A VISIONARY engineer and family man, known for breaking the land speed world record, has died at the age of 83.

John Gilbert Ackroyd was born in Muttra, India, on January 31, 1937 to father Major HJ Ackroyd and mother Kay, and brought up in the foothills of the Himalayas until the age of seven when the family returned to wartime England.

Mr Ackroyd was the eldest of two siblings, growing up with brother, David.

After primary education, he was sent to prep school in Folkestone and then to Ardingly College where he achieved excellent academic qualifications.

Isle of Wight County Press: A young John Ackroyd in India in 1937.A young John Ackroyd in India in 1937.

He followed his dream of becoming an engineer through a first class apprenticeship at Saunders-Roe in East Cowes.

While at Saunders-Roe his career nearly came to an abrupt halt during a water fight when he let fly with a bucket of water on an opening door and soaked the head of the company and a group of important delegates from the Russian Embassy.

Although the Russians found it amusing, he had an awkward discussion with the boss afterwards.

His final training task was in the design department working on the SR53 prototype fighter aircraft which operated a cutting edge mixed jet and rocket propulsion system.

Daughters Anna and Lisa were born in 1963 and 1965 respectively, with their childhood split between the Island, Greece and Germany, depending on where their father was contracted to work.

Isle of Wight County Press: John Ackroyd with daughter Anna (left) and granddaughter Moza (right).John Ackroyd with daughter Anna (left) and granddaughter Moza (right).

Mr Ackroyd was a cornerstone of world records and would bring impossible projects to life at every opportunity.

His amazing career saw him design and build vehicles that were way ahead of technology, achieving the impossible time after time.

His feats include the design and build of Thrust 2, which broke the world land speed record at 633.468mph.

He also held records for long distance hot air balloons; the Spirit of America jet powered car; rocket motorcycles; rocket dragsters and rocket sleds.

Mr Ackroyd was involved with the first ever production electric car and numerous other wheel driven record breakers and waterspeed attempts.

Ryde became the geographical hub of Mr Ackroyd's life, with much of his brilliant work centred there, and he embodied the attitude that anything can be achieved on the Isle of Wight.

Isle of Wight County Press: Left to right: John's daughter Lisa, John, and grandchildren Luca and MozaLeft to right: John's daughter Lisa, John, and grandchildren Luca and Moza

Although his exciting life also took him to many far flung places, he carried out much work to promote the Island as a centre for innovation and creativity.

Mr Ackroyd’s hard work in engineering and invention was recognised later in life through the Isle of Wight Hidden Heroes project and he was awarded the Freedom of Ryde in 2018.

He was well known for his charm and good character and his crowning glory was building up a global network of friends and family.

His amazing life was spent making machines that changed the world, but it is the people who will miss him most.

Isle of Wight County Press: John Ackroyd during a Cowes Week rideJohn Ackroyd during a Cowes Week ride

In later life, Mr Ackroyd suffered with Alzheimer’s, and died at home on January 25 at the age of 83.

He leaves behind daughters Anna and Lisa, grandchildren Moza and Luca, brother David and partner Meryel Boyd.

The fascinating story of his life can be read in the book 'Jet Blast and the hand of fate’.

Due to Covid restrictions, funeral capacity will be limited, but the family are planning a celebration of Mr Ackroyd’s life in Ryde in January 2022 with all welcome.

For notification of the event, please contact design@recordprojects.com.