Ford Hot Rods at 2013 Bonneville Speed Week
Ford Hot Rods at 2013 Bonneville Speed Week

Bonneville Speed Week 2013 – Report and Photos

Endless Salt – A Day at Bonneville

Report by Rick Carey | Photos by Tim Scott

Despite growing up at a time when excursions to the salt flats of Bonneville and El Mirage were chronicled in Hot Rod and the other magazines we picked up when two quarters rubbed together in our jeans, the actual experience remained elusive. Occasional drives across interminable I-80 gave a brief hint of it, a chance to pull up at a rest stop and feel the texture of the medium, but not the sights, sounds and smells.

When Barrett-Jackson arrived in Reno in 2013 during Bonneville Speed Week it created a small window of opportunity. With a couple of days before the Monterey action got hot and heavy, Speed Week at Bonneville was just 350 miles out and back.

The actual experience proved more than worth the [decades long] wait and the drive. It was marvelous.

The first impression driving onto the Bonneville Salt Flats is that there are no reference points. It goes on, and on, and on, until the horizon intervenes. The staging area and starting lines for the four parallel courses are closest to the entrance. But it is far away, with only a few orange cones seemingly randomly and erratically placed to guide the racers and spectators. The gal at the entrance who took my $15 said only, ‘Stay off the course,’ a highly unspecific admonition unaccompanied by even the most rudimentary map.

Following others seemed to offer no guide, either, as many of the cars running for records looked remarkably like my Avis rent-a-car. It was a Volvo, and there were Volvos taking times.

I stopped first at the staging area and start lines and marveled at the procedure, then watched as cars disappeared ‘over the hill’ in the distance, the curvature of the earth making them disappear from view while the sound of their struggle for traction – the salt was damp, with little grip – still lingered in the silence of Bonneville’s vast space.

Safety is highly impressive, with each car, driver and restraints given a thorough check by officials at the starting line who then sign off on each run.

In the even farther distance an indistinct cluster of vehicles turned out to be the pit, or the paddock, or whatever it’s called in Bonneville-speak. It stretched for miles down the middle of the 5-mile course (with another 6 or 7 miles for runoff) and was lined with every manner of encampment from massive, shiny 18-wheel transporters to grungy pickups under rudimentary conduit-framed tarps flapping in the breeze.

Running among the scene, sometimes clustered in packs, were some of the most imaginative, creative, intriguing rusty rods in the world, especially a T-bucket with its wheelbase extended to accommodate a supercharged, four-carburetor Packard Thunderbolt inline eight. It sounded good enough to make Duesenberg owners green with envy.

Every manner of vehicle – even some that defy imagination – has a class at Bonneville, from 50cc mopeds to fire-breathing multi-engined and turbine-powered behemoths. Most awe-inspiring is George Poteet’s ‘Speed Demon’, a 346 cubic inch streamliner that melted the salt with a 451.933 mph run, the fastest piston-engined car in history. It was on the starting line late Monday during my time at Bonneville but scrubbed the run when the course closed early due to an accident, one of several on this year’s slippery salt, and I never heard its bark.

Darn.

The sheer diversity is breathtaking and the ingenuity and determination of the participants is inspiring. It is what gives Speed Week its character, a living, breathing, octane-consuming microcosm of America’s fascination with the automobile and speed.

Wendover is a long way from Reno or Salt Lake, but worth the trip even for just a day.

Similar to our 2011 coverage, Senior Photographer Tim Scott also documented the 2013 Bonneville Speed Week, including the following pictures that capture the sights and little details that make the event a ‘bucket list’ item for all automotive enthusiasts. We split up Tim’s pictures into two galleries. The first gallery starting below features our favorite images, all displayed in the full-width view of Sports Car Digest, while the second gallery can be found on the last page of the article and gives a comprehensive view of all the photographs. To see more from Tim, visit fluidimages.co.uk.

Bonneville Speed Week 2013 – Featured Photo Gallery

Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013

Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013
Bonneville Speed Week 2013

The unauthorized use and/or duplication of any editorial or photographic content from sportscardigest.com without express and written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to sportscardigest.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Next

Show Comments (11)

Your email address will not be published.

  1. It was gratifying to see coverage of Bonneville in your magazine. The MG Midget pictured on page 7 of the photos is mine.

