Search
Advanced Search

About This Site
Clubs
Essays
Home
Pictures/Videos
Quiz
Racing Statistics
Table of Contents
What's New

© 1996-2008 by
Ken R. Noffsinger
All Rights Reserved
[AW Logo]

At the Bonneville Salt Flats
With Bobby Isaac and Harry Hyde


By George M. Wallace

The Aero Warriors site is very fortunate to have the opportunity to present an article authored by Chrysler engineer George Wallace. Wallace played a prominent role in Chrysler's racing efforts during much of the 50's, 60's and early 70's, working on their stock car, Indy Car and drag racing programs, to name just a few. His 190 MPH ride-alongs in Chrysler stock cars (to record aerodynamic effects and instrumentation data) have become almost legendary in racing circles. A career biography for Mr. Wallace follows his article, as does some additional information I gathered to compliment Mr. Wallace's recollections. Greg Kwiatkowski's substantial contributions to this effort must also be acknowledged - he arranged for me to meet Mr. Wallace, and provided the very rare color photos, Bonneville video and press release information found here.

--Ken R. Noffsinger


Bobby Isaac takes time out for a photo during his record breaking assault on Bonneville in September, 1971. Isaac was the defending NASCAR Grand National Champion, but ironically was not in serious contention for the 1971 title due to Chrysler's racing program cutbacks.

K & K Insurance owner Nord Krauskopf and his crew chief Harry Hyde liked the idea of setting records. On a very cold and windy Tuesday, November 24, 1970 at the Talladega Superspeedway, Bobby Isaac drove the #71 K & K Insurance Dodge Charger Daytona to a new closed course lap record of 201.104 MPH, breaking the record set by the #88 Chrysler Engineering Daytona just eight months earlier.

Ironically, while the #88's run (masterminded by Dodge VP Frank Wylie) was a major Dodge Public Relations event, the K & K record run at Talladega was just the opposite. By that time, as far as Chrysler Engineering was concerned, the winged cars were a dead issue; we were busy getting the 1971 Charger and Road Runner to run as fast as possible. Dodge Public Relations just wasn't interested in the Daytona any more. I'm sure that Frank Wylie put out a press release, but it wasn't a big deal. The Daytona had done what was required of it, and since it was effectively outlawed, there was no real interest in it any more.

So although Chrysler showed little enthusiasm for Isaac's Talladega record run in the K & K Daytona, Krauskopf was not done with the Daytona yet. Soon after the K & K's visit to Talladega, Krauskopf started looking into taking the #71 Daytona to the Bonneville Salt Flats to set some stock car speed records there. This was a side project, not something that would interfere with the race program. Isaac and K & K had won the NASCAR Grand National championship in 1970, but did not try to repeat this in 1971 because of the cutback of the Chrysler race budget. After Ford cut way back on their race budget during the 1970 season, Chrysler decided to have only two fully factory backed cars in 1971, a Plymouth for Richard Petty and a Dodge for Buddy Baker - both cars were run by Petty Enterprises. The other teams, K & K Insurance, Nichels Engineering, Cotton Owens, etc. were given parts budgets, but very little money. As a result the K & K Insurance car did not run the whole series of 48 races, only the 25 races that paid bigger purses. Richard Petty ran all of the races and won the championship, and was funded by Chrysler to do so. Baker only ran nineteen races.

The salt at Bonneville is usually best for high speed running in August and September. There was a gap in the Grand National schedule in September. Darlington was to be run on Monday, September 6 and the next race was Martinsville on Sunday, September 26. As it turned out, Isaac was fourth at Darlington and won at Martinsville, so Bonneville didn't interfere with the race program. Harry Hyde made reservations with the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce (who at that time scheduled the salt) for the week starting Sunday, September 12, 1971. Harry also arranged for the United States Auto Club (USAC) to sanction the runs and for Joe Petrali to time them. Petrali was the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) International Timekeeper and USAC Certification Committee Chairman who presided over all world record speed attempts at the Bonneville Salt Flats for years. His son Dave took over from him and is FIA timekeeper for land speed records today.

Harry Hyde places "200 MPH tape" on the Daytona sheet metal before one of the runs. At the back of the truck is a 55 gallon drum of Union 76 racing gas on a wooden cradle. They had to bring fuel to the Salt Flats too. The hoist by the side of the roll up door was used for engine changes.

Nord Krauskopf asked me if I would go to Bonneville with them to help with the car set up, at K & K's expense, not Chrysler's. I had always been interested in Bonneville and jumped at the opportunity. I took two weeks vacation to go to Bonneville. I had taken two weeks vacation earlier in the summer and did not need the remaining two.

