The day when we will no longer see sanctioned racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats may soon be at hand after the Southern California Timing Association decided on Monday to cancel the Bonneville Speed Week for the second year in a row.
The announcement came after weeks of speculation and multiple visits to the salt flats by SCTA and Bureau of Land Management officials to determine whether enough salt remained to comprise a reasonable racing surface for this year’s Speed Week, which was scheduled to begin August 8. Instead, hundreds of racers from around the world will now have to wait to see if other events in the short land-speed racing season at Bonneville will follow the same fate.
A number of factors combined to cause this year’s cancellation. Heavy rains earlier this year left the salt flats swamped, as usual, but also triggered mudslides from the surrounding mountains and onto a section of the flats used for the SCTA’s land-speed racing courses. While the annual flooding of the salt flats typically recedes by late summer, leaving behind the plain white moonscape racers have sought out for more than a century, the mudslide has remained.
In addition, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier this month, the layer of salt has become increasingly thinner in recent years, leaving little to keep vehicles from breaking through to the soft mud below. “Experts from the BLM found some areas where the upper crust is thick and healthy, and able to support high-speed racing and other recreation,” the Tribune’s Emma Penrod wrote. “But in some portions of the area generally converted into race tracks during Speed Week, the salt is extremely thin or missing entirely.”
According to the SCTA, that meant that the best its officials could come up with was a 2-1/4-mile stretch of salt to safely race on, short of the 3-mile and longer courses the SCTA typically reserves for its high-speed runs. “Mother nature was not good to us this year,” Bill Lattin, SCTA president and race director, said.
By some estimates, the salt crust has reduced in thickness from two feet to just two inches and in area from 96,000 acres to about 30,000 acres; some racers point to nearby potash mining as one reason for the shrinking and thinning salt. The BLM has committed to further study of the problem and has in the past ordered one of the mining operations to replenish the salt.
Last year’s Speed Week cancellation came after heavy rains flooded the salt flats. Water remained on the flats long enough to force the cancellation of the Speed Week rain date and of the World Finals in October.
As of July 1, the SCTA claimed more than 550 entries for this year’s Speed Week.
In its announcement canceling this year’s race, the SCTA noted that “if the wet salt gets dry, future events could be possible.” Other Bonneville land-speed racing events planned for this year include the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials, scheduled for August 30 to September 3; Utah Salt Flats Racing Association‘s World of Speed, scheduled for September 12 to 15; Mike Cook’s Bonneville Shootout, scheduled for September 17 to 21; and the SCTA’s World Finals, scheduled for September 29 to October 2. A test-n-tune event scheduled for earlier this month has already been canceled.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.
To have been living in 1950s America must have felt like living in a modern day utopia. The United States emerged from World War II with the most powerful fighting force and an unparalleled (and unscathed) manufacturing base that could be mostly dedicated to peacetime endeavors. It took a few years to go from building tanks and warplanes to brand new cars, but by the mid-50s the golden age of the American automobile was in full-bloom. The future was here, and it included a lot of big fins and bubbletops.
Of all the cars to represent the once-limitless optimism of 1950s America, the Beatnik Bubbletop is one of the best dignitaries of that era we’ve ever seen…even if it is 50 years late to the party. Born of Gary “Chopit” Fioto’s childhood obsession with all things bubbletop, the Beatnik Bubbletop went on to win numerous awards including the desireable Grand Prize at Darryl Starbird’s National Rod and Custom Car Show, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fioto had been influenced by Starbird’s magazine features from the 50s, inspiring the Long Island native to chop his first car at the tender age of 11.
Fioto’s love of automobiles would inspire a long and storied hot rodding career that culminated in his Orange County shop, Chopit Kustoms. The Beatnik Bubbletop began life as just another 1955 Ford, though there isn’t much of the original car left. Fioto merged elements from Cadillac, Chrysler, and Lincoln onto the Beatnik Bubbletop, including a ‘59 Cadillac front bumper the finned taillights from a 1960 Chrysler, and the chassis of an ‘88 Lincoln Town Car. Powering all of this is a Chevy 350 V8. Seriously.
The Beatnik Bubbletop is expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000 when it rolls onto the auction block this weekend at Auction America’s Santa Monica event.
Article courtesy of Street Legal TV, written by Chris Demorro.
If, by now, you haven’t seen the works of Michael Paul Smith, you haven’t been paying attention. The prolific model maker who makes his die-cast car dioramas look stunningly real has been profiled in the New York Times, on ABC News, and featured several times here. He’s even released a book compiling some of his many scenes from Elgin Park, the fictional town with all sorts of weird stuff going on.
For his second book, which he wrote with Gail K. Ellison, Smith takes us behind the scenes, showing us just how he creates such lifelike scenes. At the same time, he introduces us to his legions of fans, some of whom have over time become remixers, contributors, and inspiration for Smith’s work. With the publisher’s permission, we’ve included an excerpt from the book’s introduction.
His first book, Elgin Park: An Ideal American Town, brought more visitors. Many of them asked questions; they found it hard to believe that these weren’t period photographs found in an attic. Michael reconfirmed that his work isn’t done in Photoshop: “I place the models on a base, then align them with the background at the correct distance so everything is in the proper scale. It’s the oldest trick in the special effects book from the 1920s.”
After a photoshoot, rather than doctoring his images, he looks for the photograph that best conveys a sense of place, time, and emotion. “When I do a photoshoot,” he says, “It takes a couple of days for me to go through and find shots that have that certain something. I might add a filter or frame, but nothing is brought into the photo – no sunsets or other elements. The last thing I want is for someone to call me a fake.”