    Bonneville is one of the last true common grounds that traditional sports cars and American hot-rods share. This is where names like Mickey Thompson, Carroll Shelby and Gary Gabelich share equal credentials with Goldie Gardner, Donald Healey and Sterling Moss.

    Thank you for covering it.

  2. Chris,
    Glad you enjoyed it. Tim Scott’s photos capture the atmosphere and the diversity and creativity of the cars better than any words and endorse the observations in your comment.
    It’s worth the trip to see, feel and hear it in person, though. No photo can impart the feel of the salt.
    And, how fast is the Midget?
    Rick

    1. We wound up running a best of 118.693 on a 121.779 record, which is held by an Abarth Dialbero, and was set in 1992. It’s the oldest standing record in the GT class. That we got that speed out of a stock bodied Midget with a 5 port head and less than 1 liter is encouraging me to return next year.

      If I may share an anecdote regarding that event – the man that owns the car that holds the I/GT record is Martin McGlone. He was there that day, driving the Shelby Mustang on page 6 of Tim’s photos. I did not know that the record holding car had changed hands.

      Martin approached me and said, “I/GT, eh? Do you know what car owns that record?” I said “Yeah, some (fill in the blank) Abarth”.

      Martin looked me in the eye and said, “That’s right, AND I OWN IT!”

      Without missing a beat, I said, “I have a picture of your car on my dartboard in the basement”.

      As it turns out, Martin has also raced Sterling Moss’ old Sebring Sprite in Europe. He’s been an encouragement to me, and in some ways, our encounter brings my MG story full circle to the BMC factory efforts of the 1950s – and it all started on the salt.

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Milwaukee-Midget-Racing/101872149975239

      Chris

  3. Great artical about a very special event! You captured the feelings that every one has when attending Bonneville. Thank Tim for the great shots of my copper 32 roadster. Hope to see you there in 14′.
    Bart Caliaro

  4. Dear Rick & Tim,
    Thank you for a great piece and superb photos. I am going to share the link with our friends as well so that they can take a look. That looks like a definite bucket list item and hopefully 2014 will provide an opportunity. The atmosphere looks just great, and then there is, of course, the performances. Truly something to look forward to – thank you for putting it together and sharing it!
    Vincent.

  5. Many thanks for such wonderful pictures. Bonneville has long been standing in a corner of my mind, mus t go and see it for myself!!! I just love the variety of cars and the real enthusiasm of all the people attending!

  6. Dear Rick & Tim,

    Thanks for share those amazing photos with us, all they show the real Bonneville atmosphere.

    Cláudio Orestes.

  7. Having grown up in Pomona Calif. I was lucky enough to get to go to the NHRA drag races since 1958. My dad raced on muroc dry lake in the 1930’s until WW2 ended all race there. I go to Bonneville as often as I can, and sometimes there are up to 550 entries. It is the holy site for speed racers.Sitting at mile 4 1/2 and seeing a car shift in to high gear while doing over 400 is an awesome experience you will never forget.

  8. I went to Bonneville in 1954, 1955, and 1956. As you say, it is an experience which should be on every car nut’s bucket list, right at the very top.
    We ran a ’32 5-window with a Chrysler hemi. It had a roller cam and heads were milled and ports cleaned up. Don’t remember our speed; but
    think it was around 160. Things I remember: The Bean Bandits { out of Mexico}. You always asked “what percent {nitro} are you running?”
    I asked one of them this, and he replied “100%; it’s easier to mix” Mickey Thompson and his 4-engine streamliner, his Stude coupe, and
    I think maybe a lakester. Sponsored by Pontiac, he had a supply of engines, V8, 4-cyl {half a V8}, and {really} a 2-cyl {half a 4-cyl}. The
    2-banger lasted real quick. The streamliner had two engines at each end. all wheels were driven, but there was no connection front to rear.
    I think he broke 400 mph. The jet-powered 3-wheeler, which was fast, but wound up off the course with its nose buried in the mud. How
    the salt would shake when one of the big ones lit off. The Kenz-Leslie streamliner, one of the first to go multi-engine, two flat-heads.
    Meeting Vic Edelbrock {senior}. Etc, etc, etc.
    Charlie Cravens