The car that Harry took was his Daytona/Talladega race car, the one that set the record at Talladega and had been on the pole for both the April and August, 1970 Talladega races. Harry put his Daytona/Talladega qualifying engine in the car and took along five or six more engines. When you build up a series of engines that are as identical as possible, there is usually one engine that has more power than the rest. You could measure everything and never explain why this engine is good. But when you find an engine like that you hang on to it. This engine had never raced, it was only a qualifying engine. It had the single four barrel carburetor that NASCAR required on the Hemi engine. Production Hemi engines always had two carburetors and USAC always allowed two carburetors in their stock car racing circuit. The two carburetor package was worth about 40-50 horsepower over the single carburetor. While this additional power was available Harry never felt that it was necessary to change the manifold to get this power. The single carburetor was fast enough to get the speeds he wanted. The car was run in what was supposed to be its normal NASCAR configuration, although (among other things) it looked to have about an inch less ground clearance, and the gas tank held a bit more than the allowed 22 gallons.

Harry took two trucks plus one race car. At that time all of the NASCAR teams used a box body truck and towed the race car on a trailer. He took five or six mechanics. Nord Krauskopf was there of course, as well as Bill Brodrick of Union Oil. Bill then had red hair and beard and in later years they were gray. He is the man we used to see on TV in NASCAR winner's circles organizing the picture taking, etc. He got the job by being there and doing it. For years he was a NASCAR fixture until there was a reorganization at Union Oil in 1997 and he was fired. Bill came out to generate publicity for Union Oil in conjunction with the run. Harry was running Goodyear tires, but Goodyear had not sent a tire engineer. The tires had been mounted and balanced in Charlotte before they left. They were basically a Talladega tire.

I flew from Detroit to Salt Lake City on Sunday, September 12, 1971, rented a car and drove west about an hour and a half to Wendover, Utah. It was around 8:00 or 9:00 PM when I got there. I checked in at the motel, which was very basic as I recall, and told Harry I was there. They had gotten in on Friday or Saturday and had set up their operation on the salt. The two trucks were parked about twenty feet apart and a canvas cover was stretched between them, as it was needed for shade. The race car and the two trucks stayed on the salt and at least one crew member stayed out there to watch them at night. On Sunday they had made some preliminary runs for the flying mile and kilometer runs and were planning to make the official runs Monday morning, when Petrali had the clocks set up.

At about 7:00 AM or so we had breakfast and headed out to the salt. By the time I got there the car was ready to run. Bobby took the car to the end of the available straightaway and headed north. We were all standing at least 1/4 mile away from the straightaway. We heard the car before we saw it. It sounded great, but it didn't look very fast with nothing to judge it against. After Bobby stopped the crew went down to check over the car. I don't think that they even changed tires. FIA rules required that the return run be made in less than 60 minutes after the first run. Bobby came back much sooner than that. After a few minutes Joe Petrali came out of his timing trailer with the numbers: 216.946 MPH for the flying mile and 217.368 MPH for the flying kilometer. These numbers were arrived at by averaging the times in each direction.

Careful preparation of the salt surface was critical for going fast. Here Bobby Isaac watches as a road grader smooths the track.

The mile and kilometer records are the only ones that the FIA recognizes with flying starts. All others are standing start. Records are recognized for 0.5, 1, 10, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 25,000, 50,000 and 100,000 kilometers and miles from a standing start. There are also records for 1, 6, 12, 24 and 48 hours, standing start. For records over ten miles a closed course must be used, and since this type of track runs in all directions, two-way runs are not required. Where the record distance does not come at the end of a lap, the time is interpolated from the time for that lap. For the flying mile and kilometer one end of both time traps is at the same point with the other end one kilometer or one mile away.

The layout of the salt for both straightaway and distance runs depends on the condition of the salt that particular year. In 1971 the salt was not very good. The pumping by the chemical company was making the salt worse and worse every year. Fortunately, in the succeeding 30 years, the Bureau of Land Management has changed the brine pumping and in most years the salt is much better now than it was then. Under the best of conditions, which I donít think have happened since the 1930's, there can be a fourteen to sixteen mile straightaway. This is particularly important for wheel driven land speed record cars.

The Summer's Brothers Goldenrod car with four Hemi engines, which held the wheel driven speed record for 30 years, set the speed record at about 409 MPH in 1966 with about twelve miles of straightaway (5.5 miles to accelerate the measured mile and 5.5 miles to slow down and then the same thing in the other direction.) Based on calculations, the car would have reached 475 MPH if it had a sixteen mile straight and about 525 MPH with a 24 mile straightaway.

