DryLakes Hall of Fame
SOCIETY OF LAND SPEED RACING HISTORIANS NEWSLETTER #39. Websites posting the newsletter are: www.oilstick.com,
Again I have to thank the American Hot Rod Foundation for me being able to devote so much time to saving our history. Previously you saw one of my old cigarette cards featuring George Eyston's "Flying Spray," or as the car was really called, "Speed of the Wind" that he raced at Bonneville. As luck would have it, I just received a shot from Eric Anders (he was involved with the record setting CFI Highway Hauler at the salt in '99) of Eyston in the car in '35. Imagine sitting in that front wheel drive beast powered by a Rolls-Royce engine for not one, two or five miles like what is done today but for 10, 100 and up to 3,000 miles and setting the World's 24-hour Record at 140.52 mph. As I've mentioned previously, you have to think out of the box when looking for info. The new Eyston pix led me to a clipping out of an old magazine from the early '33 that I've included. It shows him in his record setting MG EX 127. This little car was powered by a supercharged 743cc 4-banger that he set 13 records up to 1000 kilometers and 12 hours in, the fastest being 120.56 mph in the mile. To put that into perspective, the fast guys at Muroc were just breaking 100 mph with engines five times bigger. But the biggest find wasn't from print. It was a transcript of a speech that Mr Eyston gave on September 29, 1938, 20 days after setting the World Land Speed Record at Bonneville in his "Thunderbolt" at 357.497 mph to the Empire Club in Toronto, Canada. Here is the speech. Enjoy.
(Speaking - CAPTAIN GEORGE E. T. EYSTON, M.C.) Mr President, Your Worship, His Reverence and Gentlemen: I am awfully glad to visit you today because, after all it is on the occasion of so very much better news, so far as the Empire is concerned. I always felt, having been through the last war from the start to the finish, that we couldn't possibly have another one, and I do think perhaps this is coming about, because it is inconceivable that people could be so silly these days; and it is really of historical importance, as you all know, that there can be such a momentous conference as is taking place today many thousands of miles away. I didn't come to talk to you about that but I couldn't help mentioning it. The subject of my talk today is "The Land Speed Record"--the fastest ever travelled on land. It is a test of man and machine. To begin with the two runs have to be made in opposite directions and both of these runs have to be accomplished within a space of sixty minutes. This is the international rule governing this blue ribbon of records, the Land Speed Records.
Now you know this record is held at the present moment by the "Thunderbolt" which I planned and built and the present speed is 357.5 miles an hour or 575 kilometers an hour. The run in the northward direction was accomplished at 356.44 miles an hour and the run in the southward direction was made at 358.57 miles an hour. The difference in these speeds is attributable, I think, to the condition of the track at various points, but it is significant that the fastest speed record by the "Thunderbolt" this year on the memorable September 16 was 359.64 miles an hour-over the kilometer. That is, of course, in one direction, but it approximates to about one third of a mile short of 360 miles an hour which is the magic six miles a minute. It is only a hair's breadth, really, and a very small percentage of the whole and as pronounced acceleration was noticeable on all runs through the measured distance on every occasion, it is certain the car did for a few seconds exceed a speed of six miles a minute which, of course, is another milestone in the history of motoring. I am very glad to have been able to accomplish this with a British car. (Applause)
You remember that this event took place, as your President said, on the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah, a very long distance from here. It is a fantastic sight to see this large field of gleaming salt stretched far between the mountains of Western Utah and Nevada. Only a small portion of this salt-bed can be used for motor car records for the rest is soft salt and mud. When we arrived in July the whole place was flooded to about ten inches and it took ages for the liquid, as I would call it, to evaporate, owing to it being salt brine. Then we had to wait until the water level dropped several inches below the surface before the beds were hard enough to run on. It is important that they should be very dry in order that the powerful motors in the car can have sufficient grip to hurl the huge mass of the machine forward at over 530 feet per second. To give you an idea of what speed really means, my large 44-inch diameter tires were revolving at 45 revolutions per second. Imagine the very largest wheel you have ever seen on a huge commercial vehicle and picture what it means for it to revolve at 45 revolutions while you count one. On the salt bed which has to be carefully prepared by dragging, we paint one or more black lines along the whole length. These lines act as guides and prevent the driver straying; for errors of a few feet in steering might culminate in disastrous results. You see, you might drive a few feet away from the absolute straight line, something else might happen and you get a few feet more and, believe me, you will never get back.
