CHICAGO (CN) — Racing legend Norman “Craig” Breedlove says Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry caused $395,000 in damage to his Spirit of America racecar that has been exhibited there since 1965.
In a June 3 lawsuit filed in federal court in Illinois, Breedlove says he agreed to loan the famous car to the museum to “maintain the condition and historical significance of the Spirit of America and to make it available to the public.”
In 1958 Breedlove, then just 21, decided to try to beat the British-held world land speed record. He “was convinced that with a combination of American ingenuity and commitment, and some corporate sponsorship, he could design and build a vehicle that would accomplish his goal,” says the complaint.
He secured sponsorships from Shell Oil Company and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, and used a “surplus military J-47 jet engine” and “hand-fabricated its welded tubular steel framework,” all in his father’s garage in Culver City, California, Breedlove says in the lawsuit.
In 1963 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Breedlove got the Spirit of America up to 407.45 miles per hour, breaking the world land speed record and inspiring the Beach Boys to write a song named after the car.
The following year, he beat his own record, hitting 526.277 miles per hour, “making Breedlove the first human to travel on land at over 500 miles an hour,” says the complaint.
The Spirit of America was on loan to the MSI for 50 years, and was returned to Breedlove in October 2015.
Breedlove says that while at the museum “unsupervised school children…were allowed unimpeded access” to the car and “carved their names and miscellaneous graffiti on the vehicle’s historic hand-formed aluminum skin panels and custom historic paint surfaces.”
The jet engine mountings were damaged from what “appeared to have come from people putting their feet on or into the jet engine intake ducts,” and the custom driver’s seat, tanks and turnaround dolly were all completely missing.
The car’s frame “had been unprofessionally cut and re-welded,” possibly to move it around the museum, and “in an attempt to hide its negligent care” of the car the museum had repainted all of the panels, says the complaint.
Breedlove claims it will cost $395,000 to restore the car to its original condition.
MSI’s spokesperson, Renee Mailhiot, said the museum could not comment on the litigation. “We can assure our community that the Museum goes to great lengths to take expert care of all of the artifacts in our collections, and we are confident that this situation can and will be resolved satisfactorily,” she added.
Breedlove is suing the MSI for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and gross negligence. He is represented by Freeman, Freeman & Smiley LLP in Los Angeles and Horwood, Marcus & Berk Chartered in Chicago.
Breedlove, who still lives in California, eventually broke the world land speed record again, reaching 600.601 miles per hour 1965. He has continued to build racecars, according to the Hotrod Network.
The current world land speed record was set by Andy Green of Britain in 1997 at 763.035 miles per hour.
- Iconic Statue Faces Diplomatic Hit in 9th Cir.
- Clinton Locks Up Nomination, Making History