In 1971 we had about a twelve mile straight. For the Dodge Daytona this was quite adequate. It could probably not have gone much over 225 MPH on a much longer straightaway.

As I already mentioned, for distance runs they use a circle at Bonneville, typically of ten mile circumference (16,807 foot diameter, 3.18 miles). In very good years they have had eleven and twelve mile circles. In 1971 they could not lay out a ten mile circle and keep it all in solid salt. They had to make a ten mile oval. The turns had a radius of one mile and the straightaways measured 1.858 miles (9,812 feet).

After Bobby had completed the straightaway runs, I think he went into Salt Lake City for some TV interviews and such. I don't think that we saw him until evening.

Work was then started on marking the ten mile oval. The Utah State Highway Department did the actual layout, marking and grading of the course. The straightaway is marked with a black line down the center to guide the driver and at the timing lights there are markers to keep the driver between the light source and the photo electric cell.

These photos provide a good look at the windshield and backlight areas of the K & K Daytona. When compared to other photos of the car at various NASCAR tracks, the degree to which the K & K team aerodynamically smoothed the car for its Bonneville visit becomes obvious. Apparently USAC didn't notice the alterations.

The oval is marked by wood lath strips put into holes drilled in the salt. Monday afternoon I spent several hours with the highway crew installing these markers for the oval. The actual survey work had been done previously since there were markers nailed into the salt every 100 feet marking the inside of the oval course. I don't know when they were put out or by who.

To put the wood lath pieces into the salt, a hole was drilled with a heavy duty electric drill. The hole was one and a half to two inches in diameter and about six inches deep. The lath was stuffed in the hole and within an hour the salt had flowed in and filled the hole, securing the lath in place. A highway department truck with a generator went along with us. There were three of us working on this and we could do about one marker a minute or so. Working out these numbers, it would have taken almost nine hours to do the whole track. I think that the parts of the oval that were not near the straightaway had been done before I got there.

The salt is a good hard surface, but it is soft enough that it was easy to drill into. As the salt dries out from the winter rains it forms a completely flat surface. As it continues to dry it shrinks, cracks develop on the surface and soft salt is squeezed out from underneath. They would run a road grader over the track surface to smooth out these soft salt ridges and make a smoother track surface. The ridges were about 1/4 inch tall and were quite soft - they would not damage a racing tire. The salt was four to six inches thick in the good areas and got down to less than an inch near the edges. There was mud under the salt.

Meanwhile the car was being checked over and was gotten ready for the 100 mile standing start record run. Late Monday afternoon Harry Hyde took the car out to see how it was running. I went along, holding onto the roll cage. Harry got the car up to about 210 MPH from the tach reading. This I think is the fastest I have ever ridden in a race car, but it didn't even seem like it was moving fast. I didn't even have to hold on tight. Harry was happy with the car, so we parked it for the night and went back to Wendover.

There are actually two towns of Wendover side by side, one in Utah and one in Nevada. The major difference is that there were a couple of casinos in Nevada. We were staying in Utah, but we went over to one of the casinos in Nevada for dinner and a bit of gambling.

On Tuesday we started running the car on the ten mile oval. At first Bobby was worried about running on the oval at these speeds and what would happen if he lost the car. Harry and I pointed out to him that this was the safest place in the world to spin out, since he could spin for several miles and not hit anything. The coefficient of friction of the salt was so low that the tires couldn't get enough of a bite while spinning to trip the car and turn it over. Bobby was wary of the whole thing most of the day Tuesday, until he did overdo it going into turn three on the oval. The rear end got away from him and he did a couple of revolutions and ended up about a half mile outside of the course. He had wiped out seven or eight of the lath markers and had put a small dent in the nose cone. The laths were replaced and after that Bobby really got with the program and didn't let the track worry him.

Looking at it from today's point of view, I don't know what would have happened if a winged car got backwards at Bonneville or on a regular race track. The air flowing in the reverse direction over the wing would develop quite a bit of lift and might be able to start one of the tumbling type of wrecks that happened at higher speed NASCAR tracks before they developed the roof flaps. I can't recall any wrecks of this nature with winged or non-winged cars during the period I was involved with NASCAR racing. Of course the race cars were almost 1000 lbs heavier and therefore needed 1000 lbs more lift to loose contact with the ground.

This is on the oval. Large signs were put up at each mile to give the driver his location. The cones extending in from the sign are marking the wires connected to the photo cell timing pickup.

