Studebaker Stories:


How we learned to stop worrying and race the bomb…….

By Greg Meyers &Bob Waitz

Well, If you were a car-crazy kid, you've undoubtedly been reading Hot Rod and other mags for a long time. Those black and white pictures of guys out in the middle of a white expanse called Bonneville conjured up sort of mystical world where serious gear-heads got a chance to do the unimaginable…. Run full speed for miles…seeking immortality in the pages of racing history, in a machine they built with their own two hands. Names like Isky, Edelbrock, Deitz and Baskerville rattled around in your head. The place seemed so far away and unreachable from your bedroom in snowy Minneapolis. The closest thing we had to the salt flats, at least visually, were the frozen-over lakes dotting our landscape. You could take the Scout out on the lake and run across it at top speed, imagining the real thing, but those ominous cracking sounds following from behind kept you from doing it too often…..

Later, as adults with young families, some of us did manage to stop a few minutes at the “lookout” on I-80 where, off in the distance, we were told by the sign, that the speed trials had been occurring since the 40's, but usually the patience of the wife and children sitting in the wagon would wear thin, and no more dawdling was prudent. Wendover was ahead and someone needed to pee, or we were desperately out of animal crackers… Finally, a few of us did get a chance to get out during speed-week. To a “salt-virgin”, just seeing the sign before the “end of the road” sets one's heart pounding, but as the car goes down the little hill onto the salt, something starts that is pretty hard to stop. Along-side your rental car (which you've promised to care for as you would care for your mother) you see tow vehicles pulling the actual racers you've only seen in little pictures. The procession is no longer single file, and Kustom guys from the streets of LA in their rat-rods splattered with bugs and salt go rooster-tailing by, sort of like the speed-boats on Minnesota lakes at the fourth of July…. The pit area makes any local car show seem like a waste of time. Here is where the “show” matters not, it's all for the go, and the go'ers are right there, deep in to it, but willing to talk to neophytes about it, patiently answering questions. Here is where you can buy a t-shirt from a legend. You may go to the hot-dog vender and stand in line with Don Garlits…. You can see history being made.

With a taste of this, A few of us decided that it was time. We needed to do something about it. We needed more. Since we were sure to go back, how about bringing a car? Maybe just to drive on the course before we are confined to the easy-chair in front of the tube for eternity….

We decided a meeting of like-minded guys was in order. We gathered in Greg's living room one snowy Saturday afternoon and began to scheme…. We had a number of agendas, to just drive on the salt, to run a Stude for a record, to prove a point about turbocharging an ugly duckling…. We reviewed the rule-book. We decided that it should be an old car, and that the engine should be interesting. Even if we weren't going for a record, we wanted something a little off the beaten path….but a record WOULD be ok if it fell in our laps….. Greg had been running a bizarre little car on the street, which, it turned out , would be in an open class if raced. A 50' Stude with a 169” flathead six engine is not so unusual, but the “TurboStude” had a little surprise….a 2.2 liter Mopar turbo grafted in place which allowed burnouts and v-8 performance, despite the 3.40:1 rear end….

Well, the aerodynamics of a bullet-nose would leave something to be desired, and Greg's “engineering” was beyond “shade-tree”… it was more like the ditch in the “back 40” (see ). We all agreed, however that the concept was good, and if we built a car along those lines, followed the rules in the book, and made it out there, we could maybe have some fun and, on an open record (no-one has previously been crazy enough to run in this engine/body configuration) successfully get in the books, after two runs at any speed…..

Fall 02/Spring 03

We looked over Eddie Bauer's 53' Stude coupe (2 door post) which he purchased for $300, mostly to get the windshield. It had been retired to a swamp in Northern Minnesota until rescued by Ed. It then re-retired to the back yard behind the garage, surrounded by overgrown bush and a brick-pile which “protected it”. The floor was shot, but the body was rather good. The frame was surprisingly useable. Maybe the swamp had somehow preserved it…. The car was a Champion, and a 185" Stude truck motor would bolt right in. Eddie and Greg put on tires and pulled it out of the weeds and over to Ed's shop. From there, it would go over to Joe Helm's garage for some disassembly. Ed has offered his shop (loaded with tools and a car hoist) as a home for parts of the project. Ed and Greg contacted Ken James in Big Lake and purchased a 56' Champion 3ž4 ton pickup with a 185" motor and overdrive tranny. These have four 3" mains and forged cranks (=indestructible). Total price for truck and engines: $350. Greg contacted SCTA and determined that we could indeed run the car as an XO/BGC which was a class without a record. The XO/GC (unblown) record was 164 mph set recently using a 1985 Firebird body with a 320" GMC six motor. No way we wanted to compete with him…. If we put a blower on the little flathead we wouldn't go nose to nose with that 320” which dominates the XO classes. We wanted a Stude in a Stude!

Calcs indicated that our little blown Champ may work well: 4000 feet per minute piston speed (forged crank/rods and big mains) with peak hp at 5250 to 5500 rpm; TO3 "60" trim turbo with 0.82 A/R turbine housing; 10 pound boost; 3-speed transmission and 9" Ford truck rear-end with 2.82:1 ratio should get us into the 150+ mph region with 28" tires and a body whose drag coefficient is between 0.28 and 0.34. More records have been set with the Stude body at Bonneville than any other!