The car is brought out over night from our little village of Wendover and deposited with all our paraphernalia under a large marquee on the desert. On the day of the record run we get up at one o'clock in the morning and drive several miles out to the marquee in the desert and commence heating the oil for the engine and transmission, and bolt on our racing wheels (eight in number) and when daylight appears we hope that there will be conditions of no wind and, of course, no rain. Just after dawn the car is pushed to the start and then we have to see whether the time-keepers are ready. I have to shut myself in the cockpit by means of closing the roof and then adjust the fresh air mask which has saved me on very many occasions. This mask, I would explain, is connected up by a small tube about three-quarters of an inch in diameter leading to the nose of the machine and therefore, of course, you readily understand fresh air is always available no matter what is happening in the cockpit. With two engines of a couple of thousand horsepower each there might be a considerable volume of carbon monoxide which wouldn't give you a second chance.
When the word is given that the course is clear the car is pushed off by a truck just to get it on the move and then the huge motors roar out their message of immense power. The car literally disappears down the course in a cloud of black smoke, because, in order to keep the temperature down on engines giving so much power, it is necessary to run with the mixture very rich and the exhaust smoke trails out in a long stream as the machine shoots forward. Undoubtedly, when going full out there is a trail of perhaps three and a half miles of this black smoke. Second gear is changed for top just under two hundred miles an hour. The mile posts start passing as if you were "running the hundred -yards" as we have large square boards indicating the number of miles from the start and the number of miles to pull up from the end of the measured distance. These boards are awfully important since you can soon lose track of where you are. It must be remembered in connection with the "hundred yards" I have mentioned that the measured mile is covered in just over ten seconds. How many of you have run a hundred yards "in evens"? Well, the car does the mile in something like this or a trifle more.
When going through the measured distance you are conscious of being encased in a projectile which nothing on earth will stop, and it is just a matter, really, of shooting through space. That is, of course, unless something happens! And it is that fear of this "something happening" which tends to add to the real thrill, never to be forgotten. As the car passes by, you "see the object," and the sound follows about half a mile behind which is the real thrill given to the spectators. When you have got over this measured distance there comes the anxious problem of pulling up, for only six miles ahead of you there is a road and a railway at right angles to the track. There is the end of all things and you must come to a standstill. So you shut down the engines, quite gingerly, and after a pause the air brakes are shot out. These project on either side of the car. Of course there is no possibility of testing them beforehand so it is really a great thrill the first time you put out the air brakes, at 320, wondering whether they are still in the machine or whether the tail is being torn off. Because, generally speaking, people even in aircraft do not put out
brakes at 300 miles an hour! It is not yet possible to apply the mechanical brakes. Therefore, one rushes on and on--of course, far faster than ever experienced before because no one else has done it! Toward the spot where a halt must be called or otherwise disaster must result.
At last the time has come when the mechanical brakes can be applied to the full and their wonderful power saves the day. You have got to sit looking at the revolution counter falling and the distance diminishing to where you have got to halt and you hope your brakes are going to work!
To go on all through the business of breaking the record and the actual driving would be much too long and technical so I will just say this, that I am satisfied that Great Britain has put the land speed record where it will be difficult to beat by anyone outside the country. (Applause)
"Thunderbolt" has two Rolls Royce motors of 2,000 horsepower each which are geared together. The car is 35 feet long and weighs nearly seven tons. We tried the bold experiment of removing the stabilizing fin during the last run and it was very thrilling to see what would happen at these great speeds of over 350 miles an hour without the assistance of this fin to keep the car straight. All was well, however, and the reason of course for taking off this fin was to eliminate the extra drag as we thought that we could do a better speed without it.
The car was built in the works at Wolverhampton in England on a large table over which there was a huge crane. It was all accomplished in eight months, and well do I remember every day of it, since I hardly slept a wink. We got out to America in the late autumn of 1937 and took the Land Speed Record from "Bluebird" at 312 miles an hour and the fastest speed record last year was 319, which we thought was absolutely
terrific! Well I'm awfully glad to be permitted to address the members of the "Empire Club of Canada," and also those friends of the Dunlop Company and C. C. Wakefield, whose branches are out here and whose parent firm has helped me so much in this great record. I can't tell
you, Mr. President, how much I value your looking after me and all the arrangements that have been absolutely superb. I am sorry that I didn't sleep last night-that was my fault. After the record there were many things I had to do, both business and otherwise and it has been necessary to resort to flying about.