As Frank Moriarty says in his wonderful book "Supercars", I rode with Bobby for three or four laps while we were setting up the suspension.

George Wallace of the Chrysler Special Vehicles Group had a history of going along for observation rides during Charger Daytona and SuperBird testing, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that he joined Isaac in the cockpit as the number 71 car was being set up. To Bill Brodrick, however, it was a big surprise.

"They had some problem and George wasn't happy with it," Brodrick recalls. I'll never forget this because he got in the damn car and he rode with Isaac! He had his feet up, wrapped around the bars -- they had instruments in the car and he wanted to check those instruments. He hung on and they took off and I said, 'That man is out of his mind!' They ran that circuit with George hanging on reading pressure gauges or whatever to see what was going on. Then George got out and he was like, 'Oh well.' And I'll never forget that as long as I live -- he got out there and ran 200 MPH in that thing!"

The low-key Wallace has particularly vivid memories of preparations to run on the ten-mile Bonneville course.

"The condition of the salt that year was such that rather than the ten-mile circle that is the preferred track at Bonneville, they had to run a ten mile oval," Wallace says. "They were basically two-mile straightaways and three-mile turns. I rode with Bobby while we were setting up the car a little, and he was probably the ideal driver because he was a dirt tracker who wasn't afraid to go fast. He was basically driving it like a huge dirt track.

"He'd get up to about 205 or 206 MPH at the end of the straightaway and he'd never lift. He'd throw it into the turn and from the inside it felt like it was going out about 30 percent. The tail end would hang out, but he would drive it just like you would on a dirt track. At first I was a little anxious about it, because we had to point out to him that if you lose the car you could spin for five miles."

I actually said that it felt like the tail was hanging out at 30 degrees. It was actually less than five degrees but at that speed it felt like much more. Bobby got up to about 205 MPH at the end of each straight and would throw the car into the turn without lifting. In the turn he was constantly working the wheel like he was on a dirt track. On paved ovals the drivers, both then and now, put in very small steering inputs while in a turn. The yawing of the tires increased the power needed to drive the car and it would slow down to about 190 and then would get back up to about 205 MPH on the next straight. Bobby was an excellent dirt track driver. That's where he started, but he also wasn't afraid to go fast, so he was an ideal driver for this course. The total lap time on the course was about 185 seconds - approximately 35 seconds for each straightaway and almost a minute in each turn.

While Bill Brodrick thought I was crazy to ride in the car, I felt that it was the least dangerous ride I had taken in a race car on a race track. Bill didn't know that I had ridden for over 100 miles at Daytona at 180 MPH taking test data before we had developed our race car instrumentation package. Compared to running right next to concrete walls with the high G-forces of a banked track, the wide open spaces of Bonneville were just a Sunday drive. And I wasn't reading any data at Bonneville, I was just observing the tach readings at different track locations and assessing the handling of the car.

It's easy to see here just how the right side tires were coming apart. Also, notice the wood floor between the trucks. It was made of three-quarter or one-inch plywood sheets and was put down so that the team would have a relatively salt-free environment to work in.

Because of the one mile radius of the turn, the car was developing .53G side force as it entered the turn and this dropped to .46G at the end of the turn. By comparison, at Daytona at 180 MPH on the 31 degree banking the car develops 1.3G force parallel to the banking and 1.9G force perpendicular to the banking.

For the 100 mile run we ran something close to the maximum angle on the wing, which allowed us to get as much down force as possible on the rear tires. For the straightaway runs, the wing was almost flat.

Bobby was able to turn practice laps in the 194 MPH range, which was fast enough to get the 100 mile standing start record. But we were seeing tire tread chunking on the outside edge of the right side tires, particularly the right front. Since we did not have a Goodyear tire engineer with us, I spent quite a bit of time on the phone consulting with the Goodyear race people in Akron. The closest phone was in a booth at the motel in Wendover. The problem was caused by the abrasive quality of the salt, which was tearing the rubber loose. Goodyear had several suggestions for tire pressure and camber changes on the car. We also had Goodyear buff down several sets of Grand National dirt track tires so that they could run at 200 MPH without throwing the tread, but would still have enough of the block type tread pattern to give a better bite than the slicks we were running (there were still some dirt track races in the Grand National schedule as recently as the year before, so dirt track tires could still be located). Goodyear air freighted these tires over night to Salt Lake City, but we did not have to use them. With different combinations of air pressure and suspension settings we got the tires to live for 100 miles.