We went to work in earnest, stripping the body, removing the driveline and preparing the engine for the machinist, a flathead expert and old time circle track racer Tom Porter. When we told him our plan, he offered up two complete turbo-Regal intake setups which he had sitting around for a princely sum of $75. Tom has helped us every year since.

We had a bunch of decisions to make about the car, and had a very comprehensive book of rules that we needed to follow. We met every Wednesday night. Before leaving for the night, everyone had a homework assignment, and little by little we made progress.

In early May, at least 3 of us had been going to South Bend for the double swapmeet/carshow held at SASCO and the 4H fairground. We had made a number of acquaintances there, including Ted Harbit and Digger Dave Molnar. Ted needs no introduction. Digger and Greg have been corresponding over the net about similar blown Stude six projects for a while, and they finally got a chance to meet. Digger pledged allegiance to the cause, and has stuck with us since. Ted offered up a special cam for the car. Dave Thiebault generously gave us a hot-rodded distributor.

Back in St. Cloud, work progressed. The frame was sandblasted, the front end rebuilt, and significant bracing accomplished with 2x2 thick wall square tubing and boxing. A weak link in the 53' had been a “springy” frame…not any more! Joe Helm and Mark Theisen took on the job with a vengeance, and when done, had constructed a super frame, lowered on single springs 4” in back and cut coils in front. It would give us a 15 degree rake with a great stance. Much discussion went on (and still goes on) over the Ford 9” differential. We found one, had it narrowed and stuffed with 31 spline axles and finally 3.00:1 gears. Racing on the great white dyno is quite dependant on matching the engine output to vehicle weight, power band, meteorologic conditions, various drag coefficients and tire sizes. Unless you had the luxury of running on the dry lakes every weekend, you only had a few chances to test your theories. We built the car, basically at sea-level and had no way to test it under load until we were at the line, on the salt….

It was August 1st when we had to do the final reality check…. The body was still sitting on the saw-horses…..above the frame. We decided that O3' would have to be a “fact-finding” mission to the salt. Next year we'd show up really prepared!

Bonneville 2003

We came and took volumes of notes. Each of us went off on a mission….to look at tires, to study car weight distribution, to discuss fire systems, etc. We spent a day standing at vehicle inspection. This is probably the single most productive thing we did. We were able to watch the inspectors work over new cars, and were able to interview them in between inspections. We saw them question welds, and in fact watched as they recommended that the roll cage in one car be completely re-welded! We came away with a wealth of information, and a clearer understanding of what we were up against….

We made friends with all the Stude racers, and became Avanti Kid (Dave Bloomberg and crew) groupies. Another lasting friendship!

Fall 03/Spring 04

Well, after speedweek, we all took a bit of a breather, got our kids back into school, got the house and yard ready for winter and thought a lot about what we had seen. Slowly, we built up steam to continue our Wednesday night sessions in the shop. One day, An unusual package arrived... What could it be? Holy Cow! There's only ONE thing it could be! Digger Dave Molnar sent us a BEAUTIFUL intake manifold.

We didn't know whether to put it on the engine or to enter it in the Uptown Art Fair! This was the sort of set-up you'd always dreamed about (if you were Greg…): A giant Rochester Q-Jet sitting on top of a draw-thru Buick intake, cramming two atmospheres of air/fuel mixture into your Studebaker 185 CI flathead as you rocketed across the measured mile on the Bonneville Salt Flats!

During the winter months, as the temps in Central Minnesota hovered near zero, we continued to meet weekly, and proceeded with all the big and little jobs that needed doing. We had a check-list scribbled on a large piece of cardboard nailed on the wall. Every time we crossed off a line was a small victory. We learned and taught each other as we went along, and cemented friendships over congratulatory beers at 10 pm. Major achievements included the final mounting of the body, the major cool roll cage constructed by Bill Moliter, the hanging pedal assembly, the fail-safe electrical system, the special high output oil pump (modified Dodge truck), the driveline, brake system and fire system. Just like in the movies, we didn't get a chance to start her up until the night before leaving…

Bonneville 2004:

Our route was a little uncertain because 2004 Speed Week overlapped with Sturgis making it impossible to take a route through South Dakota and expect to find any motels with rooms available. Some advice at a lunch stop led us through south-western SD, into Nebraska, and down to I-80. We passed through Columbus, NB and saw Johnny Carson's boyhood home. We stayed there over night. Next morning, Joe's truck lost its starter. The rest of the trip was done without shutting the truck off….

Late Friday night we arrived, exhausted but really excited. We were pulling into the Rainbow parking lot with our own racer! The city was buzzing with rods. Hard to sleep that night! Saturday morning, up early and out to the flats. Stopped on the road under the Bonneville “World's Fastest Speedway sign” Simply awsumb! We were here! There's a scene in “World's Fastest Indian” where Burt Munro stops at the sign. Hard to describe it.

