Volk Bros’ 1929 Salt Flats Record Roadster
If you found this story at MyRideisMe.com, you already know that Bonneville International Speedway and Salt Flats Land Speed Racing have quite a history. That history is filled with amazing pioneers in hot rodding, racing, and humans just plain going fast! The previous story from the Salt Flat Racing category: Salt Flats Car Show, the Bonneville Salt Flats are seriously the mecca for hot rodders and custom car nuts. This 1929 roadster typifies; race car and family history of Salt Flat and Land Speed Racing you’re sure to find with every trip to the Salt.
The owner Larry Volk, together with his family of Land Speed Racers have their own Salt Flats racing history. The Volk Family was kind enough to loan me their racing scrapbook full of newspaper clippings and photos so I could scan a few to share that rich history here at MyRideisMe.com. The recent pics you see were snapped this last Saturday at a church parking lot of all places. Hey, it is Utah you know. :) Larry Volk is the current President of the 200 MPH Club. Not only is he the President, but he’s also a member. Ha ha! And so are his 2 sons Dallas and Patrick and yes, even his daughter, Allison (aka “Hollywood”).
We asked Dallas to fill us in on the Volk Bros’ racing history and while doing so, found out some nifty info about not only the car and the Volk Bros’ racing team, but Land Speed Racing. Let’s get to it shall we then?
MyRideisMe: How did your dad get into Salt Flat Racing?
Dallas Volk: Dad drag raced and helped with some sprint cars in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He and one of his buddies Dave Skidmore decided they wanted to try the Salt Flats thing and built a ’32 highboy roadster. They ran out at the Salt with that car for a few years reaching speeds in the 180 MPH range. This car’s been in the family for 30 years.
Tell us about the racing history of #59.
Dallas Volk: In the late 60’s Dad built the first #59, a modified 1927 T roadster (modified roadsters can run a custom built aerodynamic nose and can have a belly pan under the entire car). He ran that car for about a decade setting a record in 1975 at 207 MPH for E/MR. The record was set using a 240 cid Dodge, injected, with about 80% nitro in the tank. This record made him the first Utah’n in the Bonneville 200 MPH club (to gain entrance into the Bonneville 200 MPH club you have to break an existing record over 200 MPH by averaging 2 consecutive runs over the record), and the record stood for over 20 years. That car set one other record for C/MR with a 354 cid injected Chrysler Hemi at 239 MPH.
In 1978 dad sold the modified so we could build the second #59, a highboy roadster which is a more conventional looking car using the stock grill shell, be a certain height, and can only use a step pan in the drivers compartment, everything else has to be open. We built the car from scratch using a tube frame and a fiberglass 1929 Ford model A body. The car first saw the Salt in 1979 and we are still running it today. The car has set several records. F/FR at 167mph, C/BGR at 219mph, A/FR at 234mph and A/GR at 236mph.
MyRideisMe: You mentioned it has sort of become a “test pilot training” car…How many drivers have gone 200 mph in this car?
Dallas Volk: During the 30 years the car has been competing on the Salt Flats there have been around 40 people (that’s more than new driver per year) that have driven the car, around 25 of those have been over 200 MPH. We let people that have helped us over the years take a few passes in it just to get the feel. Sometimes we can’t afford to put a motor together so someone will step up with a motor of theirs and try to set a record. There’s also a friend of ours with a streamliner running over 370 MPH. They have different people driving the car and they’ll sometimes do their licensing passes up to 250 MPH in our car because it is difficult and more expensive to make lower speed passes in the ‘liner. We’ve had several people run over 300 MPH and even 400 MPH tell us that it takes more driving skill to run over 200 MPH in the roadster than it does to run over 300 MPH in a streamliner. I believe the equation would be: High HP + short wheelbase + brick like aero package = Big pucker factor to the tenth power.
MyRideisMe: What engine/drivetrain setups has it had?