Wednesday was taken up with preparing the car for the 100 mile run, which we were ready to do first thing Thursday morning when the air was cooler and the engine had more power. Because of the poor traction of the salt, it took almost the whole first lap to get the car up to full speed. The overall average speed got higher with each lap.

For the 100 mile standing start run we were aiming at the world's unlimited record, not just the US stock car record that the other runs were breaking. I believe that Mercedes held that record at the time. FIA rules required that you break an existing record by at least one percent to be recognized. Our 193-194 MPH speed was just enough to do this. On the first try at the 100 mile run, Bobby didn't accelerate away from the start as quick as he had in practice. After two laps, he was not running a fast enough average so we waved him in for another try.

On the second try he did start well and kept ahead of the old record. He averaged 194.290 MPH for the standing start at 100 miles and 193.168 MPH for 100 kilometers. These were new world's unlimited records, independent of class. Bobby ran out of gas part way around the slow down lap. If Harry had been using only a 22 gallon tank we could not have run the full 100 miles. I don't know with certainty what size the tank was, but it was probably about 24 gallons.

It took almost eight years for these records to be broken. At the banked 7.8 mile Nardo track in southern Italy, Mercedes Benz used a specially built C111-III race car powered by a turbocharged three liter five cylinder diesel engine putting out 320 HP to increase the records by just a few MPH. The following year (May 5, 1979) Mercedes Benz broke their own records using the C111-IV powered by a 4.8 liter 500 HP turbocharged V-8. The speeds were 233.335 MPH for 100 kilometers and 228.196 MPH for 100 miles. These records stand today.

Bobby had gone through the dike on the standing ten mile/ten kilometer run just minutes before this photo was taken. The dike in is the foreground. I think the car may have sunk part way into the soft salt as it was removed from the dike, and the jack was used to help free it.

There were two more records we wanted to go for, the standing ten mile and ten kilometer stock car records. These were conducted on the straightaway and took a total of three runs. One end of both the ten kilometer and ten mile sections were at the same point, near the end of the straightaway. The other end of the ten kilometer section was 6.1 miles from the start and the end of the ten mile section was at ten miles, of course. The procedure was to start at the end of the ten mile section for the first run, and get the northbound standing start time for ten miles. The second run was southbound and would get both the ten kilometer and ten mile times. The third run was northbound again, starting at the end of the ten kilometer section this time. The only problem with running for these records was that with only twelve miles of straightaway available, there was only a mile slowdown length at each end, not nearly enough for the car running at 200 MPH with the poor traction of the salt. So the driver would have to start getting on the brakes before the end of the ten mile section. If you overran the end of the course on the north end, you got into softer salt but had nothing to hit. At the south end, beyond the soft salt, there was a dirt dike for one of the brine evaporation ponds that you did not want to run into.

Bobby didn't think that he would be able to slow down quickly enough to avoid running off the end of the track, particularly at the dike end. He didn't want to start braking before the end of the ten mile section. On the first northbound run, he was able to get the car stopped, ending up in the softer salt, although the car did not sink in. We got him turned around and ready to go southbound. Bobby told Harry that he didn't think that he was going to be able to stop before the dike. Harry told him to start slowing at the nine mile post and then he would be OK.

We watched Bobby accelerate away from the end of the ten mile and ten kilometer sections, and then followed with the chase cars, keeping outside of the timing lights so we wouldn't upset the timing. It took seven or eight minutes to get to the end of the course, and there was no race car in sight. After a few minutes we found Bobby sitting in the car on the other side of the dike, reminding us all the while about what he had said about not being able to stop in time. He had gone over a low spot in the dike and bent the under nose spoiler, but hadn't done much other damage to the car. We found a way through the dike about a half a mile away and guided Bobby through it and back to the end of the ten kilometer measured distance. We changed tires and got him ready to go in a little under the allowed 60 minutes. Bobby completed the second half of the ten kilometer run and posted stock car records of 172.483 MPH for the standing start ten kilometer record and 182.174 MPH for the standing start ten mile record.

Many of the K & K crew members posed for this shot, probably just before leaving the Salt Flats. From left to right (to the left of the sign): Harry Lee Hyde, Buddy Parrott and Nord Krauskopf. To the right of the sign, I can only recall the name of the man in the middle, and he is Harry Hyde.

It was about 3:00 PM on Thursday, September 16 when we finished these two runs. Nord decided that he had enough new speed records and we would quit, rather than go after any other records. Joe Petrali said that he would check the car out for stock status later at a gas station in Wendover rather than on the salt. So the trucks were packed up and everything was moved into Wendover. Petrali checked the engine displacement and a few other things and said that the car was stock. Joe said that if it complied with NASCAR specs, that was good enough for him. He did not check the gas tank, but Harry had had time to change it before the car was checked. I'm sure that the tank would have measured 22 gallons, even if USAC had sealed the tank right after the run. Harry had ways to do these sorts of things.