We put up in the pits next to Jim Lange and Pantera Kid . They kindly reserved a spot for us and even made sure our number was painted in the salt . We were near the end of pit row, on the front line of long course. We spent the day preparing car for inspection. Jim Lange took a look and reported that our waste gate was upside down. With tail between legs, we fixed this….

Sunday: A little more fussing and off to inspection There were only a few cars in the Tech line. We were inspected by Billy Hodges and Billy Hodges Jr. They recommended SFI roll cage padding, which does not rebound; a strap to bring shoulder harness closer together; and cotter pins in harness latches. They passed us first time with a promise to make changes (and the assurance that Bill Taylor the short course starter and fellow Minnesotan, wouldn't let us leave the line without them). We made the changes before we were 100 feet from the inspection tent. We rolled the car over to the Diest truck, bought the roll bar padding and the strap and away we went. Talk about Personal Service , Jim Diest himself helped us out!

Monday we went out fairly early to get car pushed into line for first run after record runs. There was a tremendous wind overnight and we had to wait quite a long time to get on the salt. The first time getting Mark belted in was kind of hard. We did a lot of fiddling with belts. Finally Bill Taylor had his talk with Mark. Bill gives the sign to go and we were off in a puff of black smoke. The car accelerated crisply from the line and went smoothly through the gears. Since we were running on an open record, we qualified for XO/BGC with 112.575 mph through the measured mile. The car belched blue-black smoke as Mark shifted and when he let off and applied the power. This concerned the officials but was caused by rich mixture and excessive oil to the Turbo.

We took the car to impound. The post run exam revealed a blown head gasket with water in plug 4 hole. We pulled the head to find the gasket pushed out to outside on #4, and a leak between 3 and 4. Plugs looked even and rich. Pistons looked ok as did the valves. The compressor side of the turbo was not oily. We placed a new head gasket, and torqued to 90 ft/lbs with a bit of fear. Started the motor and noted water leaking from crack around driver's side outer head bolt near 3-4. Got Aluma-seal and put 4 tubes in and warmed motor with success. Changed oil again. It looked good except for water in it. New water came from Ed's beer cooler.

On Tuesday bad weather delayed record runs by 2 hours. We monkeyed around a bit over our allowed hour in the pits, and went out to run a return of 121.606 for an MPH average world record time of 117.090 MPH! The 2-1/4 time was 119.894. Afterwards the engine looked ok. Went to impound where we whizzed through, with the head sealed on using some RTV by inspectors. Took car back to pit. We adjusted the carb some more and checked things over. Decided to get back in line for a 3rd run. We voted to have Mark run again in an attempt to improve our record. Take-off was very strong with good sounding motor, and much less black-blue smoke. After one mile he saw the boost gauge head up to 10-12 pounds as he felt the car really start to pull. He could hear the turbo whine. This was occurring when he shifted into 3rd gear and started to put a load on the motor. The car had shifted well at about an indicated 4000+ on the tach (which we think was probably a little higher in reality). He felt that the car was headed for 125 mph, but before he got very far into the measured mile he heard what sounded like detonation and wisely shut it down. The speed through the mile was still 110 MPH with 117 thru the quarter, at which point , he was already coasting. Our guess is that somewhere shortly before the beginning of the second mile, the car was going much faster.

Post mortem on the car revealed a number of cracks in the head around 3 and 4, a crack about 3 inches long extending from the valve seat of #3 into the upper cylinder , and missing insulation on the #3 spark plug. The pistons still looked good, and it was suggested that this was not true detonation, as the pistons had survived, but was perhaps pre-ignition. There were certainly some signs of #3 getting rather hot up near the head. About that time we also noticed that an 1/8 inch nipple had been ignored in our hasty preparations. It was located at the junction where the mixture from the carb was entering the compressor. As long as the engine had been running so rich during runs 1 and 2, the air leak was compensated for, however, as we dialed in the motor, it probably contributed to a lean condition, with the biggest impact on the physically closest cylinder. It is hard to say what problem came first in causing the cylinder's demise, and may have been a combination of things including the leak and material failure.

That night we celebrated our victory with a steak dinner. The pressure was off. We had come to the salt with an unproven car and passed the inspection first time (no small feat!) following which we made the record books with a “Stude in a Stude”.

All of us felt that the potential of the motor had not been reached. Ask Mark how it felt one and a half miles from the line on the third run! The car accelerated thru the traps on the first two runs. We felt that with some further refinement of the top end, repair of the block, and some electronic detonation management, we could continue to make more power and achieve significantly greater top speeds. We needed to spend a little time and money designing a new head, as the head and gasket problems seemed to plague every flatheaded salt-racer we encountered. We needed to spend some quality time on the dyno as well. This may certainly have saved the motor had we had time to do it, however, that was not in the stars. We had a world record holding blown gas coupe and received a number of kudos (from salt veterans) on a job well done in preparing a well built, attractive, and above all a safe race car. Next year, some, if not all of us would be back on the salt, perhaps with more helpers, to continue our quest.

Fall 04'/Spring 05'

Every time a salt racer returns home, there is the thankless task of trying to remove any remaining bits of salt from the car. The job is significant, and ultimately requires that the entire car be just about disassembled. Salt is very corrosive, and anything with a metal finish will ultimately dissolve if left alone. It takes some of us years to finally get everything painted and caulked well enough to minimize this problem…..

