Have you ever wondered what happens in those drab metal buildings clustered together in faded industrial parks? Newly minted Community Voices producer, Jim Kahle, discovered preparations for the Bonneville Salt Flats races going on in one of those buildings not far off I-75, just north of Dayton.
For as long as there have been automobiles some men have tried to figure out how fast they can make them go. One of those men is Dave Pleasant, the seventy five year old owner of a local machine shop and old school hot-rodder with the goal of going to the Bonneville Salt Flats and establishing a world land speed record for his class.
“Well the class were running is an H-Lakester class they call it, and it is determined by the cubic inch of the motor and the style of the car. It’s originally a 74 cubic inch motor and we’ve got it bumped up to about 79 right now," says Dave. When asked how fast the motor on his vehicle can crank, he replies, "About ten thousand five hundred RPM."
What Dave is talking about is going over 200 miles per hour on the Bonneville salt flat in a home made car built inside a fiberglass copy of a military surplus fuel tank that used to hang under the belly of a WWII bomber. All powered by a 2 cylinder Harley Davidson V-rod motor. I asked Dave about how you would start to build a car like this.
“It’s all by the seat of your pants you might say," says Dave. "[There are] no drawings. A few sketches now and then. We started building a cage that actually fit inside of the fiberglass belly tanker and then we put our driver in it – found a spot for him. Then we put the motor right behind him. Anchored it down. And after that we pulled everything apart and started gussetting everything to make everything stout, strong and straight. The car turned out really nice. It goes straight. It handles good. Stops good. Everybody is happy. It took about two years to finish it.”
Looking over the sleek well built belly tanker the attention to detail and pride in craftsmanship are evident. Everything about this car speaks to its purpose: go as fast as you can! As I start to daydream about driving it flat out as fast as it’ll go a couple of other questions come to mind. How do you test it? And how do you stop it?
“Of course we have disk brakes on it but the parachute is the main stopper. When you pop that chute you come down from speed really quick. And uh, as long as your chute functions properly you’re in good shape," says Dave. "We have the record right now at the Ohio Mile and that is 159 point something. But the record at Bonneville is a little over 200 mile an hour. If we are successful in setting a record at Bonneville, we probably won’t go back. But if we get close and don’t set a record then we’re going to make some changes and we want to go back and try again.”
This year’s world of speed event at the Bonneville Salt Flats is scheduled for September 10th through the 13th. The world of speed event has been canceled the last two years due to poor salt conditions. Dave and his crew are hoping for good conditions this year.