Land speed records have been set and broken at the Bonneville Salt Flats for over 100 years and in that time a wide collection of very different machinery have made the attempt. Every August the 36,650 acre site in Wendover, Utah becomes known as the Bonneville Speedway and several hundred drivers compete to set highest speed in a range of different categories. This year’s event has attracted the customary collection of wild and wacky machines including dune buggies, Model T Fords and Studebakers with 1,000 horsepower.
The Southern California Timing Association has been running the Speed Week annually since 1949 and they try to keep the event just as fun as it was back in the days when leather helmets were the norm and the driver had no other protection. Although salt corrodes cars there’s no end of vintage machines on display throughout the week including the Ford Model A from the 1920s, Studebaker coupes from the 1950s and Chevy Monzas from the 1970s.
There are land speed records for just about every type of car including one-stroke and two-stoke machines. Some participants create their own cars combining machinery like a Ford Ranchero with a six-cylinder engine from a Datsun 280Z. Other teams turned their V8 machines into V4s to compete in a different class.
Aside from cars, the salt also plays host to motorcycles during August. The six day event hosts purpose built bikes ranging from 50cc to 500cc. These events are sanctioned by the AMA, whose manager of track racing, Ken Saillant, said, “Land-speed racing is one of the most unique disciplines that we sanction, from the motorcycles, to the diversity of the participants to the venue.” Riders are expected to put down some of the fastest runs over the final few days of the event. The current record of 376.363mph, which was set by Rocky Robinson in 2010, could well be broken.