In January, the local rodders had a “Bonneville Theme” party to celebrate our victory. They made models of Bonneville cars, including ours. We unveiled our engine choice for the coming year…..

While some of us slaved over the renewal project, others bent down over the task of stitching together our mighty Champ motor. The block went off to Tom for a sleeve, a pin and some exhaust valve seats. We decided to add an air dam, some car tiedown loops and a tow-bar.

These came together over the winter with the help of a local guru named Daryl Neumann. Greg wired in a device called a Safeguard which is able to retard individual cylinders which are detonating. In the right hands, this device could allow maximum advance safely. In engine terms, boost can be increased if detonation can be controlled. Horsepower and torque could increase with more advance. Following the advice of numerous flathead racers, including the famous Dick Landy, Greg began to design the new head. Ultimately, with the engineering expertise of Dave Seleen (street racing legend in 60's Minneapolis) the mother of all champ heads was constructed. It had double the water capacity, much thicker baseplate, and was essentially six Harley KR combustion chambers in a row.


The engine was buttoned up by June, and went on to the R&R Dyno. The “Dynomeister” remarked that if he had a nickel for every turbocharged flathead six Stude motor he'd ever dyno'd,…….he'd be broke!

The runs were gratifying: 17 pounds of boost (Greg still can't figure out wastegates…) 233 HP at 4500 rpm, 289 foot-pounds Torque at 4100 rpm. Compare this 50 year old motor to a new v-8…. That was without any tuning of the carbs or fiddling with the timing! The early August scramble was a little less hectic. We actually got the engine in the car, and the car around the block two weeks before leaving!

Bonneville 2005:

Out to the flats. We put up in the pits next to The Avanti Kid and Pantera Kid. Dave, Al, and Kurt Bloomberg and the people that crew for them have been really great friends. They reserved a spot for us again and even helped us out with rooms.

Greg passed the 'bailout check' which demonstrates that the design of the car allows for quick exit in the event of an emergency and that the driver is capable of executing the bailout.

Inspector: Ok, you're going 200 miles per hour and you hear a bang. What do you do?

Us: Call my mom on the cell phone! We never thought this heap could go THAT fast!

We arrived early and rolled into pre-staging. We got our first run in around 2 PM. Ed suited up. His run went well except for one small glitch. We tightened his arm restraints a little too much and he couldn't reach far enough to get into third gear! After missing it twice he went straight into fourth. The engine lugged a little but pulled and he recorded the 123.334 MPH measured mile. His 2-1/4 mile speed was 116.834 which meant he was still picking up speed through the measured mile and must have been going quite a bit faster than his average at the end. The engine wound out well in both 1st and 2nd so we were encouraged. Although this qualified for a record, we thought we might be able to run it again (and a lot faster if we used 3rd gear) so we electe not to go to impound.

We arrived early to save our spot in prestaging and avoid the situation from last year where about 20 people pulled in front of us. We made our second run about 8:30 with Ed driving again. This time we had him hold the lever in 3rd and tightened his straps to there. The results were similar in gears 1 and 2 with the car pulling strongly. The same in 3rd! In 4th, however, the car still bogged down. Ed reported winding it up to about 4000 in 3rd before going into 4th. The results were much better as he turned a 129.480 earning his D license. But there was a problem. At the end of the run, water came pouring out of the hood. The upper radiator hose had blown off. We didn't think much of it at the time and got right back in line to run again but as we started the car up to advance the ignition a hair we saw the one thing we dreaded... water coming out of the exhaust pipe! We pulled out of pre-staging and headed back to the pits. What we found was very depressing: cylinders 3 and 4 were pumping water. We pulled the head to find water everywhere. It didn't take close inspection to see the cracks from the cylinder to the exhaust ports.

The head survived but showed evidence of head gasket failure. No surprise when you get water in there.

Digger Dave, Greg, and Mark worked themselves to death pulling the head and ascertaining the severity of the problem . They reassembled the motor using a new head gasket and 4 tubes of Alumaseal (those guys should sponsor us!). This seemed to keep the water out of the exhaust, but now strange noises were coming from the water pump. Greg popped that out for a look and we discovered that the electric motor was dead. The magnets were cracked and loose. Maybe the bracket squeezed the pump too tight. This lead to the theory that the pump failed during the previous run causing the engine to overheat and fail at its weakest point -- the repairs made from last year. The crack that had been pinned on cylinder 4 had opened up, and the sleeve on cylinder 3 had pulled away. Well, we installed a new pump and while everything seemed to be water-tight, compression was so low in cylinders 3 and 4 (65 lbs on 3 & 4 vs 105 lbs to 110 lbs on the others) that we decided we were done.


We came out to the salt with a plan decided on the night before. If the day was to be rained out we'd pack and leave. If it looked nice, we'd spectate and leave the next day. Well plans are made to be changed. Rain the night before had closed the long course. What the hell, we'd run anyway. We pushed the car into pre-staging and waited for our chance. It ran pretty good with the two bad cylinders firing well at high RPM. No water was coming out of the exhaust. Joe would drive. Mark did some last minute tuning and we suited Joe up. The plan would be to rev the engine like crazy and shift at high rpm. Joe followed instructions….

