World Land Speed Record Attempts - in the sixties

Bonneville 1961

The 1960 season on the Salt was the greatest and most active in the history of the world's most famous straightaway speed course. Due to the greater - than ever enthusiasm and publicity it seemed inevitable that the '61 season would be equally memorable. It was, but with a difference.
In addition to the week of the annual Bonneville National Speed Trials seven weeks had been reserved last
spring for Land Speed Record attempts. Then, one by
one, each of these was canceled. Donald Campbell decided to make his second effort in Australia. Ermie Immerso decided to de-bug his twin-engine, fourwheel-drive streamliner by running it with a single engine and on a short course. Then Dr. Nathan Ostich and engineer Ray Brock went to the Salt early in, July and were appalled by what they saw: a surface so deteriorated that it seemed to be unfit even for short course cars to use. They canceled and were followed by Mickey Thompson, who also came, saw and threw in the towel.

The rumor had been circulated that the Salt was so bad that even the Nationals would have to be canceied. This proved to be untrue but undoubtedly kept many contestants away. Nevertheless about 125 showed-a fairly good crop for any' year-and a good meet was insured. And, through the excellent efforts of Utah's Road Commission, a very good, 8.5-mile course was prepared. It was choppy at the south end and through most of the second of the three timed-mile traps, after which it became as smooth as during an ideal year. Due to its bone dryness it provided the best bite in the Salt's history and it was safe to predict very fast times.
This was confirmed and spirits rose when Knot Farrington of New Orleans made one of the first runs. This year his T-Bird, powered by a GMC 6-71 blown, 429-cubic-inch Chrysler, had had its basically stock body made the foundation for a very beautiful streamlined shell. Knot rolled the maroon car off its trailer, pushed it to the starting line and streaked over the Salt at 217 mph . . . 17 mph over the existing record. The following morning he backed that up with a new two-way record of 212.774 mph and a couple of days later he boosted this to 219.254, an all-time record for gasoline-fuel machines.
Almost as startling was the performance of attorney Mark Dees of Pasadena. Dees's Tempest-engined streamliner could not be completed in time for this year's meet but Dean Moon offered him the hot-shoe post with his Devin-bodied Moonbeam. This un blown, 354-cubic-inch Corvette-powered special had only turned 174 mph the previous year but daring Dees nailed the throttle to the floor and hurtled through the traps at 202.72 mph on his first, warmup run. A piston or two melted in the course of this ordeal but these were replaced later in the week and Dees/Moonbeam boosted the B Sports Racing class record from 178.068 (where it had stood since '57) to 189.390 mph.
J. A. "Gus" Stallings was back for his third year. Gus, a dedicated follower of C/D, is a semi-retired Phoenix, Arizona automobile dealer who, though rich
in years, stays exuberantly youthful thanks to straightaway racing and a charming, equally enthusiastic wife. In '59 he drove his '57 300SL to the D Sports Racing class record of 143.769. Due mainly to the Salt's superior traction this year he raised that record to 144.839 mph with the same car.
In '59 and '60 Stallings also drove a 4.9 Ferrari with which he clocked a one-way 154.90. This year he gave the 4.9 back to Luigi Chinetti in -exchange for a new Farina Cabriolet with which he set the AHRA quarter-mile C Sports record of 96.15 mph in 14.69 seconds. According to the factory manual the new Ferrari's 28 percent overdrive-with 3.10 axle gears should propel it to a top speed of 162 mph. Stallings was sorely disappointed by having to prove, in the crucible of speed, that this was far more gear than the high-revving engine would pull. His best speed with this machine was 124.82 mph.
Stallings's experience was confirmed by John Douglas of Salt Lake City who had his hopes set on topping 150 mph with his 250 GT Ferrari. The engine had been modified, Douglas was pulling 3.64 gears and was prepared to go lower. But he could only wring 124.65 from the V12 before water began streaming from one of its tail pipes. He was "impressed by the slowness" of his and Stallings's Maranello mounts.
Far more cheerful about his Italian product was Ernest Schettler, prominent Salt Lake City businessman, local SCCA pioneer, member of the Salt Lake C of C's Bonneville Speedway Association and the first of those members actually to go racing on the Salt. Schettler entered the little Maserati Allemano 2000 GT coupe which he has been bashing around the roads of Utah since '58. Mechanic L. O. Leva had put a fine edge on the car's tune and Schettler set a new Class E GT record of 117.018; the previous record of 110.55 had stood since '58.
At the height of this activity construction engineer John Sconfienza of Butte, Montana wandered onto the Salt just to look around. He was driving a brand new DB4GT Aston Martin. Rod Schapel and Chuck Nerpel fell on him and insisted that he run the car through the traps since no Aston had ever been timed on the Salt. Sconfienza was easily persuaded and, right off the highway, turned a casual 132 mph. He watched the action for another day, clocked a more purposeful 137.40 mph
and vanished as he had come.

There was every bit as much activity in the smalldisplacement ranks. Ray Howe of Citrus Heights, California is a devout believer in the potential of EnFo engines. He entered his '60 Anglia which was stock except for a 1.5-inch SU carb and an, Aquaplane head. He turned 77.45 one way but was unable to top last year's Class E Touring Sports two-way record of 77.107 mph.
In E Touring Sports Class two Volvos vied with a supercharged VW. The '58 Volvo of R. C. Laton of Sacramento, California clocked 96.67 and the '60 model of Conie Robertson of Red Bluff, California turned a creditable 99.00 mph. But dominator of the class and one of the giants of the meet was Dick Beith, a high
school teacher from Concord, California. Last year Beith spent 55 cents preparing his '56 VW for the Nationals; this covered the cost of a used, second carburetor and of the tubing with which to attach it to the engine. He set the just-mentioned ETS record at 77.107. This year he went all out, investing in a 69.5 mm EMPI strokeI kit and camshaft and a Pepco Rootstype blower. He ported the cylinder heads generously and installed oversize Studebaker valves. To drive the blower he went to a bicycle shop and bought a few dimes' worth of chain and the smallest big sprocket and the largest small sprocket that he could find. This happened to give him a ratio of 2.2 to one which turned out to be just right even though it whirled the blower rotors at 12,000 rpm when the engine was turning 5000. Beith drove the VW to the Salt with the blower chain removed, just letting the rotors windmill in the air stream. Then he snapped the master link in place and
clocked 93.97 mph on his first run. Further tuning during the week enabled him to set a new ETS record of
101.69 mph, shutting off Wayne Thoms's 93.560 mph Borgward record which had stood since '59. Beith's pit crew consisted of students from the shop class which he teaches. . . very effectively, it's safe to guess.
In Class FGT Roy Elm of Fowler, California clocked. 101.92 mph with his '58 1500 cc MGA. Robert Sutton of Roseville, California turned 113.92 with his 1600 cc MGA. The team of Graff and Smith motored all the way.
Owner-driver Knot Farrington set Class A record of 219 mph in this Chrysler-engined Thunderbird. Car has topped 228 mph. from Orange, Connecticut to clock 106 mph with their '58 Porsche and John Crenshaw of Salt Lake City achieved an easy 110.92 mph with his '61' Alia Sprint Special.
The real power in this class was electronics engineer Harry Umemoto of Playa del Rey, California. He drove to the Salt in a '60 Porsche Super 90 coupe which he had modified with an Iskenderian 107 cam, compression raised to about 9.8 to one, slightly increased piston clearances and generally meticulous tune. On the first day, with a stupendous exhaust note, he clocked 115.38 mph. The class record of 114.157 had been set by Bill Scace in '58 with a roller-bearing Porsche Carrera roadster, without windshield. The next day Umemoto altered his combination in an effort to go faster, dropped to 95 mph. He worked throughout the week with the help of 200 mph Club member Phil Freudiger and on Friday qualified at 118.57 mph. On the following, final day he set a splendid new class record of 119.236 mph. Umemoto ran individual, straight exhaust pipes from each bank, their length determined to do the most good at about 6000 rpm. Graff and Smith of Orange, Connecticut had an identical exhaust system on their Porsche but it seemed not to do the job that Umemoto's did. The only detectable difference was that Umemoto had welded small bells to the tips of his pipes. A bettersounding engine never has been heard on the Salt.
In Class EGT Dennis Wavra of San Diego turned. 102.62 in a 2200 cc Triumph. Ralph Chase of Orange, N.J. drove his Paxton-blown Porsche 105.26. Bob Meyers of Lemon Grove, California led the class with a one-way 116.88 clocked by his two-liter TR-powered Morgan. Meyers, interestingly enough, is the year's top man in Southern California Timing Association point standings, a distinction earned with his fast and reliable Morgan.
A very good performance was turned in by David Babler of Santa Monica, who had installed a Hilborninjected, 301-cubic-inch Chev engine in his '56 Austin Healey. His best speed of 167.59 mph still was no match for the unforgettable 191.136 set by Joe Carboni in C Sports Racing class with a Chev-engined Devin special in '59.

The title of "World's Fastest Corvette" belongs justly to the supercharged machine with which Brian Chuchua gained the BGT class record of 171.746 in '60. This year he replaced the 316-cubic-inch engine's 4-71 blower with a 6-71, buckled on the hard top, added 150 pounds of ballast to the rear and clocked a one-way 178.21 mph.
Spectacular performances were made in all classes during' this year's Nationals, with a fastest speed for the meet of 313.780 by the 1710-cubic-inch Allison V12engined str~amliner of Art Arfons of Akron. More impressive, significant and praiseworthy was the one-way 302.317 mph clocked by' Bob Summers, driving the supercharged, 302-cubic-inch Summers Brothers' streamliner. Running with a very sick engine Summers still managed to set a new two-way record of 262.231mph . . . exactly ten mph over the existing FIA Class C record.
Bill Burke's pumpkin-seed streamliner which clocked 205.949 mph with a 156-cubic-inch Falcon engine last year was acquired by Mickey Thompson as a mobile test bed for his various hopped-up ve~sions of the Pontiac Tempest four. Burke continues to drive the car arid in mid-week was soaring happily down the course, taching between 255 and 265 mph when the GMC-blown, 183-cube Tempest let go. Searing water and oil spurted through tiny gaps in the 'firewall, burning the driver and covering the canopy so as to make vision impossible. Burke had no choice but to get out fast so he popped the chute and, an instant later, spun the car out to a standstill. He was only slightly shaken, the car was undamaged, a spare engine was installed but a rain storm prevented requalifying the car. Its best timed speed during the week was 235.22 mph but the FIA Class D record of 248.3 mph is well within this machine's potential.
A particularly impressive performance was turned in
by Els Lohn at the controls of his Wee Eel II streamliner which is powered by a Paxton-blown, 950 cc Morris engine. Lohn set the G Streamliner record at 144.116, with a one-way of 172 mph!
Imported cars and sports cars this year accounted for 23 percent of entries in the Nationals, a new high. The directors of the world's greatest straightaway event are delighted with this trend and hope that the percentage will be even higher next year. For your entry blank and rules write Bonneville Nationals, 14556 Lyle St. San Fernando, California.

World Records

to the 60ies

Bonneville 1949

Bonneville 1959

Bonneville 1963

Bonneville 1965

Bonneville 1970

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Author: ArchitectPage