World Land Speed Record Attempts - in the fifties

Bonneville 1959

11th Annual Bonneville Speed Trials

In 1959 MG built the EX181 record car and Phil Hill drove it to a record 254.91 m p h
THE CARS, the speed and the atmosphere this year were a far cry from what transpired on the salt flats 11 years ago at the first Bonneville National Speed Trials.

In 1949, a group of several hundred dedicated enthusiasts came, mostly from the western states, to Wendover, base of operations on the Utah-Nevada border, to run their predominantly home-built cars through the electronically timed speed traps.

After a week of runs in which 38 cars were timed (each driver made as many runs as he cared to-or until the car collapsed from over-exertion), the average of all fastest qualifying runs was 134.06 mph.

This year, with 122 cars timed, the average speed for all fastest runs came out to 162.03 mph: an increase of 27.97 mph in 11 years. The top speed of the meet was raised from 193.54 mph (Xydias-Batchelor Special on one leg of its record run) in 1949, to the 362.318 mph recorded by Mickey Thompson's Challenger I on a qualifying run: an increase of 168.778 mph. 

Sports cars began to make an appearance at the Speed Trials (originated primarily for the hot-rod enthusiasts) few years ago and an attempt was made to categorize them. Very few sports car owners were interested in preparing a car for this type of competition, so entries were at a minimum, to say the least.

Establishing and enforcing sports car regulations is a task that could only be undertaken by the foolhardy, or by persons with little regard for their own personal safety (anyone who has worked tech inspection, rules or competition committee with sports car competitors will understand). For the 1959 Speed Trials, a committee headed by Jim Frostrom and Dean Batchelor was appointed to set up sports car classes that would offer fair and equitale competition to all makes and models.

As a result of many hours spent poring over FIA, SCCA and CSCC rule books, the committee established 3 categories: Touring Sports, with four engine classes; Grand Touring Sports and Sports Racing, each with five engine classes.

Thirty one cars, including a Volkswagen, Borgward TS sedan, Porsche, 2 MG-A's (one a twin-cam), 8 Corvettes, 2 T-Birds, 3 Mercedes 300-SL's (one with a Chrysler engine), 2 Jaguars, a Ferrari Super America and the rest home built specials, were entered this year. The speeds ranged from the VW's 67.56 mph to a Chevy engined, Devin-bodied special at 191 mph.

Running a car against the unrelenting, and super-accurate clocks at Bonneville is not so exciting to competitors, or spectators either, for that matter, as dicing around a road course with several dozen other drivers, but, as one competitor put it, "I learned more ahout tuning my car during this week than I did in six months before."

One owner has a story telling how he raised the speed of his MGA 1500 from 89 to 101 mph during 20 runs made on the salt, a feat that could be duplicated by any MGA owner.

to the 60ies

Bonneville 1949

Bonneville 1961

Bonneville 1963

Bonneville 1965

Bonneville 1970

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Author: ArchitectPage

Shadoff Special 258 cu.inch Plymouth V-8 2 way average 251.74 mph driver Bob Bowen
Joe Carboni was unhurt in tyre burst crash at 191.136 mph
Borgward TS 93.94 mph
Challenger 1 of Mickey Thompson two way 330.125 mph run 4 Pontiac V-8's
L.Payne's Chrysler Special 132.74
Bill Scapes Corvette
Bill Scapes 300SL Mercedes-Benz
Lynn Wineland's T-Bird 134.94 mph
Dean Moon's Moonbeam 169.81 mph