The car pulled strongly through gears 1, 2 and 3. Around the first mile marker Joe shifted into 4th then BANG! This time we WERE done. We left pieces of clutch and bell-housing all over the course. Our ordeal was far from over. Storm clouds were almost on top of us as we got the car back to the pits. This is what you DON'T want to see on the salt flats . The rain first came from the south then quickly switched to the north. It came down sideways. 60 MPH winds picked up the salt like it was sand and pelted us coating everything in sight with brine. We took down our tents then helped Al and Kurt Bloomberg. It was chaos. Just throw everything in the trailer and shut the door before it gets blown away to Oz! We huddled in the lee of the wind, which meant 6 of us standing on the tongue of the trailer! After about an hour we'd had enough. The rain wasn't going to stop. So soaked to the skin we changed the tires on the car and loaded it into the trailer. We were about the last people off the salt. What happened to the spectators and everyone at the line? We don't know.

After a good night's sleep we headed for home. And it was a good thing, too. Mother Nature was too much. The rest of the event was cancelled.

Fall 05'/Spring 06'

Once again, we needed to remove all that salt damage, but this time also needed to sift thru the driveline damage, like Egyptologists sift thru an ancient burial site…. We originally thought that the engine had hydro-locked, causing a shock to the clutch/flywheel with resultant destruction. What we found was that our leaky engine block was not the culprit!

After removing the flywheel (which had lost one small chunk near a housing mounting bolt), the engine turned over and showed no focal piston or rod damage. What seems to have happened was that when we assembled the clutch housing on the flywheel, we used grade 5 bolts without shoulders. The housing was up against the threaded part of the bolt, and when Joe followed directions to power-shift, it was just too much! The housing came partly loose, and created a big pile of shrapnel. Luckily, Joe had helped fashion a great scattershield, which allowed him to come home with both feet and the ability to sire more children…… We resolved to do better with the new clutch.

After much discussion amongst ourselves and over the internet, Greg and Digger arrived at a plan for refining the intake manifold. This would theoretically allow better distribution of the air/fuel mixture, evening out the velocities and volumes.

We needed a new block. The hunt led to EV motors where two 185” blocks were located. Careful inspection revealed that they would be fine for a street car, but a bit shaky for a Bonneville car with 17 pounds of boost. The pilgrimage to South Bend was fruitful.

We had a chance to visit Digger's shop and see his incredible blown Champ. SASCO discounted a 1960 new old stock block. This was represented as a 169” and came with pistons for that purpose, however, the only difference in these blocks is the machining around the crank throws.

We decided to go with stock bore and use the stroker crank which Bill Cathcart had very graciously donated to our cause. This crank spent a short time in the engine which he had planned to race at Bonneville. At least the crank would make it out! The valve seats would have minimal modification. With everything new and with minimal machining, the likelihood of cracks would be minimized. Not enough for Greg though. He found a company called Arrow Cryogenics who were willing to deep-freeze the block, rods and cam. This is an aero-space technique for increasing the durability of metals, lining up molecules and removing stress risers. Further discussions with Bill Cathcart resulted in modifying a Stude V8 oil pump for use in the Champ.

By July, we got it all together again, with some bright pieces provided by Ben Ordas. This time we painted the engine an ominous black. Not enough time to hook up with a chassis dyno…… Well the lonely blacktop out around St. Stephens near Joe's would be our test-ground. We waited for a quiet Sunday evening, and, with lookouts in front and behind, we took our un-muffled, unlicensed, un-lighted racer out for a series of spins around a 10 mile course. Joe was cooking! The chase truck was doing 90 mph on the two laners.

Well, we didn't break it or get arrested, so we figured Bonneville would be a “go”.

Bonneville 2006:

Rather than take two vehicles, as we have in the past, Ed, Joe, Mark, Bob, and Greg cram into Ed's Suburban in front of the shop in Waite Park. We add a top carrier to the rig and pack with efficiency drawn from our previous experience and the magnificent tire/geegaw rack fabricated by Steve Brown. Rain and lightning appear in South Dakota and follow us to Chadron, NB where we stay overnight.

The rest of the trip is uneventful until we are left on the side of the road with a flat tire in Utah. When we finally arrive in West Wendover it's already dark and The Immortals are already there. It's more than a pleasure to see their Stude-powered rods -- it sort of makes you feel good to be alive.


When we get to the pit location reserved by Dave Bloomberg (thanks again Dave!) Dave is already there with his Avanti . Also there are Dave's brother and nephew with The Pantera Kid, and the 455 Avanti. Jim Lange has not arrived because the rear end of his tow vehicle broke. We're hopeful that he'll arrive soon. Notably absent is Dave and Marie Livsey's Avanti. They're there, though and tell us of their own trailer woes. They'll be at the World Finals for sure, though. The bulk of the day is occupied in setting up camp and preparing the car for tech. There is usually a hoard of people who have traveled up just for the weekend. We take it easy over Saturday and Sunday and let the crowds for inspection and the starting line thin out. We have a lot of problems with the dzus fasteners in the air dam! At the end of the day we top the fluids off and fire that bad boy up. It sounds great.

