A Drag Racing Icon Just Set a 184 MPH World Record for Electric Cars

By Robert Sorokanich on at

Don "Big Daddy" Garlits is one of the Old Masters of drag racing. The first driver to officially break the 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, and 270 MPH barriers on a 1/4 mile drag strip, his name is plastered across racing's many halls of fame.

Last week, at 82 years old, Garlits earned another record, driving the world's fastest electric-powered drag racer to a record-shattering 184.01 MPH on a 1/4 mile drag strip in Florida.

Garlits's car, the Swamp Rat 37 (Don's named most of his racers Swamp Rat), is powered by six GE 7.5-inch DC electric motors churning out 1,500 kilowatts of power—or nearly 2,000 horsepower. Four banks of lithium-polymer batteries add up to a total of 1,200 cells, juicing the motors with 420 volts at 3,600 amps. Check out Garlits' website for more details on SR-37.

When Big Daddy set out on April 30th, he was aiming to hit 200 MPH by the end of the quarter mile. He didn't quite make it to the double century, but on the final run he tripped the lights in 7.258 seconds at 184.01 MPH. That was enough to eviscerate the previous record of 159.85 MPH, set in 2007 by Dennis Berube in the Current Eliminator V.

Skip ahead to 4:43 in the video to see footage of the record-breaking run from the nose camera.

Electric race cars are starting to pick up serious speed in all types of racing. In full-out land speed record racing (where the course is significantly longer than a quarter of a mile), cars like the Ohio State University student-built Buckeye Bullet have topped 300 MPH.

For Garlits, the record-breaking run held special significance: it's been 50 years since he broke the 200 MPH barrier the first time, in 1964. Back then, his car was powered by a 396-cubic-inch supercharged V-8 sucking down dinosaur juice. The car is nearly silent now, but it's still Don's name in the record books. The more things change... [Wired]

Lead Image: Randy Cannon