Bonneville, Part Four: Pickups and Bikes

1952 Chevy Ute


Hey! Wait a minute! A 1952 El Camino? Nope. An Australian UTE. The attractions at Bonneville aren’t confined to the pits or the starting line. You can generally find interesting stuff at the Smith’s Supermarket parking lot in West Wendover, NV, which is the mandatory first stop before you head up to The Salt. Why? The Mickeys hand grenades are a full 5.2%, and in Utah, their nanny state prohibits the sale of anything above 3.2%.

1952 Australian Chevy Ute


Also, they’ve got ice, water and other necessities without which you will die. This Chevy sports heavy-duty patina. It’s likely that the pinstriping was applied in California.


RH-drive Australian Chevy UTE


Just so you doubters out don’t mistake this UTE for a California creation, check out the placement of the steering wheel and shift lever. They are on the wrong side of the car!  The Aussies, and Kiwis like Bryce, think this is normal. It AIN’T! The chrome trim beneath the driver’s window indicates the upscale Silverado package.


1957 Ford Ranchero


Skip ahead five years, and you’ve got this sweet ’57 Ranchero with ’54 Chevy grille teeth. The thing was perfecto mundo. The big difference between your Cars-and-Coffee-checkbook Lambos and The Salt is that the cars you see here have been driven, and some from great distances, to Speed Week. Even if you do nothing more than drive to the parking lot your car will pick up a ton of salt. It is like Velcro: It loves carpet and will not let go. When I go to The Salt I cover the floors and foot pedals with newspaper and Scotch blue tape.  Rental car companies in Salt Lake will add a $250 cleaning fee if they determine that your rental has been there.


Danny on the Yamaha Chappy.


Bikes, be they human- or gasoline-powered, are a big deal on The Salt. My friends and I like to set up our encampment just north of the pits. This places us about a mile north of the starting line. We generally bring along an assortment of mini bikes and four-wheelers to use as our local transportation. One of our crew opined that Danny looked like a “monkey f*cking a football” on his Chappy. We all agreed.


A really fast mojocycle.


Not being a member of the motorcycle cognoscenti, I have no idea what kind of bike this was or how fast it went. But generally speaking, orange bikes always go fast.


Triumph go-fast bike.


This might be a 250 cc Tiger, given that only one down-pipe is evident. Silver (aluminum) bikes also always go fast.


Too cool for school.


I don’t think this owner was going for a land speed record, but it’s a well-known fact that yellow bikes with three red engines always go fast.


Kawasaki 1000 cc streamliner.


Technically, streamliners  have four wheels. Any less than that and it’s it’s a motorcycle. This looks like it has only three, so it’s a motorcycle.


A very fast motorcycle/streamliner. Take your pick.


I overheard someone stating that this bike was “one m’effing fast sumbitch”, which I assume is a technical term as this m’effer ran about 230 mph (370 kph). Green bikes always go fast.


1955 Chevy Pickup.


Pickups are omnipresent at Bonneville, either as competitors, rides or push vehicles. Due to my crappy photography, super-subtle ghost flames on the hood and front fenders aren’t clearly visible.


1958 Ford Pickup.


This is a work vehicle, aka “push truck.” The orange windshield sticker indicates it’s a crew truck, while the semi-gloss black finish indicates an impossible-to-maintain paint job.


BSA Lightning?


Lee Wilcox is a purist. Purists care about stuff like speed, quality and other crap. On the other hand, those of us who’ve felt the throb of a Bonneville, Commando, or a Lightning between our loins (put on your OH! face) never could work up a chubbie for three-cylinder Kawasakis (or any other popcorn poppers) no matter how fast they were. What’s more, the British vertical twins sounded right and looked right. I didn’t care that I never came back from a ride with all the parts I started with.  British bikes shed parts. Like that’s a liability?


1953 Ford pickup.


Patina isn’t a quality found only in parking lots; you’ll also see it in the pits.


A go-fast flatty.


The picture under the hood tells a different story: a tidy and prepared flathead with three Strombergs. I don’t know how fast this pickup went, but it’s a well-known fact that pickups with lots of patina are very fast.




This Harley looks like it came straight out of a hill climb–note the major wheelbase extension.


A Texas Harley.


This thing looks like it has saddlebags. I e-mailed Gruene Harley, in New Braunfels, TX, midway between San Marcos and San Antonio, and asked how fast it went. They responded by putting me on their spam list. Do I care what their current promotion is? I think you know the answer.


Chevy Pickup with a Cool Flip-up Bed.


OK, then, here’s another example of “How fast can we make weird go?”


Your typical mid-engined Chevy pickup.


“Let’s put a Detroit Diesel midships in a Chevy pickup and go stupid fast!” I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure they did.


1949 Studebaker Pickup.


So you find a farm truck, shove in a huge GM engine (501 cu in +), take it to The Salt and set a record at 219 mph. Wowie zowie!


Studebaker engine department.


My uncle bought a new 1952 Stude pickup after he sold a registered black Angus heifer and calf for $18,500 in 1952. He was a registered black Angus breeder. By the time I became acquainted with the truck it was a stationary element of the family farm. I removed the spark plugs and threw them at the windshield. Result? One very ugly windshield. I was an all-star little league pitcher, and  I am not proud of the fact.

Next up: Who knows? I’ve taken over 400 photos at Bonneville and will be going back this year. These articles actually take effort, and that’s something that makes my brain hurt.

Bonneville, Part Five:  Funny Cars, Rat Rods, and Salty Humor