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December 6, 1976 – Kitty O’Neil sets a land speed record

Kitty O’Neil

On this day in 1976, daredevil Kitty O’Neil successfully set the women’s land speed record in Alvord Desert in Oregon. The run came after Kitty met Bill Fredrick, a stunt technology maker, when she was a stuntwoman herself. Fredrick built the SMI Motivator, and recruited Kitty to pilot it. She accepted the challenge and set out to conquer the existing women’s land speed record of 308.506 mph (496.492 km/h). It had been set in 1965 by Lee Breedlove in the Spirit of America – Sonic 1. 

SMI Motivator

Kitty landed a $20,000 contract to drive the vehicle, under the stipulation that she could not pursue the broader (men’s) land speed record of 630.478 mph (1014.656 km/h). Stuntman Hal Needham chased that record in the same car. She agreed to the terms and put the pedal to the metal. When the dust settled she had smashed the women’s record with an official speed of 512.710 mph (825.127 km/h).


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