The first land vehicle to break the speed of sound, which is housed in Coventry Transport Museum, has been honoured with an award that puts it alongside engineering greats such as Concorde and The Channel Tunnel. The iconic 54ft long Thrust SSC reached a speed of 764mph in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada in October 1997 and has since been on permanent display in the museum's land speed gallery.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has now presented the team behind the vehicle and the museum with the Engineering Heritage Award. It is only the 125th award to be gifted by the IMechE since it established the honour in 1984.
Concorde, The Channel Tunnel, The E-Type Jaguar and Alan Turing’s Bombe at Bletchley Park are all previous recipients of the award.
The Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor John Blundell, said: “Coventry is known for its innovation and our inventions have helped to change the world. Thrust SSC is a vehicle that means so much to the city and now it takes its rightful place among some incredible, iconic achievements in engineering. Coventry’s part in revolutionising transport is on show for everyone to see at Coventry Transport Museum and awards such as this are a great way of highlighting and recognising that as we approach our year as UK City of Culture in 2021.”
John Wood, the chair of the IMechE Engineering Heritage Award, said deciding which feats of engineering to honour was challenging. He added: “When it comes to individual artefacts, it’s not an easy decision to make and our aim is always to ensure that only the very best and unique are honoured by the award.
“We are now in our 36th year and Thrust SSC is only the 125th award to be given. The vehicle and the team behind it were working in completely unchartered territory and what they achieved was quite extraordinary. We are very pleased to honour this vehicle with this award and hope it inspires the young engineers of the future in particular to head to the museum to see it in all its glory.”
Francis Ranford, Cultural & Creative Director of Culture Coventry, which manages Coventry Transport Museum, said: “The museum tells the story of the past, present and future of transport and the Thrust SSC is one of our star objects. We are thrilled that this pioneering vehicle has been presented with this important accolade and we are delighted to accept the award alongside the team behind the development of the vehicle.”
Visitors to Coventry Transport Museum can ride a 4D simulator that puts them at the heart of the land-speed record attempt. Tickets for the simulator are priced at £5 for adults and £3.50 for concessions.