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Review of Mickey Thompson: The Lost Story of the Original Speed King in His Own Words

Review of Mickey Thompson: The Lost Story of the Original Speed King in His Own Words
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By Tom Madigan

Review by: John Gunnell

Mickey Thompson was an L.A. Times pressman who became a hot rodder, professional racing driver and off-road events promoter. He competed in everything from the Mexican Road Races to the Indy 500, with drag racing and off-road racing thrown in.

In the 1970s Tom Madigan, the author of this latest book on Thompson’s life and career, began writing a biography of his friend, but after two years of work it was put aside – until now. This new book marks the completion of that project combined with timeless B&W photos of Mickey Thompson supplied by Collene Campbell; Getty Images; Don Gillespie; Dog Hays; Bob McClurg; Greg Sharp; Danny Thompson and Madigan.

Thompson’s backyard-built Challenger I, with four Pontiac V-8s, was the first piston-engined car to hit 400 mph and made him an international star. He had drag raced in the early ‘50s and then competed in the Mexican road races. In the early ‘60s, he raced in the Indy 500. By the late ‘60s, he was driving Mustang and Pinto funny cars for Ford.

Thompson’s funny car won the 1969 NHRA Spring Nationals and U.S. Nationals with Danny Ongais driving. By then, Thompson had started an aftermarket performance parts business. He added Mickey Thompson Performance Tires. In 1973, he founded Score International to promote off-road events. He and his wife Trudy also created Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG). On March 16, 1988, Thompson and Trudy were assassinated outside their home in Bradbury, Calif. in a case that wasn’t solved until 2007, when a former business partner was convicted of being behind the crime.

Tom Madigan had a lot to write about when he started this book about the man known as the “Speed King” almost 50 years ago. Now, his notes, interviews and photo collections have become a part of auto racing history.