The rain thundered to the ground, and with it, came the hopes of many crashing down right alongside it. As they boarded their plane on that cold October day, it slowly became more apparent that perhaps all their hard work had been for naught. 763. A number that continued to boggle the imagination. It was far beyond anything they had even dreamed of. But they knew it was real, just as real as their dreams had been. The British had just set a new land speed record. 763 MPH, it just didn’t seem at all possible. But it continued to become more real with each passing day, as did the knowledge that it wouldn’t be their names in the record books.
Ed and Keith had met through a project based out of Washington, that planned to beat the world land speed record of 634 MPH set in 1983. What was peculiar about their meeting and becoming friends was that they both lived in the same town, not at all far from each other, but it was their love of racing that brought them together. From the day that they met, they had become best friends. They were always planning out the next thing to be done on the car, or how they should market it. All of that had come to a crashing halt though. How were they supposed to set a new record when a car had just gone supersonic? Going over 600 was certainly no easy feat, but do-able. The mere idea of going close to 800 MPH was a step beyond their own imaginations. That difference of 200 MPH was more than either of them thought possible. Ed Shadle past away after a long battle with cancer on September 7, 2018.
Joining the project after it had started, both Ed and Keith had each brought wide skills sets from their respective fields, and had proceeded to shake up the project. Having enlisted in the Air Force right out of High School, Ed had served as a cryptography communications specialist. Following his work overseas, he had joined IBM as a field engineer, and had the unique experience of leading a new era of mainframe computing. Keith on the other hand, had pursued a degree in Mathematics at Seattle University. With that degree, he went on to join Boeing as an Engineer, being promoted to the head of the local plant. What they shared in common though was their love of racing. From a young age, each of them had been brought up on building cars, and being able to go fast. When it came to bringing together a vehicle designed to go faster than a Boeing 737, building the car with their own hands was a feeling that couldn’t be matched. It wasn’t even that. It was a feeling of pride that they were doing something that no one else was willing to do. That’s why they loved what they did.
It wasn’t all roses though. The travel alone was tough for them. They had been so busy recently trying to raise money, that they were hardly ever home. Their time in California filming a segment about the car suddenly seemed wasted. Maybe part of the frustration really came from the project itself, not so much being beaten. No matter the aspect of the project, it always seemed to take far longer than it should have. The car itself was limited by its design as is, something set well before either of them had joined. It just never seemed to turn out quite the way that they wanted.
What had thrown both of them is that the British had broken the record all of the sudden. The British had set the previous record of 634 MPH in 1983 with the Thrust 2. That was the record that they had planned for so long to beat. They had of course known that that same group of people had been building a car designed to go supersonic (approximately 750 MPH), but none of them had believed it would ever work. But it had, and it had left them heartbroken.
Breaking what had been an overly long silence between them, as they slowly got comfortable in their seats for the long flight, it came down to the question on both of their minds. Ed turned to Keith and asked if there was anything that they could really do. The more that they talked, the clearer it became that every change, every idea they could come up with to change the car to go faster, simply wouldn’t be enough. The car that they had put so much of their time into would never be able to go supersonic. Any idea of breaking the existing record was clearly off the table. It wasn’t that they wanted to give up on the project, but what could really be done, especially after everything had changed so quickly.
That’s when the idea became real. To this day, we may never know who came up with it first, but that makes it no less real. At first, it was nothing more than a joke. What if they built a brand new car? The mere possibility of starting off on their own to build a car seemed crazy, ridiculous, and far beyond their reach. But with each passing minute, and every problem that a new beginning would give them, they latched onto the idea a little bit more. At some point in the conversation, they both knew it, even without saying, that they could never give up this kind of work, and this would be the perfect solution. A new start, done their way, the right way. As the plane lifted from the ground to take them home, they began to plan out what would become one of the greatest creations of their lives.