Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Salt Fever

Quintessential American motorsport.
Don’t think, just say the first thing that comes to mind!

How many of you answered NASCAR?
Stock car racing was initially created during the prohibition era when moonshine runners had to be capable of outrunning the police. I’m not going to make any attempt to go into all the details, but the gist of it all is that these cars, essentially tuned production vehicles modified for speed, would race each other on days when they weren’t smuggling alcohol. This was how Hot Rod culture, perhaps the earliest example of tuner culture, came to be.

'32 Ford Deuce
But NASCAR is no longer what it is today, is it? The closest stock car racing series we have today, I suppose, would be SCCA. However, circuit racing isn’t quintessentially American either.
The rest of you got it right. Quintessential American motorsport? The other obvious response would have been drag racing.

But let’s not make it too easy for ourselves. There can be a drag race anywhere in the world. All you need, really, is a straight and a traffic light.

Today, I’d like pay tribute to a automotive venue that is exclusively our own. Enthusiasts from all over the world journey to this motoring Mecca, if you will, just so that they can truly experience driving in a straight line.

The Bonneville Salt Flats. No quarter-miles here. After having a taste of what it’s like to reach astronomical speeds on a surface so flat and expansive that one could visually see the curvature of the earth, drivers and participants become infected with what’s known as “Salt Fever.” Symptoms are the desire to return to Bonneville and to go even faster. 

Arguably, the origins of Salt Flats racing and NASCAR are closely similar. The appeal of the hot rod influenced many drivers to bring their vehicles to the flats as well. But while NASCAR evolved into a series that shares little resemblance to their origin, the Salt Flats possesses a sense of pride in their hot rod roots and even provides vintage classifications specifically to ensure their heritage will survive for decades to come.

As explained in the link provided (, vintage class regulations dictate that the vehicle must be a pre-1948 vehicle of any American Manufacturer, replica or otherwise. One very infamous rule is the permission to "chop" the vehicle's roof to lower its height while modifications to the lower part of the body is not allowed. Surprising, yet not completely unexpected, bodywork on the vintage class vehicles do not have to be iron as fiberglass or aluminum are also acceptable.

OLD CROW SPEED SHOP: BONNEVILLE from The Jalopy Journal on Vimeo.

Perhaps even more popular than vintage is the production class vehicles category. It is exactly as it sounds, a category open to any "typical" transportation vehicle that can be purchased from any car dealer. While I may wholeheartedly agree that the goal of motorsports should be “racing improves the breed,” I can’t help but feel attracted to a classification that encourages amateur drivers to participate and to simply “run what you’ve brung.”


I hope that all of us can one day get a chance to journey to this speed Mecca that is Bonneville Salt Flats. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment