Words by Justin Baas
Pictures by Tim Sutton
It’s been a long couple years now to get the Bonneville itch scratched and Speed Week 2016 was worth it. Salt conditions appeared pretty good after the scare Mother Nature and government neglect have given us all the last few years. It's still a long way from coming back to what it once was, but the fine folks at SCTA were able to track down enough decent salt to prep the standard 3 and 5 mile course as well as 2 mile course for the rookies, which was a new addition. Over 500 entries crowded on to the salt this year, and if you look at the records that fell, there was some serious competition.
Hop Up had done a quickie Bonneville preview of some of our favorite vintage powered roadsters a month or so before the journey to the salt began, and to our delight all of them scored records. Kenny McKuch put about 20mph on one of the oldest and most sought after records, flathead-fuel modified roadster (xf/fmr) with a two way average of 182.023. Next up was our pal Gary Odbert's blown Cad flathead powered modified roadster (xxo/bgmr) who bumped the record to 173.192 and the last roadster we previewed was the old 1243, the ex Hop Up/ Mark Morton car that is now owned and ran by the Peckerheads out of Reno NV. With Chris Boutilier behind the wheel, the crew was able to jump in the good book with a record speed of 123.534 for the little banger powered modified roadster (v4f/gmr).
The talk of the meet was the return of the Thompson name, with Mickey’s son Danny showing up with his pop’s old twin engine Challenger 2 streamliner. Originally built in 1968, it was reengineered to a high degree and still piston-powered. It was pretty damn impressive seeing that car run on the salt for the first time in decades. It was mind-blowing to see the long blue missile leave the line with a quick bump start instead of the standard 1/4 mile push most of the big boys begin with. Danny finished some family business on the salt and did his old man proud. When it was over, the younger Thompson (he’s 67) put the family name back into the record book with a two way average of 406.769.
This year’s much-delayed Speed Week was worth the wait with about 100 records falling in total. Most of the Bonneville regulars, the Lattins, Kowalski, Eric Hansson, the Bean Bandits, etc. all made successful runs and the top speed of the meet going once again to George Poteet in the Speed Demon streamliner, who ran a blinding average of 416.511 mph. Combine all that with the resurrection of the Hop Up 200mph Club and the continuation of the Hop Up 100 Club, a great weenie roast at the bend in the road and most of all, a round trip there and back in an old beater hot rod and things couldn't get much better. Here’s hoping that the Bonneville salt continues it’s restoration and that we can get a race car done in time to give it a run on the long course.