As your President has said I shall be very glad indeed to answer any questions you may like to put to me, always reserving, of course, the right to refuse to answer those I don't like! You might like to know something particular about the car and its performance and what we did. In conclusion may I say again how splendid it is to be with you here. It is the first time I have been in Canada. I have been very close many times but it was literally impossible to make it. I do hope that the international situation will clear up and that we shall go to our beds tonight with the assurance that for some time to come at any rate the sky will be clear, because I think we all have one common aim and that is peace. If people don't want peace, let them stand back, because as far as I know, a war today, as it will be, will only lead to complete misery, and everybody knows this, so we hope it will be averted. May I thank you all for bearing with me all this time. I hope I have succeeded in interesting you and may I wish you all "the very best." Captain George E. T. Eyston, M.C.
1) I thought you might enjoy seeing these and adding to your collection of historic LSR cars. I suspect you likely have originals of Bill Burkes "Super Shaker." Roy has send me a couple of pictures of other Jerry Weeks restorations. I think one was an old Miller he restored. Happy New Year! See you at the Banquet. Jerry Cornelison, Road Runners Historian - SCTA Club (established 1937) http://www.ussarcherfish.com/roadrunners
2) Gear Grinder Club Report: Willie Young driver of the Kenz-Leslie Ford powered streamliner in the 1950s passed away on December 3, 2007. Willie was a charter member of the Bonneville 200 mph club. He also was the 1st to set a two way average at over 250 mph. Another of the pioneers is on the long course in the sky. Art Arfons passed into the great speed laboratory in the sky at 4:00AM CST Monday morning. Art will be buried in his fire suit, with wrenches in his hands and J79 jet engine operating manual by his side. Also tucked away with him will be a jar of salt brought home - oh, so many years ago. Bob Opperman A.K.A. "Generator Bob" is doing well. John Swanson had knee surgery and is said to be doing well. BNI voted to subsidize SCTA with $ 16,080 - this will keep the current number of Members at $ 40 for membership dues for 2008. The board will address the following areas of 2008 El Mirage Procedure changes; Penalty for Clubs not having enough members present for coarse prep, Modification to starting order per meet vs per year, 200 mph line sequence, Trophy qualification. Check expired numbers on SCTA website; www.scta-bni.org. 2008 Event Date: May 17-18, June 22, July 20, September 14, October 26, November 15-16. 2008 Gear Grinder Club Meetings: January 3, February 7, March 6, April 3, May 1, June 5, July 3, August 7, September 4, October - depends on world finals, November 6, December 4. 2008 Gear Grinder Awards Banquet: Saturday, March 22, 2008 @ NHRA Museum 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. 2008 SCTA Awards Banquet; January 2008. 2008 Race Dates El Mirage: May 17-18, June 22, July 20, September 14, October 26, November 15-16. Bonneville Speedweek 2008: August 18- 24. Inspection: August 17. Bonneville World Finals 2008: October 8- 11. 2008 Board / Rep's Meetings; January 4, February 1, March 7, April 4, May 30, June 27, July 25, August 29, September 19, October 31, November 21, December 5.
3) I know I live in the past but the date for the 7th B'ville NW Reunion is 2008 and not 2007 as I originally sent in the mailing. Thanks for the update. FREUD Freud: If you erred, what must your Society's Newsletter editor be thinking when he couldn't see and correct such an obvious error? I am chagrined. Be sure to send us updates on the 7th B'ville NW Reunion as they occur so that I can post them in the SLSRH Newsletter.
4) I remember the twin cam Tempest. Never knew why they stopped running it. Just thought I would point out that the Dodge Bros four banger also had at least three OHV heads made for it. One was the Roof 16 valve. Five mains and 212 cid must have been a pretty hot piece in '26. I sold my '32 Plymouth engine to the Speedway museum. They are also planning on building a replica of the OHV version that I ran. I am making slow progress on a Dodge Bros motor to replace it. Rich Fox
5) Please add Gary Svoboda to the list. Gary is a "Car Guy" and a former member of the Accel Ignition Trackside Engineering Team when I served as the racing director for the company. He shows a 27 T Roadster powered by a tiny Buick V8. His E-address is
email@example.com. Thanks, Bob Falcon Bob: Thank you for recommending Gary to our group. I've notified Mary Ann at www.hotrodhotline.com to add his name to our group and his email address to our list so that he can receive the newsletter. Mary Ann should have all the back issues of the newsletter with the photographs on the new website, www.landspeedracing.com.
6) Editor's notes: I have phone numbers for many of the members, but not all. At your convenience, please send me your phone numbers so that I can update my records. Street addresses are not necessary, but being able to call you in an emergency is important. Thank you.