Chuck Johnson’s Bonneville Adventure – Part One

Chuck in Bonneville

A lot of us gearheads have always dreamed of racing at Utah's Bonneville raceway.  Since 1896 men have come in cars to the vast salt flats west of Salt Lake City to try their luck, not at legal gambling in the nearby town of Wendover, but to see who is the fastest of the fast.  All of the worlds speed records for various types of automobiles have been set here at one time or another including Gary Gabiliche's amazing speed of 622 mph which stood as the fastest speed a land vehicle reached on earth for 13 years.

14 miles long and 7 miles wide, The Bonneville Salt Flats consists of 159 square miles of rock hard salt deposits in a desolate region of northwestern Utah. The salt flats are a remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville, formed when the wild Colorado River seriously jumped its banks as the glaciers of the last ice age subsided eons ago, causing massive flooding.

 

Chuck Johnson's Bonneville AdventureChuck Johnson's Bonneville Adventure

Making a list and checking it twice.  When prepping a car for a tough event such as this, it's a really good idea to make a check list to make sure no important detail is overlooked.

All racecars need to be nut and bolted, racers slang for inspecting every critical bolt in the entire car before every event, here Chuck checks the suspension bolts

The surface of the salt flats is nearly perfectly flat and every year, a shallow layer of standing water floods this surface. During spring and summer, the water slowly evaporates. Wind and water work together to smooth the surface of the salt making it into a good surface to race on. Mother Nature hard at work to make a raceway of hard salt crystals

Since the salt flats are extremely flat and nearly aligned perfectly with the shape of Earth, you can see the curvature of the planet, creating an eerie optical illusion that makes many of the mountains within the vicinity appear to be floating in the air since their bases are on the other side of the curve and thus out-of-sight.  The whiteness, vastness and desolation makes the salt flats a surrealistic place to be, let alone race.

Chuck Johnson's Bonneville AdventureChuck Johnson's Bonneville Adventure

Like most of us, Chuck used to be a ricer when he was younger.  Now that he is older, the ricer wiring of his youth was coming back to bite him.  He had to troubleshoot and undo all the splices for lame blue interior lights and stuff like that, least something critical shorts out at a critical moment.

Picture of a semi naked girl above the toolbox, tube of lotion on top of the toolbox.  WTF is going on here

Bonneville's golden age was in the mid 60's. During this time, brave men in crude jet powered cars fought and died for the honor of being the fastest man on earth.  During this period the 400 mph, 500 mph and 600 mph barriers were shattered and the happenings in this corner of Utah captivated the world.  A few years later our space program eclipsed these feats in the public's eye, instantly creating a new breed of hero, the astronaut. A war in Southeast Asia also upstaged the flat's heroes. Out of the limelight, the racing here once again returned to the control of the elite fraternity of absolute speed racers, the heroes who's names no one knew.

Many of us can remember the heydays of the salt flats and have dreamed of one day running there.  I can remember as a 4 year old, having my Dad read me stories from the newpaper about Craig Breedlove and Art Arfons duels on the salt. I even had a toy model of Breedlove's Sprit of America jet racer. I still have an issue of Hotrod magazine from the mid 60's that my Dad bought me featuring the two. Others are not old enough to remember but have read the stories and dreamt of the place.  JE Engineer Chuck Johnson is one of these people and this is his story.

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