We get in line for tech, breeze through, and then push into the prestaging line for a nice long wait. At the very end of the day we get into staging and Joe makes his first run. The car goes into impound. Car ran fine(1), quarter 131.926 mile 119.174 two mile 132.995. Too much boost for a new engine (17 pounds…). We detected an exhaust leak at wastegate which we surmised was not helping it open appropriately.

Joe makes a record return run (2).

Quarter: Mile: Two Mile:

123.343 134.829 86.762

A hose blows off and he has to shut 'er down after the first mile. Still, it's enough to raise the record 10 MPH. Mark, Joe, and Bob are certain we've broken the motor because these are the exact symptoms of the two previous occasions in which the block has cracked. Greg, thinks not and is proven right when the cylinders are dry and the exhaust runs clean. Still 17# boost, GPS says 137 mph. We get back in line and wait.... We end the day 2 back from staging.

Greg makes two runs. Tuning woes keep our speeds under 125. First run (3) done after backing off on boost by dialing in wastegate. We get 8# of boost and 4200rpm max.

Quarter: Mile: Two Mile:

121.270 114.341 123.064

At this point, we have actually qualified for the XO/BFALT record, but choose to continue grooming, to make it more respectable than the XO/BGC record. We then tightened the wastegate, and went to 24 degree advance. Second run (4) we overheated before getting started. We noted 7# boost, 5000 rpm in 3rd. Temp 200 degrees on line to 270 at mile 3. Always check your coolant level before a run and allow for some kind of expansion. Especially if you've blocked off the grill with aluminum plates and left the car idling at the line…

Quarter: Mile: Two Mile

116.692 112.769 119.655

We end the day just a few cars back from staging. We'd have run again but wind at the end of the day forces long delays.

Bob makes two runs. Bent the secondary rod hanger on one side. We added still more waste gate tension. Greg and Digger repaired a melted turbo drain on the line. The first(5) run is great.

Quarter: Mile: Two Mile:

125.426 116.001 127.789

4000-4200 rpm GPS 130. 7-8.5# On the second run,(#6) we matched the rod hanger on the back and added even more tension on the wastegate to raise boost. Bob can't keep the power up and turns out after the first mile. Are we out of gas? Someone pays $150 and we fill up the gas tank.

At this point, 4594 XO/BGC becomes a new entry…..1594 XO/BFALT! We pay some cash, put cool 37' Stude hubcaps over the headlights, blocking plates over the grills and break the seal on the fuel tank….Viola! a blown fuel altered! And….another open record to work on.

Mark makes two runs. We were beset by more tuning woes. First run (#7) we sputter along. The plugs appear black.

Quarter: Mile: Two Mile:

102.927 97.510 103.685

We leaned out the carb , dialed back the Safeguard and maxed wastegate. We get in line again for Mark's second run (#8)

Quarter: Mile: Two Mile:

124.537 115.070 126.863

We qualify with this and the car spends the night in impound. We inspected the car, added more coolant and double up hose clamps. We are “under-cooled” with the grill covered.

Mark makes a return run.(#9) Still not getting more than about 10 pounds of boost…

Quarter: Mile: Two Mile:

120.061 129.093 131.489

With this run behind us, and with commitments back in Minnesota, we decided that we were done for the year. We went to tech and certifed both records. This required pulling off the head….We are proved correct on displacement….no v-8 hidden in there….

XO/BFALT two way average: 129.176 mph
XO/BGC two way average: 127.001 mph

Respectable! Greg is certain that with some minor adjustments in timing we could have ultimately had led to the return of more boost. The Safeguard device, while preventing detonation (and possibly destruction of the pistons…) also would not allow enough advance, limiting rpm and thus exhaust to drive the turbo. The engine may be slotted into Greg's new project vehicle for further development…. A “37 Stude boat-tail” version of a Morgan 3-wheeler built on a narrowed 41' Stude chassis (but that's another story….).

Will we go back? Yes! Will it be with the same combination? Probably not. Our Stude engine can certainly go faster, but there are other challenges for 4594 and the Salt2Salt crew to meet in other classes. We learned so much and have become such good friends that we will undoubtedly find reasons to keep doing it until we can't! That salt fever is hard to lick!

Bonneville 2009

Well, the economic climate of the world changed, and ultimately, Bob and Greg decided to continue racing on the salt. After studying the record books, it became clear that if a blown flathead Ford took residence in our car, we could seek out the open XF/BFALT and XF/BGALT records, and maybe raise the XF/BGC record….Well, Tom Porter, our engine builder has always had a soft spot for this motor, and offered up a “late model” 8BA version he had, along with space to rebuild the car.

Time was short, but with the aid of Tom, Shoe, Bob Reining, the Yermolenkos, Hayseed Dave Thomssen and others, we made it happen. Between May and the first week in August, our job was to strip down the car, replace all the salt damaged parts, design and build a suitable motor, mate it to a suitable transmission and connect the works together with a race spec bellhousing (none exists). Greg never does anything the easy way, and wanted to use a centrifugal blower on the motor (no commercial set-up existed). Using cardboard, plywood, and pieces from a Mustang set-up, he began to cobble something up.

