Deseret News Archives

It's Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats!

Throughout the years, the Bonneville Salt Flats have presented a unique landscape for everything from movies to television productions, but nothing has proved more potent than salt fever — the need for speed—that brings hundreds of thousands of daredevils to Utah each year.

Beginning with Teddy Tezlaff in 1914, who set an unofficial record of 141.73 mph in his Blitzen Benz, racers have come from all over the world to test their luck and skill on the salt. Since then, hundreds of records have been set and broken.

Here's a photographic look at Bonneville races throughout the years, from impressive records set in cars like the Mormon Meteor to the more unusual records set with speedy lawn mowers and unicycles.

Associated Press

Captain George Eyston, centre in helmet, with his entire crew standing behind his car Speed of the Winds at the conclusion of his record breaking runs on Bonneville Falts, Utah, on July 16, 1936, after he broke every intermediate record.

Associated Press

Captain George Eyston in his car Thunderbolt, the world’s most powerful car, travelled at 309. 6 miles per hour on the salt beds near Utah, Salt Lake City. This is the highest speed ever reached on land, but Thunderbolt broke down on the return run and the chance of an official record was denied Eyston. Captain George Eyston hurtling down the salt flats in his huge car, Thunderbolt, on Oct. 28, 1937, near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Deseret News Archives

This 1954 photo shows the plan parking strip at speed trials on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Deseret News Archives

In this August 1962 photo, Otto Anzjon and members of his crew pick up chunks of rubber from a racer's blown tire. The racer sits in the background of the picture, with the salt showing the black spin marks of the vehicle's passage.

Michael DeGroote, Deseret News

Former Salt Lake Mayor Abbott "Ab" Jenkins helped to establish the Bonneville Salt Flats as a racing location, but is best known for driving the Mormon Meteor into the record books in 1935. This early photo shows the original Mormon Meteor.

Deseret News Archives

Former Salt Lake Mayor Abbott "Ab" Jenkins helped to establish the Bonneville Salt Flats as a racing location, but is best known for driving the "Mormon Meteor" into the record books in 1935. Jenkins also set records on the salt in Pierce-Arrows.

Associated Press

John Cobb, of Surrey, England, plans to try to beat his own speed record of 369.7 miles per hour at Bonneville Flats, Utah, early in August, in this rebuilt, three ton, Railton Mobil Special supercharged racing car. The racer is powered by two 1,250 horsepower Napier Lion engines. Rounded turret in fore ground is Cobb's observation post shown July 3, 1947.

Associated Press

The Blue Flame is shown as it performs test runs just before 30-year-old Gary Gabelich set the new land auto speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, on Nov. 4, 1970. The $500,000 rocket-propelled car, which averages 622.407 miles per hour, was powered by liquified natural gas and hydrogen peroxide propellants.

Associated Press

Leo Villa, Donald Campbell’s Chief Mechanic, peers inside the wreckage of the Bluebird II on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, USA on Sept. 16, 1960 after it had overturned at more than 300 miles an hour. Campbell, who was piloting the car, was injured and rushed to hospital. Officials said later that the million-pound car was a total write-off. It would be cheaper and quicker to build a new one.

Deseret News Archives

A car starts at run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in this historic photo.

Deseret News Archives

California driver Glenn Leasher, 26, was killed in 1962 in the first jet tragedy on the salt flat, when his jet car "Infinity" exploded and disintegrated while on a trial run that reached speeds in the high 300s. This photo shows the largest recovered piece of the wrecked car, with other pieces of it strewn across the salt flats in the distance.

Nick Short

Caesar Boswell rides his antique bicycle while Danala, a Brazilian macaw sits on her perch at the Bonneville Salt Flats on August 17, 2003.

Deseret News Archives

In this Sept. 1954 photo, people crowd around the body of the wrecked Vesco Body Shop racer.

Nick Short

An aerodynamic car speeds down the track at the Bonneville Salt Flats on August 17, 2003.

Nick Short

An aerodynamic vehicle speeds down the track at the Bonneville Salt Flats on August 17, 2003.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU

In 2011, BYU's Electric Vehicle Racing Team set an electric vehicle land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats by averaging 155.8 miles per hour over two qualifying runs.