Nord bought us all a very good dinner at a casino and gave each of us $100 to gamble with. I played Blackjack and ended up about $60 ahead at the end of the evening.

I still had a week left of vacation, so Friday I flew out to Los Angeles and spent the week with B & M, helping them on some projects that they were working on for Chrysler. During that week I also accepted the offer made to me to go to work for them. With the way Chrysler was cutting back on its race programs, it looked like I might have to go back to working at a desk on production cars, which sounded pretty dull after spending four years getting paid to design and develop race cars.

Six weeks later I officially left Chrysler and moved to California. The Bonneville visit was the last race project I was involved in while at Chrysler, and a good way to end my career there.


George Wallace has had a long and distinguished career in the automotive engineering field. Below are excepts from his resume, as well as some additional commentary included for the readers of this page.

George M. Wallace - Career Biography

1953: B.S.M.E. University of Michigan.

1955: M.A.E. (Master of Automotive Engineering) Chrysler Institute of Engineering.

1955-1968: Chrysler Engineering, Highland Park, MI., Vehicle Performance Analysis Department. Initially as a Test and Development Engineer later Project Engineer and Section Head. Responsible for analysis and study of the acceleration and fuel economy of future model vehicles, the selection of components for these vehicles and study of advanced components. These analyses we performed with the aid of computer simulations of vehicle performance as well as test data on components and competitive vehicles.

Originally using Friden desk calculators, later computers. I would run calculations on anyone's race car project, either official or home projects. As a result I knew about almost all of the race car projects that Chrysler Engineering people were working on. When there were real race programs I was usually involved - things like the Daytona Valiant race cars, the Chrysler BRM Indy car, the early drag racing programs. I also provided data for semi official programs such as the Ramchargers drag cars. When Chrysler got seriously interested in NASCAR and made the Hemi engine in 1964, I was one of about ten people in the company who had access to the power curves, so that I could calculate lap speed. I was within a half mph, not because I knew so much, but because my several errors from lack of enough information balanced themselves out. From 1964 thru 1968 I spent probably 25 to 30% of my time on race programs and the rest on production cars; the percentage increased yearly until my boss had enough and sent me to the race program full time.

1969-1971: Chrysler Engineering, Highland Park, MI., Special Vehicle Development Department - Special Vehicle Coordinator. Responsible for coordinating the Engineering design and development testing of Chrysler Corporation race vehicles and Chrysler powered race vehicles. Involved in design, in house development, race track testing and technical assistance to race car owners and drivers in NASCAR, USAC, SCCA and NHRA racing. Oversaw development of on-board data logging system for NASCAR and NHRA race car development. Designed and developed automatic transmission for USAC Champ Car (Indy Car) racing.

In 1969 I was put on the P-69 (Indy Car) program which took almost all of my time from the end of January to the end of May, with two weeks at Daytona in the middle. Spent a lot of time on the phone with Larry Rathgeb discussing winged car items during this time also. After May I was able to spend probably 25% Indy Car (mostly getting the automatic transmission up and running) and the rest of the time on NASCAR with maybe five to ten percent on drag racing. That continued through 1971 when the race program was winding down and I didn't really want to go back to a desk job. I had been working closely with B&M for two years, first on the P-69 and then on drag racing stuff (such as a six speed ClutchFlite transmission for the Motown Missile Pro Stock car - it didn't go much quicker than a three speed.) But Bob Spar (the B of B & M) and I got along very well, and we both knew that I would come work for them some day. After Bonneville I went to California and Bob offered me a job. So I came to B & M on November 1,1971. We didn't want to pull the kids out of school in the middle of the year so I arranged for at least one trip home a month until June.

One other competition program I was involved in at Chrysler was the Mobil Economy Run. For years Chrysler, like everyone else, hired California "experts" to drive, but we realized that there was a lot to be gained by using engineers. They had loyalty compared to the experts who would jump ship for more money, taking company secrets with them. Also, you could explain the techniques and why they worked to engineers, and engineers were cheaper too. They got four weeks in southern California and a break from Detroit. From 1962 through 1968 I was responsible for teaching our navigation system to the co-drivers. Our results were very good, although 85% of the results were determined by the car as built. Of all of the automotive competitions involving "stock" vehicles, this was by far the most honest. There was almost no way to cheat. The cars were bought truly at random from dealers anywhere in the western part of the country. USAC kept the car under their control until the event was over. The driver and co-driver could screw up and make the car worse, but it would only get as good economy as the design was capable of.

