Car Culture

Jessi Combs, the 'fastest woman on four wheels,' dies at 39

Combs reportedly died while attempting to beat her own land speed record.

Jessi Combs
North American Eagle

Racer, television personality and general badass Jessi Combs died Tuesday, after crashing her jet-powered land speed record car in the Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon, according to a local news report. She was 39 years old.

Combs earned the title of "fastest woman on four wheels" after setting a land speed record of 398 miles per hour in 2013. In 2018, she drove her jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger to 483 mph during a shakedown run.

Her death was confirmed on Instagram by a teammate on Wednesday morning.

A skilled fabricator, Combs was well-known for her appearances on several TV shows, including Overhaulin', All Girls Garage and Mythbusters. Combs was also a skilled off-road racer.

"I knew Jessi from around the off-road scene, though we never actually raced against each other," writes Roadshow's own racer, reviews editor Emme Hall. "I always looked to her career path as a model for my own, and seeing how she was able to earn a living by just being the knowledgeable and quirky Jessi Combs has always been inspiring. She will be missed terribly by all who knew her."

"Jessi was the most fearless person I've ever met," writes Executive Editor Chris Paukert, who worked closely with Combs on Autoblog's series The List: 1,001 car things to do before you die. "I can't even say she was the bravest, because it's almost like fear wasn't an emotion that ever really registered with her. If it had any impact at all, it was fuel, a motivator. She wanted to see and do everything anyone could do related to metal, power and speed. Jessi had an unquenchable energy and drive, and she managed to be that intense while still being immensely fun to be around -- a trick that most hyperfocused and accomplished people somehow never manage."

"It may seem a little crazy to walk directly into the line of fire," Combs said of herself on Twitter earlier this month. "Those who are willing are those who achieve great things. People say I'm crazy. I say thank you."

Correction, 5:47 p.m. PT: A previous version of this story said Combs was 36. She was 39.