A Taste Of The 2021 Speed Week At Bonneville

10 min read

A Taste Of The 2021 Speed Week At Bonneville

10 min read

Located on the border between Utah and Nevada, the Bonneville Salt Flats is bathed in geological and human history. The ancient Lake Bonneville once covered an area the size of Lake Michigan but through time receded and split — the Great Salt Lake and salt flats are all that remain. Cycles of wind and water work to create the otherwordly smooth salty surface.

Bonneville Sunrise

The sunrise over the Bonneville Salt Flats on the border between Utah and Nevada is a special time during Speed Week. If you’re getting up that early, you’re probably prepping for a record run!

Early hot-rodding pioneers recognized the Bonneville Salt Flats as a place to go fast. It was first used for motorsports in 1912 but gained notoriety in the 1930s when Ab Jenkins and Sir Malcolm Campbell made it famous by competing for land speed records. Hot rodders make the pilgrimage to Bonneville Speedway (a designated area specifically for motorsports) every year since to set their own records, with only a few years rained out in the arid climate. The most popular event held at the Speedway is Speed Week, which starts the first weekend in August.

Bonneville Belly Tanker

Early hot rodders coming back from WWII recognized the aerodynamic advantages of surplus airplane drop tanks as a way to go fast cheaply. “Belly tankers” are still in use today!

If you’ve never been to Bonneville, it most certainly should be at the top of your bucket list. Bonneville is awe-inspiring on its own, but to be there during Speed Week is the pinnacle of hot rodding. The event is only for wheel-driven cars — no jet propulsion is allowed — the wheels must move the car forward. It can be tricky getting traction; it’s man and machine versus Mother Nature on the grandest scale. You will see everything from the cheapest, simplest, slowest, motorcycle to the most expensive, technology-laden, super-fast streamliners.

Running on three different courses of varying lengths, participants compete for land speed world records in hundreds of different classes based on a myriad of factors such as engine size, fuel type, car type, and power adders. Spectators are kept a pretty good distance away as some of these cars reach speeds nearing 500 miles per hour. It is a sight to behold to see a hand-built streamliner seem to float above the heat-waved surface as it screams toward terminal velocity before engaging the parachutes to bring it to an eventual stop 8 miles from where it started.

However, racing is not the only thing that happens during Speed Week. Each night, there is a cruise-in at the Nugget Casino in nearby Wendover, Nevada. Many traditional hot rods fill the parking lot; their bodies covered in salt as if a badge of honor showing they’ve been out on the flats. Many car clubs make the pilgrimage to each year but none as famous as the Rolling Bones crew, who make the trip every year from the East Coast.

Whether you go for a weekend or stay the entire week, you will experience the ambiance, history, and even tragedy that is Bonneville Speed Week. However, one thing is for sure — you will have the experience of a lifetime and make more new hot rod friends along the journey of life. In the end, that is all that really matters and no car guy bucket list is complete without a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Make plans to attend Speed Week in August of 2022; if conditions match this year, you are sure to see many more records fall.

Bonneville Flowmaster Muffler Car

Proof you never know what you are going to see out on the salt. Jeremy Loveall and Todd Brannon drove this “muffler” all the way from Kentucky!

Bonneville GMC

Check out the cool GMC truck in the background. It has a 292ci engine and hauls a land speed racer in the back and a camper behind it! Who says you need modern horsepower to tow!


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