Salt Cars

Salt Flat Racing has long been an important component of hot-rodding history, with hot-rodders looking to find the ultimate potential of their vehicles. Salt Flat racing is currently going through somewhat of a revival, no doubt in some part due to the developments noted below. Although the first dry lakes races were ran in the 1920's, the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) wasn't formed until 1937, and it was really the post WWII era when things started getting serious from a hot rod perspective.

Whilst I've always been interested in all things related to speed it was the combination of the release of "The Worlds Fastest Indian", the fantastic movie detailing the efforts of Burt Munro from NZ, and the building of Troy's "Blowfish" (1969 Barracuda for George Poteet) that combined to make Salt Flat Racing a "must do" challenge for myself. When I discovered that many of the early "Gasser" racers also ran their cars on the Salt I was definitely sold. Another piece of the puzzle is obviously the emergence of Salt Flat racing in Australia, at Lake Gairdner in South Oz, making it much more accessible than a trip to Bonneville.

Speedweek 2010Finally, I've also read a lot about iconic US "brand" So-Cal Speed Shop, and it was very much on the salt flats of Bonneville that their legend was born. "Financed not by giant corporations but by whatever Xydias and his buddies could spare from their paychecks, So-Cal Speed Shop produced the first hot rods ro run 170, 180, and 190 miles per hour."*1 Alex Xydias returned from the war and opened the doors to So-Cal Speed in 1946. But in 1948 Alex knew that for So-Cal Speed Shop to survive, he had to run at the dry lakes-there was no other way to get your name out. "If I was going to succeed, I had to race," he explains. "My '34 Ford custom cabriolet was the first car at the shop - I'd park it out front, people would stop to look at it. But that wasnt enough. Eventually, I knew I had to go racing - It wasn't called So-Cal Custom it was called So-Cal Speed" *1

For me, one of the most interesting cars from the So-Cal Speed Shop was the "Double Threat Coupe". The car was a '34 Ford Coupe..."I wanted a dual-threat coupe, a car that I could drag race every Sunday, but that I could also run at Bonneville."*1 The coupe ran a flathead motor, set back with a GMC 4-71 blower and 4 Stromberg carbies. In 1953 it set the Class C (250-310 c.i.) record at Bonneville with a speed of over 172mph.

With an Ardun head conversion for 1954 the team experienced ignition troubles and didn't improve on their prior years performance. However upon their return to California, with the ignition troubles sorted, the car hit the drag strip, and with 10% nitro in the tank ran in excess of 132mph, 8mph up on the existing record! Unfortunately on a subsequent run, the clutch exploded, cut a fuel line and driver Dave DeLangton was burnt badly, dying a few weeks later in hospital...leading Alex Xydias to quit racing. He didn't return to the salt until 1994.

Salt lake racing in Australia, in it's current form, kicked off in 1990, at Lake Gairdner in central South Australia. Personally, I cant wait to get there.

*1 So-Cal Speed Shop: The fast tale of the California racers who made hot rod history, Mark Christensen, 2005