Speed Week 2010 Getting Schooled in a Jeep

Bonneville Salt Flats Race Truck

I met Pete and his son (the driver) at Speed Week 2010, but we had been talking through email the last couple months.  I was cruising through the pits at the Bonneville Salt Flats on day 1 when I saw Pete and his Comanche heading to the Tech Inspection area to check in.  I followed behind them and then went over to say hi.  Before we get into the Jeep’s performance at Speed Week, first, let’s see what it took Pete to get there.

Speed Week 2010, Jeep Commanche, Bonneville race truck

In Pete’s own words:

“At this point I have more time than money. The Bonneville truck was to be a budget build but that didn’t quite work out…  I consider myself to be a good mechanic and a reasonable engineer.  I have worked on my cars my whole life  and was a mechanic in the Army.  All of that said, I had never built a race car. I had re-built engines, but never built a race engine.   So what made me think I could build a record setting race truck?  Maybe it was more balls than brains.  And why a Jeep?   That question I know the answer to.  I could have built an S10 using 4.3L parts.  They had a NASCAR series that used the V6, so a whole bunch of speed parts are available for that motor. But what fun is that!?  Building something from a catalog was not me. Like most car guys I wanted something  different.”

Hmmm… sounds like My Ride is Me!

Speed Week 2010, LSR3 Jeep Commanche

“I finally found a 2WD Comanche with a 4.0L engine and manual transmission on Ebay in Texas.  We won it for a top bid of $930.00    It had 256,000 miles on it, but my son was able to drive it home to Illinois from Texas with only 1 roadside repair.

In the production racing class that the Jeep fits in you have to use a version of the engine that originally came in the vehicle.  So I had to build a Jeep/AMC inline 6.  Some street performance stuff was available to give you a 20% or 30% gain, but for Bonneville we would have to at least double the horsepower.  We were in uncharted waters.”

Speed Week 2010, Land Speed Racing, /PP class
Check the blacked out look of this Jeep… Looks like Darth Vader!  Mean!

“We had a Plan, we had a vehicle, we had a date we had to meet (Bonneville Speed Week 2009).  The weeks and months that followed were crazy.   I was doing the engineering and project management.  My (23 year old) son was doing most of the fabrication.   As Speed Week 2009 got closer everybody was wrenching.  We did make it to Speed Week, but were unable to run due to a lubrication issue.  Also I probably over did things and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia during Speed Week.   We did get the truck through tech, and a good time was had by all, even the guy in the hospital.

The story does not end there.  Over the winter the engine problems were resolved, things were fixed on the car. We attended Maxton in May and found a steering issue.  The next stop was to be Bonneville Speed Week 2010 in August.”

Speed Week 2010, 4.9L, bored and stroked, inline 6

“To say the least this was a challenge.  Maybe we should all challenge ourselves a little more, like the President that thought we should go to the moon.   I could say I am doing this for myself, but I think that’s not completely correct.  I think I wanted to show my son that we are surrounded by opportunity and that in many cases you don’t know what you can do until you try.  Our goal for this year is to go 185 mph at Bonneville, and in the next year or two to join the 200mph club.  Hey! why not?”

4.9 Liter, Jeep inline 6 cylinder, Bonneville race engine

Here’s a close up of that sexy inline 6.  I love the snakey header.  It’s a one-off custom piece of course.  If you’re gonna go 200 mph Pete, this engine looks like it is a great base to reach your goal.  I was blown away when Pete mentioned that he didn’t think he had enough compression to get the record.  I asked him how much he had and it was like 13-14:1.  Whoa!  Talk about a serious motor!

I chatted with Pete for a few minutes, snapped some pictures of the Jeep and headed off.  Pete later shared his Speed Week 2010 experience and related it to getting “schooled”.  I’m sure his experience at Speed Week is not unlike most at Bonneville.

Speed Week 2010, LSR3 Jeep Commanche, Bonneville Salt Flats

“It was the first time on the salt for the truck, and for my son and myself as competitors and we learned a lot.   We did go 155 MPH, but the record is around 173 MPH for the D/PMP class.   I guess you have to have a pretty big ego to think you can just build a car and go out and set a record (guilty as charged!).  If we changed the rear end gears we could probably get it to 163, but that is still 10 mph shy of the record.   One thing I learned is that it is not just about the engine and setting a record.  I saw lots of spins. I met people that had all kinds of problems, ignition, handling, fuel problems, etc.   I saw they had the engine out of the Blowfish.  Not sure what the problem was.   My point is that people with a whole lot more money and resources had trouble just getting a car down the track. We got through tech without a problem, the car did everything we asked it to do, it went straight, the chute worked.  We just didn’t have the right gears and enough horsepower.  We have a whole year to work on that.

All and all we are proud of ourselves, we did not achieve our goal of setting a record, but we understand now exactly what it takes.  We get a passing grade on “Salt Flats 101”.  The next course is harder.  For “Salt Flats 201” you have to set a record to pass.  For “301” you have to get into the 200 MPH Club.  I’m not sure what you need to graduate, maybe the big Hot Rod trophy for the fastest run of the meet.   All I know is I went to Speed Week 2010 and got schooled.”

Speed Week 2010, Tech Inspection, Jeep Commanche

A big thanks to Pete for sharing his Bonneville story with us at MyRideisMe.com.  I felt inspired by his comment that life is full of opportunity and that we should just go for it.  The Hechtspeed family is in the planning stages to build a Belly Tank Lakester and if we follow Pete’s advice, I know we’ll get there.

If you missed Part 1 of this Bonneville Racing Jeep, see it here

For the Best of Bonneville Speed Week click this link.

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