Bonneville, Part 2: Run Whatcha Brung

1968 Lincoln Continental, AKA, “The Brick”.


One of the mysteries of Bonneville is why people run the cars they do. If you or I were to sit down and create a car with which to attack The Salt, odds are we wouldn’t wind up with a ’68 Continental, which boasts the aerodynamic qualities of a brick. Since it takes cubic dollars to make bricks go fast, I had to ask the Lincoln’s owner, as tactfully as possible (tact is not my strong suit), “Why the f*ck did you build this thing?”

His answer was a model of linear logic–I think. “It was my street car, and it had 320,000 miles (515,000 km) on it. I knew it didn’t have many miles left, so we decided to see how fast we could make it go.” Yeah, of course. Just like any right-minded person would do.

It’s not apparent in the photo, but the engine has been set back slightly–in fact, back to where there once was a front seat. The driver sits in the second row. Incredibly, the car ran 206 mph (332 kph)!

1951 Nash Rambler “Chilli Pepper”.

In the interest of avoiding redundancy, I won’t lead off this second example with a word like ‘similar’, or ‘similarly’. In my opinion, any person who prepares one of these things is suffering from cognitive dissonance or perhaps something worse. I couldn’t, not even vaguely, become interested in this car no matter how fast it went. Just as Paul thought ’68 Galaxies exemplified all that was wrong in the world during the late ‘60s, I hold Nash Ramblers responsible for the Korean war police action, the erection of the Iron Curtain and the birth of ennui.

1941 Nash Aeropower Twin-Plug Coupe Brougham.

That said, this particular Nash interests me. In the early ‘40s Nash offered an overhead-valve six (with seven main bearings) and an eight (with nine main bearings) with what Nash called Twin-Ignition. Each cylinder had two spark plugs, one on each side of the head. I’m not sure which engine this Nash had, or if it was running one of the Aeropower engines, but it certainly would be interesting to see how fast it could go.

1949 Crosley.

Crosley stated that this series of cars were styled with “aircraft flavor”. I don’t recall any turd-like airplanes, but who am I to question Crosley’s marketing department? I don’t know what’s under the hood of this car, but it’s probably a OHC CoBra 44 cu in (724 cc) “Mighty Tin” engine (dubbed ‘CoBra’ because its block was fabricated from copper-brazed sheet metal and not cast). They weren’t very well suited for street use (corrosion problems), but did remain a favorite of SCCA racers well into the ‘60s. I believe that the car pictured ran about 98 mph (158 kph). I also believe that the paint job probably is worth more than the car itself.

Suzuki Samurai.

Three-cylinder thunder power? Yawn. But as one of my friends rebuked me, “He’s out there running, and you’re just a spectator.” Point taken.

Honda S600 coupe.

I like Honda 600s with grille guards. The Midwestern analog would be “tits on a boar hog”.

Another Honda 600, this one a sedan.

You don’t need a monster to compete at Bonneville…only commitment, desire, and $.

Fiat X-19.

Although I know a thing or two about cars, I simply have no idea what’s going on here. Maybe it’s intercooler plumbing?

Fiat X-19.

This thing wasn’t even a 10-yarder. It looked like it was made from paper maché.


Fiat X-19

I don’t think I’d drive this thing in a parking lot.

1948 Ford circle track racer.

This circle track owner/driver, from Portland, Oregon, told me he just wanted to see “what she could do” on The Salt.

1948 Ford circle tracker.

The result–some very scary behavior at about 140 mph (225 kph)–caused him to back out of it.

1948 Buick circle tracker.

The guy from Portland wasn’t the only circle tracker I found on The Salt. Notice the extreme body offset to the left? That dude was from Las Vegas.

1948 Buick interior.

This car was a ’48 Buick only in its sheet-metal. Its interior is very racy, and the horse collar indicates a race in 2005. I’m not certain, but it’s likely that the HANS device is now mandatory.

Engine bay in the 1948 Buick.

This guy probably ran The Salt before this photo was taken in 2005. The clue is the skinny front tires, since wide “flotation” tires don’t work at Bonneville.

Opel 1900 GT.

This Opel GT again compels me to wonder what motivates people to spend money, time and effort to bring all sorts of weirdness to Bonneville? Do they hope to set a record? Did they ask themselves “what if” after doing some some heavy drinking, and the answer was a Chevy Cavalier? And just what was this Opel’s owner (presumably Bill Ward) hoping to prove? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that putting a Chrysler Hemi or a big block Chevy into a slippery little thing will make it go scary fast, but for what payoff?

Chevy Cavalier, preflight.

In the case of this owner, it appears a Chevy Cavalier was indeed the answer. For a spooky example of aerodynamics gone wrong, check out this article and photo from the Salt Lake Tribune:

Bonneville, Part 3: Inline Insanity