Associated Press

British speed King Donald Campbell, who was injured when his 4,250-horsepower car, Bluebird II, crashed while travelling at 300 miles an hour on Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah on Sept. 16, 1960, poses in front of the sleek auto before carrying out a stationary engine test at Wendover Air Base, Utah. Campbell was rushed by ambulance to a hospital at Tooele, Utah. A members of his public relations staff said Campbell did not appear to be seriously hurt. Bluebird II apparently went into a spin and flipped over three times. Both wheels on the left side were ripped off and officials feared it may not run again.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Don Mazzoni, takes his portable shade with him as he rides around the salt during Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats just outside of Wendover, Utah.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Terry Nish car competes on the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah Sept 28, 2006.

Associated Press

In a trial run over the measured mile on the salt beds at Bonneville, John Cobb reached a speed of 352.9 miles per hour which improved on his previous record 350.94 but failed to near the world record of 357.5 M.R.H. set up by George Eyston. Cobb made only one run. He is confident of beating Eyston’s record. John Cobb testing his brakes preparatory to his trial run over the salt beds at Bonneville, on August 18, 1939.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News

Lucius Lee of Livermore, CA rides the "One-Legger" Pro Street Unicycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats during the 20th Annual World of Speed in Wendover, Utah September 14, 2006. At the time, Lee held the unicycle speed record of 13.93 mph through the quarter mile. His unicycle can reach speeds of 20mph.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

Bobby Cleveland takes his lawnmower for a run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in an attempt to reach speeds over 100mph on his lawnmower. For six months, Cleveland painstakingly built the snapper mower from scratch, 23-horsepower Snapper V-Twin modified engine charged with Golden Eagle brand 104+Octane Boost.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

"The Winston Churchill", a 1:5 scale replica of the WWII German V-2 rocket takes off at the Hellfire rocket event at the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah, July 13, 2006.

Ray Grass, Deseret News

This Aug. 13, 2005 photo shows activity at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Ray Grass, Deseret News

This Aug. 13, 2005 photo shows activity at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Ray Grass, Deseret News

John Hollonswrth drives the Pace Arrow during a run on the Bonneville Salt Flats Thursday, Sept. 18, 2003.

Associated Press

Craig Breedlove of Los Angeles and his jet powered "Spirit of America" streak across the western Utah salt flats Oct. 13, 1964, to set a world land speed record of 468.72 m.p.h.

Johanna Workman

The team of "Danny Boy" prepares for the start at the Bonneville Salt Flats during Bonneville Speedweek, Thursday, August 17, 2000.

Deseret News Archives

Jack Costella and his team get ready to compete with his XFB GFS "Costella Special" Streamliner at the Bonneville Salt Flats speed racing.

Deseret News Archives

Former Salt Lake Mayor Abbott "Ab" Jenkins helped to establish the Bonneville Salt Flats as a racing location, but is best known for driving the Mormon Meteor into the record books in 1935. The Mormon Meteor III was built in 1937 and was later driven to records of its own. Jay Leno, a noted car enthusiast, drove the Mormon Meteor III"in 2009 and wrote a column about the experience and Jenkins for Popular Mechanics. The endurance of the Mormon Meteor III was captured on film in "Boys of Bonneville — Racing on a Ribbon of Salt."

Associated Press

Capt. George E.T. Eyston, British speed driver, is on the Bonneville Salt Flats, out of Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 23, 1937, where he will try to break a world’s land speed record of 301.12 miles an hour which is now held by Sir Malcolm Campbell. Eyston is a retired British army officer and looking over the flats.

Associated Press

Mickey Thompson, right, of Los Angeles set a new American automobile speed record in Utah, Aug. 29, 1959, with an average of 330.5125 miles per hour in two runs over the Bonneville Salt Flats. He broke his own record of 266.6855, set last year on the same course. At left is Fritz Voight, chief mechanic for Thompson 4 engine land bullet.

Associated Press

Donald Campbell of Britain, holder of the world water speed record, poses with a model of the Bluebird car in which he is to make an attempt on the land speed record during a press conference at the Café Royal in London on May 17, 1960. The engine to be used in the car, a Bristol Siddeley Proteus free turbine, is basically similar to that which powers the Britannia airliner. Campbell will make the record bid at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, United States in September, and hopes to carry the record to beyond 400 miles an hour. The present record has remained unbroken since 1947, when the late John Cobb took it to 301.196 miles an hour.

