Every time I come out to the salt flats in the West desert of Utah its an amazing experience and a phenomenal place to star gaze on moonless nights. The silence, desolation and solitude one experiences out here in the middle of the salt is something to behold, but its an entirely different experience during Bonneville Speed Week… Some of the fastest automobiles on the planet come out here every year to compete for world speed records and the echo of all manner of engines reverberate across the salt from just after sun up to just before sun down for an entire week in August. I’ve tried to make this a yearly journey since its so close to Salt Lake City and I’ve been fortunate to make it in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
There is always something new to see out here and this year did not disappoint and the absolute best light out on the salt is had at sunrise and sunset. This is not unusual, but out on the salt, that magic time happens faster than usual given the broad expanse of open… nothingness.
Over 520 cars were registered for this years running at Bonneville Speed Week. This beautiful chopped top 1953 modified Studebaker is owned by Gord Driedger out of Bragg Creek, Alberta, Canada.
I saw this 2001 Ferrari owned by Joseph Moch last year and it was back out again in search of a record run.
I’ve written about the desolation of the salt flats before. This image gives you some flavor of how sparse things are on the salt.
Hot rods of all flavors, sizes and shapes are on the salt. Some of them race, others are daily transportation.
This chopped coupe was from the Ogden area I think. I looked for the owners a couple of times, but was unable to find out more about this bitchin’ hot rod.
The Bean Bandits racing team out of San Diego has been coming to Bonneville for years and its always cool to see their various hardware on the salt. I love this belly tank racer.
This 1952 Buick Riviera owned and driven by Jeff Brock out of New Mexico was one of the coolest, most steampunk looking automobiles out on the salt. Pushing 165MPH out of a straight 8 is pretty impressive…
Ive been coming to Bonneville Speed Week for years and Jim Jensen has been there, always at the starting line. Jim is the chief started with the Southern California Timing Association.
I have a bias for the Studebakers out on the salt. A Studebaker coupe was my first car that my Dad and I restored and its always a thrill to see them still running. This 1954 Studebaker owned and driven by Terry Coe and Peter Thompson out of La Mesa, California holds a record for 265.618MPH, considerably faster than I ever managed to get mine going at.
I had a friend in high school with a ’68 Camaro that I thought was the bees knees. Its a shape that has always appealed, so this Camaro driven by Tony Taormina out of Reno, Nevada caught my eye. I don’t know if they got their record this year, but it should have been good for around 200MPH.
Meeting Simon Davidson out on the salt this year was a bit of a treat. Simon has been coming out to Bonneville for a number of years from his home in Sydney, Australia. His work has a definite spare, yet gorgeous style. Check out his website or his blog here.
This ’68 Plymouth Barracuda packed a decent sized Hemi that should have pushed it well on its way to 240MPH.
Every year there is some drama out on the salt. Thankfully, most years, nobody is injured or killed. Though this year there was a bit of a scare, as did Dick Knorr or Frank Kinney, the drivers of this 1970 Opel GT running a inline 6 at close to 200MPH found out when their car caught on fire. It was good to see the driver climb out and get the fire put out.
I did have a bit of a shock driving out on the salt when I saw what appeared to be a 1948 Tucker out on the salt. You have to realize that only 51 Tuckers were ever made to understand my surprise. Mike and Sean Tucker the great grandsons of Preston Tucker from Tucker Corporation it turns out had this automobile custom manufactured to look exactly like a 1948 Tucker. The body is fiberglass and they even crafted in “dents” and “rust” to make it appear to be an aging Tucker automobile. Very cool. Mike and Sean were also here at the salt flats with the Gyronaut X-1, a restoration of the record setting Triumph motorcycle that ran 245.667MPH back in 1966.
One of the fastest cars out at Bonneville was the Speed Demon, owned by George Poteet and Ron Main. Speed Demon is an automobile that has driven at 426 MPH out on the salt before. I watched that run in 2011 (cockpit view here) and it seemed just impossibly fast. in 2012, Speed Demon ran 427 MPH and I was able to see that run as well where it still blew my mind. To see an automobile travel that fast on a featureless plain is a sight to behold.
Unfortunately, I only had time for one day out on the salt this year. Grants and manuscripts have to be written, so back to town I had to go.