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Dec. 6: Kitty O’Neil sets the women’s land speed record on this date in 1976

December 6, 2013

If you watched television or went to the movies in the late 1970s, you saw Kitty O'Neil; she drove the Bandit in "Smokey and the Bandit II," and she put on Wonder Woman's costume and lept 127 feet -- a record in its day for any stunt man or woman. That O'Neil was deaf -- due to a childhood combination of measles, mumps and smallpox -- only heightened her fame, which led to her shot at setting the land speed record in 1976. Driving a rocket-powered dragster called the Motivator, O'Neil set a two-way record of 512 mph on this date in 1976, and would have gone faster had she not run out of fuel. Due to weather and money disputes, O'Neil never got the chance at the overall record, and even as nearly four decades has passed, no woman has driven faster yet. O'Neil retired in 1982, and said in a 2005 interview she didn't miss the falling at all.

Photo: The Strong/UCLA Archive