Associated Press

Two technicians of Motor Panels Limited of Coventry, builders of the chassis and body of Donald Campbell’s, unseen, Bluebird car, work on the front section of the frame at the Coventry works, England on June 30, 1960. The huge mouth like opening is the air intake. This is the car the C.N. 7, to give it its design mark with which Campbell, holder of the world water speed record, will make his first attempt on the world land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, U.S.A in September. The present record has remained unbroken since 1947, when the late John Cobb took it to 394.196 mph. No fewer than 69 leading British companies are involved in the building of the car.

Associated Press

A front view of Donald Campbell’s Bluebird car, now in the process of having its outer skin assembled at the works of motor panels limited of Coventry, England on July 7, 1960. At right, one of the wheel fairings is being fitted into place. The car will have an ultimate peak speed of 500 mph.

Associated Press

Leo Villa, Donald Campbell’s Chief Mechanic, looks into the air intake of the jet powered car bluebird on the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit in Sussex, England on July 18, 1960, where the new car is being prepared for trials, now scheduled for Thursday, July 21. After preliminary trials in Britain, the bluebird was shipped to America for a world record attempt on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Associated Press

Donald Campbell, holder of the world water speed record, adjusts his mask before taking the new jet powered sped car Bluebird for a trial run at Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit in Sussex, England on July 21, 1960.

Associated Press

Bluebird II, piloted by Donald Campbell, streaks along the course of the Bonneville Salt Flats circuit in Utah, USA on Sept. 6, 1960, in a trial run for its forthcoming world land speed record attempt. Campbell took the huge vehicle up to 120 miles per hour. The car has cost £1.5 million to build.

Associated Press

British speed King Donald Campbell, center, his wife Tonia Bern, the cabaret singer, and Tommy Wisdom, veteran driver and operational adviser to the team, examine the course on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA on Sept. 15, 1960. Campbell was preparing for an assault on the world land speed record in his £1,000,000 jet-turbine car Bluebird II. He hoped to drive the powerful racer at speed in excess of 400 miles an hour.

Associated Press

In this photo provided by Image courtesy of Ohio State University, the The Buckeye Bullet is photographed on Aug. 23, 2010 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The Buckeye Bullet was clocked on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats at speeds averaging 307 mph.

Associated Press

In this 2010 photo, "The Fastest Woman in the World" Leslie Porterfield gears up to set a new speed record and become "The Fastest Person in the World on Two Wheels."

Associated Press

Racers congregate in the pits to break land speed records by the hundreds Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002, at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. The pits — row after row of trailers, racing cars, canopies and coolers — are filled with good-natured banter. Racers swap tips and tools. Everyone knows everyone else, and they trade jokes about their records.

Associated Press

A lone American flag waves in the morning breeze Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002, at the Bonneville Salt Flats along Interstate 80 on the way to Wendover, Utah.

Associated Press

Don Vesco poses beside his Silver Bird Yamaha on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, on Sept. 27, 1975.

Associated Press

Burt Munro, 68-year-old native of New Zealand and now a resident in San Gabriel, California, poses in the 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle on August 4, 1966, which he plans to ride at the Bonneville Salt Flats in an attempt to break the world motorcycle speed record. Munro spent five years designing and building an aluminum streamlined shell to house the cycle and himself.

Associated Press

Race driver Mickey Thompson of El Monte, California, poses beside his racer, Challenger, with the 11 1/2 mile Bonneville Salt Flat race track extending behind him in Utah, Sept. 1, 1960.

Associated Press

Donald Campbell inspects the huge wheels of the Bluebird jet powered car at the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit in Sussex, England on July 18, 1960, where he was preparing it for a world record attempt on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA.

Associated Press

The experimental British car officially identified as the EX 179 in August 1957, which set 52 New International and American records earlier during a 12 hour long distance race on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The vehicles averaged 118.25 MPH for the entire run, setting a new international glass G. record to smash the old record of 105.89MPH.

Associated Press

Ab Jenkins, U.S. racing driver, was trying to beat Captain George Eyston’s long distance records on the Bonneville flats, Utah, U.S.A. on July 26 when his car caught fire at 180 M. P. H. He was severely but not critically burned. Ab Jenkins at the wheel of his car on the Salt Flats at Bonneville, Utah, U.S.A. on July 25, 1939, the day before his accident.