As far as my involvement with the winged cars, in 1968 and 1969 I helped develop the concepts of the Charger 500, Daytona and SuperBird. I worked with aerodynamicists to convert their concept to overall vehicle performance and assisted with development testing of the resultant packages. In 1969 and 1970 I worked with Chrysler Engineering in Huntsville, AL to develop a race car instrumentation package for use in NASCAR and drag race cars, and I analyzed the resultant data also. This package consisted of a data tape recorder that recorded seven channels of data. Among items that were recorded for different tests were:

  • Engine speed
  • Front wheel speed
  • Acceleration in three axis
  • Suspension travel for all wheels
  • Steering wheel input
  • Aerodynamic yaw
  • Air pressure at different points on the body or in air inlets
  • Temperature and pressure of engine, transmission and axle fluids

The data was played back from the tape recorder to a two or six channel chart recorder. I was then responsible for analyzing the data to determine the real results of the particular test.

1971 - 1978: B&M Automotive Product and Sportscoach Corporation of America, Chatsworth, CA. (both divisions of Sportscoach Corporation). Various titles, but overall responsibility for the engineering operations of both companies. In 1971-72 major emphasis on the high performance automatic transmission related products of B&M Automotive products (transmission, transmission components, shifters and torque converters). 1973-78 major emphasis on the motor homes and other vehicles of Sportscoach Corporation of America (Sportscoach motor homes, Sportscoach II motor homes, Transcoach small transit buses and Transcoach motor homes.) Overall responsibility for design and development of new models as well as production support engineering.

I didn't know anything about motor homes to start with, but I learned and found it to be a very interesting area. Sportscoach had the reputation of being one of the best driving luxury motor homes. We used to say we were car people who learned how to build houses where most of the industry were house builders who discovered the wheel. The original Sportscoach (Sportscoach I as it was later called) was fairly well established when I got there. I just improved on it. Starting in 1976 we designed Sportscoach II, a totally new and better unit that was also cheaper and easier to build. I designed the structural system, developed most of the floor plans and oversaw a design group of as many as ten designers. We built six prototypes of six different floor plans and introduced them to our dealers at a show in Las Vegas. We also developed the shape in the Cal Tech wind tunnel. At the same time we were having the first major 70's oil crisis which shut down the industry for four months. After the second crisis it was obvious that Sportscoach/B & M couldn't take another one, so in June, 1978 we sold the whole motor home business to Coachman Industries of Elkhart, IN. They continued with the basic Sportscoach II design for another eight to ten years, and still use the name.

1978 - 1981: Minicars, Inc. - Goleta, CA. - Head, Powertrain Group. Responsible for engine, transmission and other driveline components in the various Minicars experimental vehicles as well as some outside development contracts. The major work was on the Research Safety Vehicle for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as several other vehicles developed under Federal Government contracts. Headed powertrain concept development for the first phase of Department of Energy (DOE) Hybrid Vehicle Program. Oversaw development of initial design of both diesel and electric powertrains for Denver 16th Street Transit Mall vehicles.

After Sportscoach was sold I was sort of burned out. I saw an ad in the SAE magazine for a company in Goleta (outside of Santa Barbara) for a powertrain engineer to work on safety projects. I answered the ad and ended up on September 1, 1978 as head of the powertrain group at Minicars, Inc. They did all sorts of government research, mainly safety related, including a lot of the early air bag research. They built the RSV (Research Safety Vehicle) for NHTSA. It could crash into a barrier at 50 MPH with a driver without seat belts and he would probably survive. The main project I worked on for the first year or so was one of the preliminary studies for the "Near Term Hybrid Vehicle" for DOE. It has taken twenty years for this technology to actually appear on the market, but it looked good in 1978. Minicars had the most interesting group of automotive and "car nut" people I ever worked with. The last thing I worked on was a proposal for what became the HUMVEE. Our proposal lost, and in some cutbacks I was let go.

1981 - 1999: B & M Automotive Products, Chatsworth, CA. - Chief Engineer. Responsible for design and development of all B & M products: transmission components, shifters, torque converters, roots type superchargers and other performance related automotive parts.

The most interesting thing during my time at B & M was the design and development of the small roots superchargers.

1999 - Present: Design Consulting: Design, development and production engineering for various types of superchargers for after market performance companies.




