COVER STORY: COM­MON GROUND

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Contents -

Af­ter shar­ing the salt in 1954, these two record-hold­ers are now in good hands.

Stand­ing on the cracked, hard-packed sur­face of El Mi­rage, it’s easy to get the vibe. The spir­its of past rac­ers seem like they’re right there, if only you could re­lax your gaze enough to see them, shim­mer­ing through the decades like heat ris­ing off the hard­pan. Turn your head fast enough and you just might catch a glimpse of the dust trail left in a lakester’s wake.

That weird time vor­tex is only height­ened when these two icons of speed are parked on the lakebed. It could be 1954 all over again. The lake doesn’t know the dif­fer­ence. Neither do the sur­round­ing moun­tains, ever present in pho­tos then and now.

The tell­tale as to which decade you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing—for those of us too young to have been there in per­son, anyway—is the fact that these rac­ing vet­er­ans ap­pear be­fore us in vivid color, not the muted gray tones of old magazine sto­ries, scrapbook pho­tos, or dig­i­tal black-and-white scans. The Wil­liams Bros. road­ster is coated in Ti­tian Red ni­tro­cel­lu­lose, the Tommy Thomp­son stream­liner in Wheat­land Yel­low, stand­ing in for Thomp­son’s original Gold­en­rod Yel­low.

“It was al­ways yel­low,” says Tom Mcin­tyre, “and the num­ber was al­ways 990,” cho­sen by Thomp­son be­cause that’s how much money he had in­vested in the car when it first went to Bon­neville in 1953.

Mcin­tyre owns both cars, though he doesn’t think of them that way. His role is more as a guardian, tend­ing to these ma­chines while they’re in his hands. “We need to be care­ful to pre­serve the car ex­actly the way it is,” he told us as we gin­gerly moved the

road­ster around for our photo shoot. “The car will be around long af­ter I’m gone, and the next con­ser­va­tor would want it that way.”

In the decade that the road­ster has been with Mcin­tyre, it has been out­side of his garage just three times, our photo shoot be­ing the third.

We have paired these cars for sev­eral rea­sons. As part of Mcin­tyre’s re­mark­able col­lec­tion, they’re kept with sev­eral other sig­nif­i­cant race cars, in­clud­ing the Penske Rac­ing/sunoco ’68 Ca­maro that Mark Dono­hue drove to the 1968 Trans-am cham­pi­onship, and Mickey Thomp­son’s ’63 Z06 Corvette, which was prepped for rac­ing by Smokey Yu­nick, pow­ered by one of the first “Mys­tery Mo­tor” 427s, and raced by Ju­nior John­son at Day­tona (see HOT ROD April 2015).

The road­ster and ’liner are both Bon­neville record hold­ers, though they achieved those marks decades apart. They also spent time in hi­ber­na­tion, tucked away for years in the garages of the men who drove them to fame.

They are salt-flat broth­ers in another way, too. They both par­tic­i­pated in the Sixth An­nual Bon­neville Na­tional Speed Tri­als in 1954, the road­ster for its one and only Bon­neville race, the stream­liner for the sec­ond time in a Bon­neville ap­pear­ance record that would span decades. We wish we had found a photo of the two of them to­gether on the salt in 1954. Short of that, we felt pair­ing them on this hal­lowed ground in the Mo­jave Desert would be the next best thing.

• WORDS: DREW HARDIN • PICS: WES AL­LI­SON • VIN­TAGE PICS: PETERSEN PUB­LISH­ING CO. AR­CHIVE AND COURTESY TOM MCIN­TYRE • CARS: TOM MCIN­TYRE

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