Associated Press

John Cobb of London seated in his Railton Red Lion racing automobile just after roaring across the Salt Bens at 3552.94 miles an hour Aug. 18, 1939 in a test run in Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Weather conditions were perfect and the thirteen mile salt track was in fine shape as Cobb drove his three and a half ton car almost up the world mark of 357.5 held by fellow countryman, captain George E.T. Eyston.

Associated Press

British automobile racer Sir Malcolm Campbell speeds across the salt bed in his Bluebird and sets a world record of 301.337 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, Sept. 3, 1935.

Associated Press

Drivers Carroll Shelby, Dallas, Texas; Roy Jackson Moore, Los Angeles, Calif., and Donald Healey, Warwick, England (left to right) with the new Austin Healey that set new international speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah in August 1956.

Associated Press

British driver Andy Green sets a new unofficial world diesel powered land speed record of over 328 mph over two runs Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006, on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

Associated Press

Tanis Hammond, of Goleta, Calif., poses with her race car Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002, at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Hammond became the first woman to go over 300 mph.

Associated Press

A twin rocket-powered motorcycle waits fueled and ready Monday, Sept. 13, 1999, on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Richard "Rocketman" Brown, of England, planned to try to break the record with the bike.

Associated Press

Britain's Richard Brown talks with Andrew Currie, right, as they stand next to Brown's Gillette Mach 3 rocket motocycle in Waddesdon, 50 miles northwest of London Tuesday, April 27, 1999. Brown hopes to reach a peak speed of 500 miles an hour (800 kph) on the motorcycle on the Bonneville Flats, in Utah, to beat the 2-wheel land speed record at the time. The vehicle is 8 meters long, and weighs 600 kilos.

Associated Press

Richard "Rocketman" Brown, of England, walks toward his rocket-powered motorcycle Monday, Sept. 13, 1999, on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.

Associated Press

This is an October 1997 photo of the Bonneville Salt Flats southeast of Wendover, Utah.

Associated Press

The fastest men in the world in their respective spheres try out the sleek Triumph Bonneville Motor Cycle during visit to the International Motor Cycle Show at Earls Court, London on Nov. 13, 1962. At the controls is Donald Campbell, holder of the world water speed record who plans to make a bid on the world land speed record in his turbine car Bluebird in Australia’s outback next year. His passenger is Bill Johnson of California who broke the world motor cycle speed record in September this year. His record breaking machine was based on the Triumph Bonneville and achieved 224 miles an hour on Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.

Associated Press

Norm Thatcher, 66-year-old stock car racing driver, poses with the engine and the car on August 6, 1963, he hopes to drive 200 M.P.H. at the Bonneville National speed trials over the salt flats at Bonneville, Utah.

Associated Press

Speed Ace Donald Campbell, 41, settles into the cockpit of his rebuilt Bluebird, the car in which he plans to make an attempt on the world land speed record on Lake Eyre Southern Australia in Spring 1968, as he prepares to drive it round the Goodwood Circuit on July 14, 1962 at the Goodwood Festival of Motoring in Sussex, England. The car was on show to the public for the first time. Campbell, who was seriously injured when his first turbine engined Bluebird crashed on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah in September 1960 at 300 miles an hour, says that the car is geared for a speed “very much in excess of 400 miles an hour.”

Associated Press

Tonia Campbell ties a shoelace for her husband, speed King Donald Campbell, as he climbs into the cockpit of Bluebird II on Sept. 17, 1960, the huge 4,200-HP jet-turbine car with which he hoped to smash the world land speed record, on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, USA. A few minutes later the Bluebird flipped up and overturned at more than 300 miles an hour. Campbell was injured and rushed to hospital at Tooele, Utah.

Courtesy Air National Guard

Former Salt Lake Mayor Abbott "Ab" Jenkins helped to establish the Bonneville Salt Flats as a racing location, but is best known for driving the Mormon Meteor into the record books in 1935.

Deseret News Archives

Former Salt Lake Mayor Abbott "Ab" Jenkins helped to establish the Bonneville Salt Flats as a racing location, but is best known for driving the Mormon Meteor into the record books in 1935.

Ray Grass

A 1927 roadster is covered with salt after a high-speed run on the Bonneville Salt Flats in this 2010 photo.