Mickey Thompson was born in Alhambra, California. In his early twenties, he worked as a pressman for the Los Angeles Times newspaper while pursuing a lifelong love of Hot rodding. Raising his sights, he became involved in the new sport of drag racing. Tireless and innovative, he found success both as a championship driver and an instinctive automotive technician.
Over the course of his career Thompson set more speed and endurance records than any other man in automotive history. He is credited with designing and building the first slingshot dragster, in 1954, moving the seat behind the rear axle to improve traction when existing racing tires proved unable to handle the output of increasingly powerful custom engines. A change so momentous would not happen again until Don Garlits introduced the rear-engine digger in 1971. Thompson also was noted for being the first manager of Lions Drag Strip near Long Beach, California, in 1955.
Challenger 1 past 400 mph in 1960
Determined to set a new land speed record Thompson achieved international fame when he drove his four-engine Challenger 1 past 400 mph in 1960 at the Bonneville Salt Flats, becoming the first American to break that barrier and setting a new one-way mark of 406.60 mph, surpassing John Cobb's one-way high of 402 mph.
In 1965 Thompson published "Challenger: Mickey Thompson's own story of his life of speed." In 1968, he redesigned the funny car, and went on to win the 1969 NHRA Spring Nationals and NHRA Nationals with driver Danny Ongais. In his long career, Thompson raced everything from stock cars to off-road vehicles and engineered numerous competition engines. He went into the performance aftermarket business in the early 1960s and then, in 1963, he created "Mickey Thompson Performance Tires" that developed special tires for racing including for Indianapolis 500 competitors.
He is credited with designing and building the first slingshot dragster, in 1954, moving the seat behind the rear axle to improve traction when existing racing tires proved unable to handle the output of increasingly powerful custom engines.
On March 16, 1988, Thompson and his wife Trudy were killed by two hooded gunmen outside their home in Bradbury, California in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountain. An intense police investigation failed to uncover either the identity of the mystery gunmen, or a motive for the crime. It remained a dead-end until 2001, when former Thompson business partner Michael Frank Goodwin was charged in Orange County, California with the murders. On June 8, 2004, Goodwin was formally charged with the murders in Pasadena in Los Angeles County. In October 2006, a Pasadena Superior Court judge ordered Goodwin to stand trial.
In 1963, he created "Mickey Thompson Performance Tires"