July 14, 2024

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A Vehicle That Connects Father, Son and Land-Velocity Racing Heritage

Butch Graham,

64, a property painter from Salt Lake Metropolis on his “City of Salt Lake” land-speed racer and the legacy of his father,

Athol Graham,

as told to A.J. Baime.

For several many years, folks have appear from all about the earth to attempt to split land-velocity documents on the Bonneville Salt Flats, outdoors of Salt Lake Metropolis. In 1958, my father, Athol Graham, determined that any person from Salt Lake Metropolis really should have the land-speed history, since we experienced the salt ideal here. He experienced an automobile-fix business enterprise in city, and he commenced creating cars and trucks in this garage.

At the time, land-speed racing was a major deal, and my father had huge desires. The more I have lived, the a lot more I have acquired how massive those goals had been, and how many men and women my father encouraged.


Images: His Father’s Legacy Restored

Butch Graham demonstrates off the rebuilt land-velocity racer, ‘City of Salt Lake.’

Butch Graham now in his garage. He has used 40 years restoring the ‘City of Salt Lake,’ which his father built and raced in the late 1950s and into 1960.

Joshua Tug Ferguson for The Wall Street Journal

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He built the “City of Salt Lake” racing vehicle out of the frame of a diesel truck, with an Allison V-12 plane motor from a Globe War II P-38 Lightning. It’s a 1,710-cubic-inch motor, and if you know the slightest factor about vehicles, you know that this matter is a beast. [The U.S. military rated this engine at 1,325-horsepower in the 1930s, according to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.]

In December 1959, my father was able to go more than 344 mph in the “City of Salt Lake.” The history at the time was 394 mph, and he required to break 400 mph. On Aug. 1, 1960, he crashed at Bonneville at over 300 mph and was killed. [His death was reported in newspapers around the country and even abroad.] I was just 4 many years old. I have noticed many photos of the two of us jointly, but I have no memory of him.

After he died, a teenage mechanic named

Otto Anzjon,

who experienced assisted my father develop the automobile, made the decision he desired to rebuild it and satisfy my father’s dreams. Otto experienced cancer, and his mom and dad thought if he experienced anything to concentrate himself on, that would assist with the disease. He rebuilt the automobile and ran it at Bonneville in 1962, about 200 mph, in advance of he blew out a tire. He survived the crash, but he died of leukemia quickly right after.

When my mother went to provide the constructing where my father experienced his auto shop, she experienced no area to put what was remaining of this vehicle. A dude from Las Vegas stated he could redesign it and make it go rapidly. So she gave it to him.

Forty many years back, I went to Las Vegas to get the motor vehicle back. It had been sitting on this guy’s entrance lawn for several years, out in the things. When I commenced restoring it, folks who realized my father came out of the woodwork to help me. I have had old men hunt me down, appear to see the vehicle, and just get started to cry.

Each December, I would just take a thirty day period off to get the job done on the auto since no person preferred their house painted about the vacations. I experienced to rebuild the entire body. It was a good deal of fabrication, and portray, way too. On the 50th anniversary of my father’s loss of life in 2010, we took the car or truck back again out onto the Salt Flats to show it to folks. The engine was not in it, at the time. That designed the newspapers, and out of nowhere, this scorching rodder named

Richard Thomas

confirmed up at my doorstep, and he has been encouraging at any time because. The initially point we had to do at that stage was get that Allison engine functioning yet again.

It took a lengthy time to locate a person to rebuild the engine. When I did, Richard aided me consider the motor to California. The position took a calendar year and a 50 %, and Richard helped me convey the engine back again. He has come to be a ideal good friend to me. Now the motor is again in the car or truck and it operates. Permit me notify you: It is scary!

This position has turned into a lifelong task. My prepare now is to check out to locate a museum that can get excellent care of the car or truck and support rejoice my father’s legacy.

Produce to A.J. Baime at [email protected]

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