The National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada
L’Association nationale des clubs automobiles du Canada
At night the cool cars are all over downtown Wendover. During the day the action is on the Salt...or should I saw in-action. Anyone used to drag racing had better just simmer down a notch as the ¼ mile just grew by 40 times and cars do not run down the course until the other car is safely off it. The starting line is a casual deal with the hot contenders running the long course and the smaller vehicles typically on the short course. The spectators line up perpendicularly from the starting point and make sure you stand near someone with a CB radio so you can keep up with the actions as that is the only PA system on the salt.
On our first trip to Bonneville someone burst out of a motorhome to tell us Gene Winfield had just spun 13 times at over 200 mph. No one was hurt so it was kind of cool to track down Gene in the pits to talk with him afterwards. From the Starting point to the Pits is a bit of a drive but you can wander through the pits and look at the cars and snap pictures...lots of pictures. There is an area where cars that break records are held for technical inspection to make sure they are within the rules for each class.
The drive to Bonneville is about as long as the drive to Edmonton...but with less Albertans...but there are lots of Canadians competing on the Salt. The town closest to the Saltfalts where the Bonneville Speedweek takes place is called Wendover and strangely enough it is located on the border with East Wendover being in Utah and West Wendover being in Nevada. Since it is a Casino town there are plenty of rooms...after the first weekend, since many teams arrive, race and break and then head out leaving rooms available. To be safe, book ahead of time.
Heading south of Vancouver to Seattle and then take I- 90 going East towards Spokane, then then I-82 to Yakima and then work your way to Twin Falls and head south. You could go for another couple of hours and stay at Jackpot in the Nevada before getting up the next morning and driving to the Salt. The trip is 1500 KM and takes about 14 hours of driving.
Once in Wendover, you should make time to visit the Airport and it’s little museum highlighting the Enola Gay Bomber that trained out of Wendover during WW II. You can climb inside an old aircraft and marvel at the original barracks that houses the airmen and crew back in the day.
Also in Wendover Hot Rods are everywhere. Most of the hotels have a few parked outside of them and during the early evenings the streets are plugged with salt covered machines cruising up and down the strip in some vague homage to American Graffitti but where the cops are all younger than the juvenile delinquents driving the hot rods. On the Salt the hot rods are there as well and they look so picturesque with the stark salt and mountains in the background. I was lucky to talk with many enthusiasts and get them to move their cars a few yards away to take amazing shots.
One local Vancouver guy Bert Straiton with an old Henry J with a Ford SHO mill in her allowed me to take a picture of him holding an old broken 45 record. Years ago when Straiton was there an oldtimer gave him a 45 record. Straiton asked what is this and the old timers said...”now you are a Record holder at Bonneville” Since then the record is always kept in the door pocket of his Henry J...and you guessed it, after it got cracked he is now “Broken a record” at Bonneville.
Not all the cars are there to break the sound barrier. Depending on the car and motor almost any car can set a record at a pretty modest speed considering now all the big three in Detroit make cars capable of 160 mph or more. One old Buick run by Jeff Brock of Rocket Heads Racing with body modifications more fitting a post apocalypse sci fi movie was running a straight 8 and managed to run 165.735.
It was an “XO GCC” meaning it was a “Competition Coupe or Sedan” and must have a chopped roof and other modifications and the XO class for engines consists of inline engines with a flatheads or overhead valves, flathead V8 except Ford or Mercury and V12 passenger engines of designs prior to 1959. This class of engines is typical of what ran at the Southern California Dry Lakes in the 40’s and 50’s.
One the first day of runs local boys... “Original Fast Guys II” ran a top speed of 241.918 mph at the mile 2 point and then slowed down by 10 mph at the mile 3 point. Later in the week they ran a 271.041 mph. They were running a Lakester GL body/chassis with a C engine (306 thru 372 cu. In.)
Streamliners come in classes from BFS/ FS/ BGS/GS/DS with at least two wheels covered and a minimum of 4 wheels....but the wheels do not need to be in a rectangle. Lakesters cannot cover the wheels with any aerodynamics and front air dams cannot be wider than the inner vertical plane of the narrowest set of tires. Lakesters come in BFL/ FL/ BGL/and GL with minimum wheelbases from 110 to 80 inches depending on the engines used. The alphanet soup you are required to learn to figure out the competition means any dyslexics should take up short track dirt ovals.
Another BC boy, Roger Manson with his polished Jeep powered by an early 60’s Pontiac 4 cylinder turned out (meaning leaving the course before going the distance) It seems one of Connecting rods wanted a better view of the action and put a window in the side of the block...but Roger has another 4 blocks ready to go...another has gone through 50 of them in his racing days.
Many competitors stayed away this year knowing the surface would not be optimum as the rain had not fully evaporated. Monday August 12 saw 315.861 mph from the AA BFL of Wolfe-Strasburg-Hiltunen. The AA designation for the Engine means it is larger than 501 Cu. In or 8 litres and the BFL means it is a Lakester.
Tuesday saw the A powered BFS Streamliner of Dalton, Jackson & Mayer ran a 369.163 on the long course and it was significantly higher than almost all the other cars running the long course...with the exception of the D (261 thru 305cu. In) powered BFS Streamliner of Poteet & Main Speed Demon that ran a 424.748 mph. Wednesday’s highlight was the A powered (440 thru 500 cu. In) BFS Streamliner of Dalton, Jackson & Mayer running a 336.166mph. Thursday the C powered BFS “Speed Demon” of Poteet & Main ran a 436.140 mph.
So deciphering the letters leaves one stumped...two BFS Lakesters running almost 100 mph different and the smaller engine one more than a third smaller engine. Forget the Math...just figure out how to get the time off and go to Bonneville.
So many cool people to meet and cars to look at it should be on every Gearheads Bucket list...and it only cost $15 a day to get on the salt to be part of the action.
PS a special tip handed down to me from guys that learned the hard way...were briefs not boxers as the glare from the salt means the sun can reach up your shorts and BURN!!!