To this day, Michael’s followers continue to be amazed at his skills, struggling to figure out how he fools them time and again. He might not have originated the technique he employs, but as his modeling skills and photographic eye become ever more refined – and interact with his knowledge of midcentury America and his capacity to invent believable stories about the residents of Elgin Park – people all over the world find themselves immersed in an imaginary reality that seems not only kinder and gentler, but in many ways vastly preferable to the life surrounding them in the 21st century.
Elgin Park: Visual Memories of Midcentury America at 1/24th Scale offers a longitudinal perspective on Michael’s work, while illuminating his creative process and techniques, including mistakes and decision making. In looking behind the scenes, the book celebrates an unanticipated phenomenon: the birthing and sustaining of a community where millions gather to appreciate Michael’s talent while sharing their own stories – a benefit of the Internet in the 21st century.
All the while, Michael, child of the ’50s, still doesn’t own a cell phone, television set, or real-life car; nor does he heat his house to more than 57 degrees in midwinter.
Most of the modeling is done in Michael’s retro kitchen, which looks very much like it was transported from the ’40s and ’50s. As he says in his photostream, “No power tools, just old-school saws, drills, X-acto blades, and sanding blocks.” At nine by ten feet, the room is very cozy.
Elgin Park: Visual Memories of Midcentury America at 1/24th Scale, is now available. For more information, visit AnimalMediaGroup.com.
UPDATE (17.July 2015): For a 10 percent discount on the book, available exclusively for Hemmings readers, visit AnimalMediaGroup.com and use the promo code ELGINPARK.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.
It was 48 years ago when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the Governor of California and the self-titled Doors album was released. In 1967, when it came to the Chevrolet cars we could buy, the SS 396 Chevelle took a hit in the performance area. The L78 was not available, and the L34 dropped 10 horsepower. This was a result of a new GM rule governing the horsepower allowances for all cars other than the Corvette.
With a few small-scale changes, the Impala was back with a new, flowing roofline for the Sports Coupes and SS models. Other than this roofline, Super Sport models were probably the most changed. They were distinguished by black grille, body-side, and rear fender accents. This year, the Caprice became a standalone model after being introduced as an option package in 1966. Finally, the L36 427ci big block was rated at 385 horsepower, and the L72 427 that was available in 1966 Impala was not offered in the 1967 Impala.
This was the first year of Camaro production, it was available in a hardtop or convertible, with three different option packages, nearly 80 different factory options. It was first marketed as a “road machine” and promised buyers “wide stance stability, and big car power.” The RS package included numerous cosmetic changes including a blacked-out grill with hidden headlights, revised parking and taillights, upgraded interior trim, and RS badging.
If you ordered your Camaro with the SS package, under the hood was either a 350ci V8, or later in the year, an available 396ci engine that produced 325 horsepower. Eventually, a 375 horsepower version would be available. Although not initially available, the late-year introduced Z28 included front disc brakes and a Muncie four-speed transmission. The all-new 302ci V8 was rated at 290 horsepower, but was rumored to actually have much more.
The Nova continued to provide dependable and economical transportation by offering consumers five engine and three transmission options.
These included the 194ci six-cylinder engine with 120 horsepower, the 283ci V8 with 195 horsepower, the 327ci V8 with 275 horsepower, and another 327ci V8 with 325 horsepower.
Although it was 48 years ago, do you remember what you were driving–if you could drive?
Article courtesy of Chevy Hardcore, written by Randy Bolig.
It was 1960, and with a retail price of $2,954, the V8-powered Impala convertible was Chevrolet’s most expensive car at the time. The slight modifications of the 1959 design created a1960 Impala with a more conservative look than was seen on the previous year.
The 1959’s horizontal fins were toned down a little bit, which gave the car a more “conservative” back end. Looking at the front, the air intakes above the headlights were deleted, and the 1960 redesign promoted “Space, Spirit, and Splendor.” There were 490,000 1960 Impalas built.
There were fewer options in regards to drivetrain choices, but with seven V8 engine options ranging from a 283ci engine, all the way up to a 348ci engine, there were still enough choices to satisfy buyers. Everyone wanted the 348ci Super Turbo-Thrust Special that was fed by three two-barrel carburetors and making 335 horsepower. The carbureted Turbo-Fire 283ci engine could have either 170 or 230 horsepower. Unfortunately, when 1960 rolled around, fuel injection was no longer an option in full-size Chevrolet cars.
The first generation of Corvette was nearing the end (second-generation Corvettes were introduced in 1963). In 1960, Corvette production reached 10,000 vehicles for the first time, and the option list continued to grow. The 1960 Corvette was the recipient of some power increases. By adding solid lifters and a higher 11.0:1 compression ratio to the “Fuelie” 283ci engine, horsepower was increased to 315 horsepower. A second version was built with hydraulic lifters to reduce maintenance, and it still pumped out a respectable 275 horsepower. Because of the power increases, the Powerglide was no longer available with fuel injected engines. In carbureted form, the single four-barrel-fed 283ci engine delivered 230 horsepower, and if you ordered your V8 with two four-barrel carburetors, there was a 245 horsepower version using hydraulic-lifters, and a solid-lifter version making 270 horsepower.
If you were looking at a truck in 1960, Chevrolet had just introduced a new body style that featured many firsts. The frame was modified, allowing the cab to sit lower, and an independent front suspension was introduced, giving a nicer ride. Chevrolet discontinued the use of the four number designation when referring to trucks. Now it was a simple two number designation; 10, 20, 30, and 40 series (C-series was two-wheel drive and K-series was four-wheel drive).
Article courtesy of Chevy Hardcore, written by Randy Bolig.