A positive displacement blower with its belt drive can eat 75 HP just to make boost. The idea was to use the centrifugal since it used much less horsepower to run, and could be made to bring much less stress on the front of the crank. Draw-thru again was simple, and would bring the carb to a cooler location with easy accessability. Tom Fritz was enthused about the concept, and jumped in with both feet to create an amazing piece of aluminum artwork closely following Greg's idea.

Shoe donated a Ford top-loader transmission (close ratio) and Hurst shifter. Bendtsen transmission was able to adapt a new Mustang scatter-shield to the Ford pattern. A high output starter from Speedway allowed adequate clearances, and using original Ford starter plate sheet-metal tig-welded to the modified Lakewood engine plate, we were able to mount a starter.


Description of this year's engine:

  • 286 cubic inches (Bore 3.375” Stroke 4.00”) 8BA v-8
  • Crank was Mercury, held in with a fortified center main-bearing
  • Cam is Victor 400 Junior grind with followers modified for smaller circle.
  • Mild porting and decking job with stock valves
  • Pistons have slight dome shape with 7.5:1 C.R.
  • Heads are 59A stock to allow water outlets to clear blower
  • Water pumps are replaced with dual electric Centri-puppy bait recirculator pumps modified for special duty and redundancy.
  • Carburetor is a modified 650 cfm spreadbore, double pumper with side entry fuel bowls (fuel level adjustable).
  • Induction is draw-thru with specially constructed plenum and tunnel-ram manifold.
  • Supercharger is an externally oiled Procharger P600b with 8 groove pulleys for 6 and 12 pound boost. Crank pulley was a modified pulley shank( 8BA) mated to a modified GMC diesel pulley.
  • Ignition is a Pertronix conversion in the distributor with fixed advance running thru an Accel coil.
  • Batteries were two 8 volt deep cycle golf-cart units connected in series to provide up to 16 volts, and always more than 12 volts. Remember that we are running two water pumps, an electric fan, a hungry ignition and electric fuel pump….

What happened:

We worked like crazy every spare minute until the 11th hour…..and then started the engine for the first time! We determined that the outer clutch cable (from a Geo Tracker) was “shrugging” itself off the inner liner. No suitable cable could be located, and with no time to order another, we made a 71” long “splint” for the cable out of 1ž2” copper tubing. After road testing the car for a full 50 yards, and up to 2nd gear, we loaded it on the trailer to head out of town.

The road trip out included Bob, Greg, and our new recruit C.T. Greg had traded a motorcycle for a 94' Ford CrewCab F350 which had lived most of its life in the California forest service. A $1400 flatbead trailer completed the package.

Near Cheyenne Wy. The check engine light came on, resulting in a trip to the dealer where an O2 sensor was replaced with excellent results in terms of power and mileage just when we would be needing them. The truck, as prepared by Alex Yermolenko back in Minneapolis otherwise performed quite well, aside from some electrical gremlins common among the species….

We finally arrived in Wendover on Saturday night, but early enough for C.T. to get his first glimpse of the nightly rat-rod extravaganza that has become part of speed week. He was hooked!

Early Sunday we got ourselves out to the salt and set up the pit. We still had lots to do before submitting our new version of the Salt2Salt racer to the scrutiny of the tech inspectors. We had to number the car, adjust the carb, try to tune it, adjust the clutch, bolt down the engine cover, add a shifter boot and wire in a tachometer, among a host of other things.

We met up with John Johnson, who had driven his little 30's Chev coupe from DesMoines. He joined our crew and loyally helped us all week. Thruout the week, we had a steady stream of helpers from Minnesota, Stude nuts, and just plain nuts.

We made tech by Tuesday morning, and passed with a few items on harness mounting to adjust and some suggestions for next year. This alone was cause for celebration! We took her for some 110 octane gas ($10 a gallon….) and towed off to the line.

Greg ran first in XF/BFALT and went 107.514 mph. Considering that we had never driven the car out of 2nd gear and were unsure if the clutch would even work, We took it as a good sign! It needed tuning, and the record return run next AM was better with a jet change (we got pretty good at doing this!) at 120.784 mph. This gave us an average of 114.149 mph in a completely untried 56 year old car with a 59 year old engine designed about 1930……

Next, after sealing the engine at tech, we passed reinspection and were prepared to run the car as XF/BGALT. Though we were now in a different class, we ran the same fuel in our sealed tank (we seem to get about 1 mile per gallon….).

It was Bob's turn, and he ran 115.246 mph on the qualifying run (GPS said we were going 127+ at one point…) Engine was running a lot and was well warmed up for that run. At the end, the temp was up over 230 degrees. Early next morning on the record run, Bob ran 116.667 for an average of 115.956 mph. Not staggering, but fast enough to tell us that the supercharger was actually working, and to secure us a second record!

Next, it was C.T's turn to lose his “Salt-Virginity”. He ran that afternoon, and turned in numbers about like Bob's. Boy, did he want to stay and tune! Time was short, and we had to pull a head for the inspectors to verify displacement and confirm our records in the books….

