The Contenders : The North American Eagle


  • Length: 53ft
  • Weight: 5.8 Tons
  • Expected Speed: 800mph
  • Horsepower: 52k
  • Driver: Ed Shadle
  • Propulsion: F-104 Starfighter Jet Engine

The first challenger out of the blocks in the USA/Canadian effort, the North American Eagle.  With the British, Australian and New Zealand cars attempting the 1000mph mark, the Washington based team hope to top 800mph as soon as November 2011.The North American Eagle project is managed by Ed Shadle, 70, who has been building vehicles for 30 years and project managed for IBM . Shadle is also the driver of the car and participates in other land speed racing efforts with cars competing in the Roadster and Lakester classes. His first project dates back to a  soap box derby in 1954!  The 11 year-old North American Eagle is built around the chassis of a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, with an engine which can produce as much as 52,000 horsepower.  The car has four main methods of stopping, firstly they have the high speed air brakes, the same ones that were used on the Starfighter itself. After the air brakes are called into action, the high speed parachutes are fired (at 700mph) and then the low-speed parachutes at 350mph followed by the crafty Anti Skid Neodymium Magnet, a rare earth magnet that combined will pull the car to a halt.

Completed in 2004, the NAE has totalled 23 test runs  between March 2006 and June 2008. Speeds as high as 400 mph have been claimed, but not verified. A location for the 800mph run however still remains undecided. The Black Rock Desert in Nevada has been deemed inadequate by both the Bloodhound SSC and NAE teams due to its uneven surface, caused by a certain hippie festival. Edwards Airforce base remains an option however the 11.5 mile track could prove too short for runs at such speeds. The answer could lie in the Diamond Valley in central Nevada, a track that offers a 15-mile stretch of flat, uninterrupted land, however team manager Shadle will have to persuade the Burea of Land Management before he gets the green light.

Sheran is confident he has the vehicle to bring the land-speed record back to America for the first time since Gary Gabelich’s Blueflame set the 622mph record in 1970.

“We’re battling the two biggest hurdles, money (no title sponsor) and mother nature,” Ed said. “The car is pretty much ready to go.”

“They (BHSSC, AI, JB) have a very tall order with very high risk, so I don’t believe it will be an overnight success for them,” he said. “They are a very tenacious bunch and I expect them to give it a go as soon as possible, probably within two years.”

“First, we believe that America needs something to be proud of at this particular juncture, along with a hero or two. When the British or any other country can transport their vehicle to the United States, utilize US resources and take the record and research information back to England without so much as a “bye your leave”, there is something dreadfully wrong.”

The downside of the NAE’s approach to the land is the risk they are taking with the design of the car. The shape of the vehicle itself was created to fly and not run along the ground. Creating a LSR car is not as simple as removing the wings and adding wheels to a aeroplane that has reached huge speeds in the sky.The team has fitted 3 sets of wheels, with a centre set added to take the bending loads out of the fuselage, and they are still assessing the F-104’s aerodynamics on the ground. However, any big changes to the aerodynamics of their existing Starfighter fuselage will be a major challenge for the team, however the romance of their LSR attempt is there for all to see. In 2008, Shadle announced that he would not be the driver for the NAE’s all important 800mph runs in Nevada. At 70 years old, he is by far the oldest driver in the competition, and there was talk of giving the responsibility to the winner of a NAE essay competition. This however never materialised and Shadle is expected to take to the wheel come November. The NAE team may well also have the added bonus of  superstition on their side. The donor Starfighter aircraft, had the tail number 763 – the current record speed (terrifying!)

Above: F-104 Starfighter, the basis of the North American Eagle.

* Multi-millionaire? Not quite……