More About Bonneville
Press Release Video
This 84 second video (from film) was part of a press release package issued by K & K Insurance. The MPEG format video only clip is available in 176x112 (2.68 MB) and 352x240 (12.18 MB) pixel sizes. A second-by-second accounting of events in the video was provided by George Wallace, and is found below. Mr. Wallace is seen at the 0:03 mark with his hands on his hips and at the 0:59 mark with his arms crossed. All times are approximate.
  • 0:00 to 0:03 Introduction. I assume Bobby is introducing the video.
  • 0:03 to 0:10 Car in the pit area and going out onto the ten mile oval.
  • 0:10 to 0:14 Bobby in car, accelerating.
  • 0:14 to 0:19 Car at speed on the straightaway.
  • 0:19 to 0:24 In-car on straightaway. Note the black line.
  • 0:24 to 0:29 Car going by timing light on straightaway.
  • 0:29 to 0:33 Back in car.
  • 0:33 to 0:49 Car on the oval taken from outside at start/finish line (the timing light and battery are on the left). The pit area was inside. The start/finish line was about in the middle of the front straight. At about 0:41 to 0:42 seconds the car goes by the pits.
  • 0:49 to 1:05 Pit stop. This must have been just for PR; we never had to make a fast pit stop. As Bobby pulls out of the pit you can see a couple of wood laths sticking up out of the salt.
  • 1:05 to 1:11 Joe Petrali with his equipment (including his hand adding machine), leaving his trailer.
  • 1:11 to 1:24 Finish and congratulations.
Harry Lee Hyde Video
Harry Hyde's son Harry Lee Hyde was among the #71 K & K Insurance crew members that made the trip to Bonneville in 1971. During the 1999 Aero Warrior Reunion, Harry Lee talked briefly about the record setting trip. In this clip, he is answering a question concerning the pedigree of the sole surviving K & K Insurance #71 Dodge Daytona. This 81 second MPEG format video clip is available in 176x112 (2.12 MB) pixel size only.
Other Photos
[Bobby Isaac] [Bobby Isaac Examines The Salt] [Moving Tires]
[Inspecting Tires] [Isaac Pulls Away] [Running On The Salt Flats]
[Running On The Salt Flats] [Running On The Salt Flats] [Working On The Car]
['Star Car'] [Arriving At The Salt Flats] [Arriving At The Salt Flats]
[Arriving At The Salt Flats] [Unloading At The Salt Flats] [Harry Hyde And Bobby Isaac]
[Harry Hyde And Bobby Isaac] [Harry Hyde And Bobby Isaac] [Isaac Enters The Car]
[Isaac Enters The Car] [Bobby Isaac and Harry Hyde] [Isaac Pulls Away]
[Running On The Salt Flats] [Running On The Salt Flats] [Buddy Parrott Watches The Car]
[Rescuing A Stranded Daytona] [Rescuing A Stranded Daytona] [Rescuing A Stranded Daytona]
[Working On The Car] [Harry Hyde, Bobby Isaac And A USAC Official (Probably Joe Petrali)] [Harry Hyde Tapes The Car]
[Harry Hyde And Bobby Isaac] [Harry Hyde And Bobby Isaac] [Running On The Salt Flats]
[Running On The Salt Flats] [The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run] [The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run]
[The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run] [The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run] [The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run]
[The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run] [The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run] [The Crew Congratulates Bobby Isaac On A Record Setting Run]
[Bobby Isaac (At Right) With Others In The USAC Timing Trailer] [The Crew, The K&K Insurance Daytona And A Speed Record] [Bobby Isaac And The K&K Insurance Daytona]
[Promotional Announcement] [Promotional Announcement]
Written Press Releases
Although Chrysler's interest waned for its Dodge Daytona after 1970, Nord Krauskopf felt that his #71 Daytona still held public relations value as the world's fastest stock car. As such, he offered the car for public display around the country and supplied written press releases to assist those who were showing the car.
Combines Business With Pleasure
Page 1,   Page 2,   Page 3
"The Bonneville Kid"
Page 1,   Page 2,   Page 3,   Page 4,   Page 5,   Page 6
"Southern Fried Speed"
Page 1,   Page 2,   Page 3,   Page 4,   Page 5,   Page 6
"The K. & K. Insurance Dodge Charger"
Page 1,   Page 2,   Page 3
Thorough-Going? Yes. Patient? No!
Page 1,   Page 2,   Page 3,   Page 4
Radio/Television Announcements
Radio - 60 Seconds,   Radio - 30 Seconds,   Radio - 15 Seconds,   Television