Dallas Volk: This car has run blown and injected fuel Hemi’s 300, 354 and 392 cid, blown fuel and gas small block Chevy’s 305 cid, making 1100 HP (responsible for the fastest speed the car has ever achieved 252 mph) and a 350 cid that set the C/BGR record at 219 mph. For transmissions we’ve run a turbo 350 and 400, a T10, an air shifted Lenco (really cool, just push the button and hold on) and we’re currently running a Muncie 4 speed. For a rear end we run a 9″ Ford with 2.76 or 2.50 gear, depending on if we have enough HP to pull the 2.50.
MyRideisMe: What’s the fastest its gone before?
Dallas Volk: 252 mph on a 242 record but we kicked a rod through the oilpan and that kept us from making a return run for the record.
MyRideisMe: So, you’re in the 200 MPH Club, what is it like to do 200mph+ 1929 roadster?
Dallas Volk: Driving on the Salt is like driving on concrete with a fine layer of sand over the top of it. You have to really ease into the throttle and lay off when the tires break loose. Controlling the car at 200+ mph overtakes all your senses. It seems like you are holding your breath for 5 miles. All steering adjustments are very minute. As I try to look about 1/4 mile down the track and make my adjustments to hit that spot. I find myself talking to the car, you know like “come on baby lets move right just a little” or “ease back this way for me”. The worst thing you can do is over correct or get the back of the car oscillating left and right. That’s when cars go around and it happens fast. Unlike any other kind of racing there is nothing to stop you when the car tumbles. I was at the scene of a crash that happened at 360 MPH. We found the cockpit of the car 1 3/4 miles from the initial impact. The guy escaped with massive bruising and a broken toe.
MyRideisMe: Have you had any hairy moments on Salt yourself?
Dallas Volk: Yes, quite a few! The one that stands out the most happened while running about 225 mph. The clutch pack from the turbo 350 trans we were running grenaded and blew the trans casing into about ten thousand pieces. When it happened it lifted the whole car about 6 inches in the air, putting hundreds of holes in the body, frame, step pan, computer, and my foot. I wanted out of that run so bad I unhooked the harness and was driving about 125 mph sitting on top of the roll cage, steering with my feet. It was also the first event my soon-to-be wife attended and when she pulled up riding in the push truck all she saw was me sitting in the ambulance and a trail of red transmission fluid on the white salt which she naturally assumed was blood. :) It took a while to convince her I was sane enough to be a good husband after that.
MyRideisMe: Glad you made it back safely and that your wife stuck with you after that. :) So, why do you go back year after year? Do they put something in the Salt?
Dallas Volk: The Salt Flats is the last of the true amateur racing venues. No bigtime sponsors, most folks built their car in their garage on a limited budget. The people that race out there are the greatest, they take the time to talk to the spectators, they’ll loan parts to people they’re competing against and will help in any way they can. You won’t find that in any of the big money auto sports like NHRA or NASCAR. Also it is a family affair and the one time of the year the whole family will get together. A family that races together stays together.
MyRideisMe: What is it that brings people from around the world to the “white stuff”?
Dallas Volk: If you’re a true gearhead it’s the Mecca of Speed. It’s the birthplace of hotrodding. Where else can you go and see a classic roadster or coupe, an open motorcycle, or even an Opel go over 200 MPH? Then wait a few minutes an see a WWII P-38 belly tank with wheels, a streamlined motorcycle go over 300 MPH, then wait a few minutes and watch a home-built streamliner do over 400 MPH. When you go out there your standing on the same ground where Mickey Thompson, Craig Breedlove, Gary Gabelich, Art Arfons, Malcolm Campbell, Ab Jenkins and many others made history. The bigger question for me is what’s keeping people from coming to the “white stuff”?
MyRideisMe: Anything else you we should know?
Dallas Volk: Myself, my brother, and my sister are all in the Bonneville 200 MPH club. And just for reference more people have climbed Mt. Everest than have achieved membership into this club.
Well, there you have it rodders! The Volk Bros #59 roadster and race team/family. When (not “if”) you make it out to the Salt Flats this year, stop by the 200 MPH Club booth/#59 pits and say hello. Be careful though, you may be given a wrench to help out or even the drivers suit. Where do I sign up? See you out on the “white stuff”! I know MyRideisMe.com will be there this year for Speed Week 2009!
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