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Bonneville Salt Flats|Utah Motorsports


Bonneville Salt Flats/Utah MotorsportsThe history of Utah motorsports is peppered with a variety of classes and styles of competition from grassroots drag racing up to nationally recognized stock racing. However, the greatest of these is the long tradition of competing for land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The following is from a postcard [P0591] about the famous Utahn Ab Jenkins and the salt flats; "The Bonneville Salt Flats is a salt deposit left by the receding of ancient Lake Bonneville. This deposit covers about 159 square miles extending some nine miles along U.S. Highways 40 and 50 and the Western Pacific Railroad. The salt is white, crystalline aggregate, porous, hard and rigid so that it supports loaded trucks. In 1912 this area was tested as a race track and has since proved to be the greatests automobile speedway in the world. In 1931 Ab Jenkins of Salt lake City broke all former world speed records." In the years that followed, especially the 1950s and 1960s, the salt flats were a motorsports mecca. Today, hundreds of competitors arrive twice every year to attempt to break records. The following photographs and sounds document some of the work from the 1930s up to Speedweek, 1996.

  • Utah Salt Flats near U.S. 40, 1924

    The way the salt flats looked from U.S. 40 in 1924 is remarkably similar to how it looks today from I-80. 
    [THOMAS ADAMS Collection, P0043]

  • Ab Jenkins next to tail of his record seting Mormon Meteor car, 1931

    Ab Jenkins next to the tail of his record setting Mormon Meteor, 1931. 
    [GEORGE ALBERT SMITH Collection, P0036]

  • Color postcard of the Mormon Meteor

    Color postcard of the Mormon Meteor. 
    [UTAH POSTCARD Collection, P0591]

  • Mormon Meteor rolling out to begin another record attempt, 1931 

    Meteor rolling out to begin another record attempt, 1931. 
    [GEORGE SMITH Collection, P0036]

  • John Cobb's Napier-Railton which held the record of 134.85 m.p.h. for a 24 hour period 

    John Cobb's Napier-Railton which held the record of 134.85 m.p.h. for a 24 hour period. 
    [ALVIN G. and LENA M. PACK Collection, P0500]

  • Sir Malcolm Campbell in 'Bluebird', circa September 1935 

    Sir Malcolm Campbell in 'Bluebird', circa September 1935. 
    [[ALVIN G. and LENA M. PACK Collection, P0500]

  • Captain G.E.T. Eyston's vechicle making a record run in 1938 

    Captain G.E.T. Eyston's vechicle making a record run in 1938. 
    [UTAH POSTCARD Collection, P0591]

  • Hard work often pays off with more hard work.

    Hard work often pays off with more hard work. 
    [CLYDE ANDERSON Collection, P0158]

  • "On August 26, 1939, John Cobb became the world's automibile speed king by driving his car 369.74 mph."

    "On August 26, 1939, John Cobb became the world's automibile speed king by driving his car 369.74 mph." 
    [UTAH POSTCARD Collection, P0591]

  • On October 23, 1970 The Blue Flame set a world land speed record of 622.407 mph driven by Gary Gabelich

    On October 23, 1970 The Blue Flame set a world land speed record of 622.407 mph driven by Gary Gabelich. 
    [UTAH POSTCARD Collection, P0591]

1996 Salt Flats speed trials 1996 Salt Flats speed trials 1996 Salt Flats speed trials 1996 Salt Flats speed trials 1996 Salt Flats speed trials

Photographs from the 1996 trials. Click on the picture for a larger image. Special thanks to Jay Mumma for use of his photographs!

Sounds of the Salt Flats

The following links will connect you to two .wav audio files. The sounds bites are taken from the Salt Lake City's KSL radio news coverage of Captain Eyston's land speed record attempts on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1938. The radio program was recorded onto 17 inch glass based acetate records by the "instant recording" method. The particular runs recorded were attempts made on August 24, 1938. A mere three days later, Eyston's "Thunderbolt" broke the land speed record by topping out at an impressive 345.489mph! Click on the front of the vehicle for the first run, (567k) and on the rear of the vehicle for the return run, (385k).

eyes1

 Last Modified 9/3/14