I now consider myself a grizzled veteran of Bonneville Speed Week having spent my first day ever on the salt flats yesterday.
OK, that’s anything but the truth but I did feel slightly more confident and comfortable heading out today, having already gotten myself acquainted with the basics of Speed Week.
Before I move into today’s action though, I want to jump back to last night and share some of the evening activity that’s a very important part of the Speed Week life.
Once the salt is closed down for the evening, the party doesn’t stop – it just moves to the casinos and hotels that line Wendover Boulevard.
The parking lot of the Nugget Hotel becomes the prime meeting spot, as people roll through in their Hot Rods and other modified street cars. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a hot, bright day on the salt – with a cold drink , some cool cars and good conversation.
The most popular topics discussed in the Nugget parking lot are stories from the day’s races, road trip tales, and of course general Hot Rod talk.
The friendly and easy going vibe is really one of the best things about Speed Week. It’s like one big, Hot Rod-obsessed family out here. For many it’s a time to catch up with old friends from across the country (or the world) and to make new ones as well.
As I mentioned yesterday, Friday’s weather was pretty unpredictable with showers and thunderstorms mixed with periods of sun. Of course the Hot Rod pilots didn’t seem to mind the wet stuff.
After all, a lot of these guys had just driven their cars for hundreds or thousands of miles and then putted around in piles of salt all day while being rained on. These are things are all things that would give show car owners nightmares, but it’s quite the norm at Speed Week.
The Hot Rods wear their salt and road grime like badges of honor. This Roadster came all the way from the state of Vermont!
The vibes around the Nugget on Friday night were good, but I didn’t stay out too late as I would be heading back to the salt first thing in the morning.
After a few winks of sleep it was back out to the track in the light of dawn.
You could easily see where the previous day’s rains had soaked the landscape. We aren’t talking about torrential rain, but you could definitley notice the increase of mud in certain areas.
With the sun just barely peaking over the horizon to the east, I stopped in line with dozens of other vehicles waiting for the salt to open for the day.
A few minutes later the salt was open and I joined the convoy heading towards the pits. The “road” across the salt feels pretty surreal – there are no lanes, no pavement, nothing at all really. Just hundreds of vehicles traveling at 55mph on a phantom freeway across a barren landscape.
I’d been told by my fellow Speedhunters that early morning is the best time to be at Bonneville. Once I got out of the car and started walking around it was easy to see why.
There’s a sense of peace to Bonneville in the morning, as the cars and pit stalls sit largely unoccupied. It’s also very quiet, save for the sound of the occasional Hot Rod rumbling by.
Naturally, the soft light and lack of activity makes it a great time for photography. It’s also one of the easiest times to be on the salt, with the air cool and sun not yet in its high, scorching position.
You never have to walk far to stumble across a great photo opp. Like I said before, it really feels like you are cheating somehow.
As I waited for the action to start later in the morning, I did some more exploring of the pit area where I found this bitchin’ 1962 Ford truck based out of my home area of Central California.
As the light increased, so did the activity. Saturday marks the first day of speed runs and I’m told that the first few days of Speed Week are by far the busiest in terms of racers and spectators.
The McKeein Bros S13 out of Ohio is a car that’s popped up in our past coverage of Bonneville Speed Week. This year the car is running in the F/GALT (Unblown Gas Altered) class with a Ford-based powerplant.
It was definitley cool to see them representing Speedhunters with a large decal on the side. Thanks guys!
The more and more I explored, the more I began to see why Bonneville is so legendary – and the race cars are just part of it.
To see something like this wagon rolling down the highway would normally get me damn impressed, but here on the salt it’s just one of an endless procession of a cool old cars cruising around. That in itself could be reason enough to make a trip.
At one point I saw this cool double decker transporter which reminds me of the rigs that bring race cars to events in Japan. Awesome.
With the pits at Bonneville being so enormous, people come up with some creative ways to get around. I don’t think anything was better than this guy and his prop-driven “Suicidecycle”.
Speaking of props, apparently someone decided they would just fly right into the salt flats and skip the driving altogether.
You know you are at somewhere important when there’s a car named after it.
Most Pontiac Bonnevilles were pretty mundane cars, but this one out of Colorado is perhaps the finest of the breed. It’s a ’65 model with the top dog 421 cubic inch V8 and even a 4-speed manual transmission. I love it.
By mid-morning the sun was high and it was time begin the speed runs as cars made the long journey from the pits to the starting line on the “big” course.
Yes, you might want to bring a hat if you come out.
It was quite interesting for a rookie like myself to watch how the different cars would go about making their runs. It seemed that all classes were running at once so there was a big variety of vehicles to study.
Of course there were bikes thrown in the group as well.
Some racers like this Chevy SSR would come off the line under their own power, grabbing for traction and kicking a trail of salt in the air behind them. Very fun to watch.
On the other hand, the streamliners and other more extreme entries pull off the line casually in front of their pushers. The real magic doesn’t happen until a few miles down the track – far out of sight from here.
I’m going to wrap this up here before I fall asleep at my computer, but there’s lots more to come from Bonneville. Next time we’ll have a closer look at some of these wild race machines themselves.