th March 1980
Marion Lee “Mickey” Thompson (59), an American off-road racing legend, died. A hot rodder since his youth, Thompson increasingly pursued land speed records in his late 20s and early 30s. He achieved international fame in 1960 when he became the first American to break the 400 mph barrier, driving his Challenger 1 to a one-way top speed of 406.60 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats and surpassing John Cobb’s one-way world record mark of 402 mph.
Thompson then turned to racing, winning many track and dragster championships. In the 1960s he also entered cars at the Indianapolis 500. Later he formed off-road racing sanctioning bodies SCORE International and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG).
In 1988 Thompson and his wife Trudy were mysteriously gunned down at their home in Bradbury, California. The crime remained unsolved until 2007, when a former business partner was convicted of having orchestrated the murders.