About John Ackroyd

Design Engineer Extraordinaire

Picture of John Ackroyd John Ackroyd, design engineer extraordinaire, has been a key man in a mad mix of land speed and long distance balloon record attempts, including the first supersonic land speed record. Whenever a record was broken, behind the jubilation and celebration John was there, a vital member of the delighted but exhausted crew whose creative expertise helped to make it happen. Whenever the attempt failed or bailed out, he was there too, with the chase crew or the search and rescue operation. John's book gives a fantastic insight into the frustrations, tragedies and triumphs of record breaking. He describes battles against the odds, the whims of the weather, the constraints of time and money and the often strange intervention of fate.

Project Thrust, Virgin Atlantic, Pacific and Global balloons, Earthwinds, Thrust SSC, Spirit of America, rocket motorcycle, rocket dragster, wheel-driven record breakers and waterspeed attempts are all here. The personalities and places are brought to life by intimate and dramatic photographs which capture the mishaps, the dashed dreams, the determination and the moments of glory. The story is told by the man who, armed with nothing more than a sharp pencil, a huge drawing board and a sense of adventure, provided solutions, innovations, design answers and real problem solving which were major contributions to the record breaking achievements on land, sea and air in the last quarter of the 20th Century.


1937-1944. Born in India and came to England with German V2's raining down.
1945-1953. Attended school and college in England until 1953.
1953-1960. Obtained an apprenticeship at Saunders-Roe in East Cowes and received first class training, finishing up in the design department working on the SR 53 project which was subsequently cancelled.
1960. Short term contract at ERA. Dunstable.
1960-1961.Trained as a junior engineer at Union Castle, Southampton and joined SA. Farmer bound for South Africa.
1961-1962. Working at Wellworthy Pistons, Lymington, Hampshire.
1962-1965. Working at Q.E.T.C. at Leatherhead, Surrey.
1965-1968. Working as a design engineer on the “Cushion craft” [early hovercraft] at St Helens.
1969-1971. Move to Germany working as a design engineer for Dornier.
1971-1973. Returned to Isle of Wight and worked as a designer on the electric cars at Somerton Works, Northwood, Cowes, factory closed due industrial dispute.
1974-1976. Returned to Germany to work for Audi. Whilst working in Germany received an offer to set up and design electric cars on the Greek island of Syros. Cars were made on the island and returned to Isle of Wight for equipping. Cars to expensive and production ceased.
1976-1977. Read an advertisement asking for a designer to design a 650 MPH. land speed record car, applied and got the position. This was “Thrust 1” sponsored by Richard Noble. 1977-1978. Thrust project runs out of funds, return to Germany working for Porsche.
1978. Left Germany and returned to work on the Thrust project at Ranalagh Works, Fishbourne.
1979. Manufacture of car starts using ex. RAF. Lightning jet engine.
1980. 27 foot prototype car rolled out from Ranalagh Works. Engine and afterburner test carried out. Car to RAF Leconfield and proving runs completed. UK land speed record of 248 MPH achieved at Greenham Common.
1980-81. Car back to Ranalagh Works, more powerful jet engine fitted to the car [Avon 302] and car streamlining fitted. September 1981 car to Bonneville Flats. America, for testing and possible record attempt. Testing going well, 300mph achieved then 400mph but rain flood test track, back to Ranalagh Works to modify wheels, June 1982, modifications completed and car to Greenham Common for proving, parachute fails and brakes burn out, car damaged, back to the island for repairs.
September 1982. Car to America, salt flats flooded, Different venue in Nevada, 4th November Thrust achieves 590 mph, winter snow arrives. Back to the island.
May 1983. Back to America, poor weather conditions inhibit record attempt, money running low, crisis time.
4th October 1983. Thrust 2 achieves 633.468 MPH, back to the UK and the team breaks up.
1984. Work starts at Sandown airport on AVR Super 2 to break sound barrier, working on design of back end, but money dries up and work ceases.
1984. Due to work on the new car coming to a halt, moved to Amsterdam working on the Fokker 50 aircraft.
1985. Saw an advert for a pressure capsule designer for the “Endeavour“ balloon attempt, got the job and returned to England. Capsule made at Island Plastics Ltd, East Cowes. Work proceeding slowly, money not forthcoming.
1986. Flew to America to work on Sammy Miller’s attempt on the world ice speed record, record attempt unsuccessful, returned to UK to work on “Endeavour” but backer pulls out.
From here onwards John’s career progressed into the design of balloons and capsule and we have included a copy of his book entitled “Pacific Flyer”.

Currently John is working on a new land speed record car and other projects.