We know the engine is capable of much, much more, but without the time and expertise, it was not in the cards for this speedweek. We packed up and headed off east in our uneventful trip home, resolved to get the car on a dyno and build some horsepower! We guess that will be more than 300 ponies…

For more pictures and details about our adventure:

Bonneville Fact Sheet

Getting there: Many Fly to Salt Lake City and drive a rental to Wendover, which is on the far side of the Salt Lake. A two-way coach flight on NorthWest cost $236 non-stop from Minnesota. Wendover is about 120 miles from the airport down I-80. Friday is a vehicle inspection day, and a great time to meet some of the racers who are waiting in long lines with nothing to do but bench-race. If you take a vehicle out on the salt, line the floors with garbage bags and tape before exposing it to the salt. We coated the underside with vegetable oil spray (like PAM) . It really does work. The salt doesn't cake up and what does stick comes off much easier. It still takes about 30 minutes to clean off most of the salt. The fire department sometimes hangs around the “end of the road” spraying off vehicles for a donation.

Staying there: If you intend to get a hotel room you should plan on booking it at least six months in advance. They fill up fast, especially for the first Saturday night of the event. The big casinos also have some camping areas for R.V.s . Among the places to stay are the Nugget, State Line Inn (where the old racers stay), Rainbow, Montego Bay, Pepper Mill, Red Garter (most inexpensive), Rainbow Inn (Non-smoking rooms are also handicap accessable and have showers-no baths, which are sort of like in a high school locker room....)., Exel Inn, Comfort Inn and KOA campground. Expect to pay about $40 per night and $10 per extra cot on weekdays, twice that on the weekend. You could park on, or just off the road on the salt near the entrance to the race-course, but don't expect any services. There is a gas station with a few convieniences (and a great Mexican restaurant…) near the entrance road.

Eating there: All the casinos have buffets, and none are bad. We liked the Rainbow , the Pepper Mill and the Nugget best. Expect to pay about $17 for dinner, a beer and tip. After dinner, some racers go to the bar in the basement of the Nugget. You can find a meal in the coffee shop of each casino until really late at night. Buffets work for breakfasts too, and there is a rate for seniors. Many have real cheap breakfast specials as well. ($3-$7). For lunch, there is some food available out on the salt, but a cooler stocked with some sandwiches and GatorAde lets you stay out ther where the action is. There is a Mexican grocery on the main street in Wendover. A burrito wagon is usually parked somewhere in town. We found it on the west side in the liquor store parking lot. Good and Cheap. Don't expect anything too fancy out of that liquor store..... There are also a McDonald's , Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Villa, Arby's, Subway, Taco Posada (recommended!) and allegedly a chinese place.

The real action at night is in front of the Nugget where there is an ever-changing car show going on. Expect a high percentage of cool primered “rat”rods.

Time Zones there: The line between the Mountain and Pacific time zones is the state line. Technically this means that West Wendover, Nevada is one hour behind Wendover, Utah and the Bonneville Salt Flats. In practice, West Wendover runs entirely on Mountain time. This is important to know when arranging that automated wake up call in the casino hotel!

What do you do when you get there: Once you have arrived and are settled, you may want to get out on the salt. The best way is to get a pit pass. To get one of these, you may want to contact SCTA with some reason you need one.... If you can align yourself with a team this will be easier, however if you are there in some type of professional capacity, you may be able to score one. Spectators are allowed at the starting line, and in marked areas over the first 2 miles or so of the course. There are two courses if weather and salt permit. The short course is for vehicles which are running up to 175 mph and the 7 mile long course is for cars qualifying faster than this. The return roads are reserved for "officials" of SCTA.

These are a great place to be if you can arrange it, meeting cars at the end of their runs, you may be the first person to speak with a racer after their run. Many racers appreciate visitors at the pits or in the line waiting for inspection or to race. Be tactful! If you find a racer who is especially interesting to you, you may find that they will accept your help, and you can become a groupy. You may wish to correspond with some of these folks beforehand, and offer your services at the meet. Most are happy to have someone doing some "photo-journalism" for them, as they are usually too busy to do stuff like that themselves. Get a rule book ahead of time and study it. Everything will make more sense. Annuals are available at the SCTA trailer on the salt. There are lots of t-shirts to buy in the pits since everyone has figured out that it is an easy way to bring in a few extra bucks for the project.

What to bring out: Some basic things we came up with to bring if the opportunity presents itself...... white tennis shoes ,white pants, white shirt, big hat, sun glasses, SPF 45, ladder, CB radio, walkie talkie, photo equipment, sound recording equipment, ear plugs, binoculars, spotting scope, business cards, "Goo Gone", Aloe, auto sun screen, canopy, camp chairs, soft sided cooler nap-sack, lip balm, Insurance cards, discount info for car rental, 12 volt to 120 volt AC converter, umbrella, poncho, plenty of fluids and some munchies.

Other stuff: The car wash is at the Chevron station. Vacuum, a hose and air are at the Pilot station. There is a single auto parts store at the east end of town who garciously maintains an extended schedule during speedweek.

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