Bonneville Salt Beds | On the Salt

By Chet Billings, Photography by Unknown

It was slower but still fast. The average amounted to 31.27 seconds or 115.126 m.p.h. Although one more run was made, still slower, the first two were to constitute the record. Later it was found that misinterpreting conditions they had gone the wrong way on plugs, and thus the slowing.

“Rack her,” said Hap, and they set the 45 a side.

Quickly they turned to the 74. Against tire company advice, a light tire was tried.

The 74 made a north trip at 30.86 seconds. On the south trip it blew the rear tire. It was a grave moment when that piece of torn tube came up and whacked the rider. Ludlow’s long experience helped him through and he set the job down without a mishap.

That finished the trials for that day. Preparations were then made to try the shell the next morning.

Sunday the 25th, the crew was up at 2:30A.M. Time passed quickly and before long Ludlow was in the shell, at the South end of the stretch waiting for enough light so they could tow him off.

Everyone had a job to do that day for extra hands were needed to start the shell, and to catch it at the finish. The writer was with Johnny Moore of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company at the point where it was thought the shell would stop. Johnny kept the motor running in his car so that we could chase the shell in case Ludlow overshot his mark.

It was dark enough that from our position one and a half miles beyond the measured mile we had but about two miles visibility. Several times we thought we caught the first notes of the 61. We did catch them. It was screaming. Through the glasses we picked up the odd looking blunt nose. In the last half of that mile it sounded like the job was really smoking and we had nearly all the thrill of seeing a new record made.

We heard Freddie taper down on the throttle, and finally heard him cut. It was impossible to judge the speed of the “Arrow.” Once the shell wobbled slightly and veered clear to the right line. Holding until the last before starting the car in motion we saw the shell straighten and pick the center, as arranged

One of us stood spraddle legged and arms out. Freddie drove the job literally into your lap. The other took the shell from the side.

Until then Johnny and I had no doubt but what it was a fast run. But Freddie soon cooled us off. Talking thru the covering he said he had gone into a speed wobble and that only in the last half of the mile had he tried as much as 5,000 revs.

The wobble we had seen was from him moving around and shutting off the gas. He wanted out so he could breathe. We started taking the tail off. Just as we pulled it loose up came the Ford which had been boiling along behind at some 90 m.p.h.

The boys in the car were surprised for they had not been close enough to see the speed wobble. It took a lot of talking that day to analyze all the results of that one fast ride. It was clear that streamlining helped. The job had handled well and accelerated beautifully until it reached a speed somewhere around 135 m.p.h. Then it wanted to “fish tail.” Freddie struggled with it a little and then had gone to 5,000 revs hoping to pull through the trouble, but things didn’t work that way.

The result of the round table discussion was, later in the day, to remove the drag fins near the tail. The spot was covered with a patch.

By Chet Billings
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