Vintagent contributor and film partner David Martinez made the 9-hour trek from his home in San Francisco to the Bonneville Salt Flats for the first time last month. Like anyone with a visual orientation, the place wowed him: “It’s impossible to take a bad photograph there.”  He also dug the scene – speed nuts laboring for months builing machines, and risking their safety to break records, addicted to the sheer glory of going fast, with little hope of reward barring recognition from their peers.

A Triumph Speed Twin in the morning light, ready for a run. [David Martinez]
David spent time with ‘Slim’ Jim Hoogerhyde’s equipe, and Alp Sungertikin’s team, and got to know a few of the regulars who ply their skills on the salt.  They were generous with their time despite ever-present struggles with technical problems, time pressures, and exposure to the sun and heat. About the salt this August: it was crap. Soft, wet, and rough, it played havoc with cars and motorcycles, and many of the faster runners were loathe to risk life and limb on the unpredictable surface.  Several cars went into high-speed spins, and some folks went home rather than push harder, hoping for better on the next organized run in September.

The salt this year has been atrocious: wet and loose and bumpy. Not how it clings like snow to the underside of boots. [David Martinez]
The salt is a strange surface in the best of times, hardly smooth and surprisingly greasy.  We imagine tabletop-smooth whiteness, which might happen twice in a lifetime, but mostly, the surface is a chaos of riffles and bumps, which need to be leveled, sorta, by heavy dredges pulled across the surface, creating semi-smooth runways for the record breakers, on the long ‘international’ course, or the shorter course for slower machines. Regardless the quality of the salt, it’s always highly corrosive, and gets into every cranny, so everything touching it requires many hours of cleaning to avoid rapid corrosion.  Better than wet sand, I suppose, as it gives a much larger surface to play with at Bonneville, but it’s nothing like traction and smoothness available on asphalt.

A classic Bonneville shot of a streamliner headed out on a run, into the vast unremarkable whiteness of this alien landscape, with only far distant markers to guide you. [David Martinez]
Enjoy these photos from David Martinez’ first encounter with this fascinating tribe of speed freaks. And check out his work: he’s directed 3 films for TheVintagent.com: ‘The Ended Summer’, about surfer and motorcycle racer Richard Vincent: ‘Model X’, a test ride of a 1933 Matchless V-twin: and ‘Summer Ride’, about the 2017 Wheels&Waves festival in Biarritz.  We’re currently discussing a new short film about the Vincent Black Lightning – check out his videos, and stay tuned!

‘Slim’ Jim Hoogerhyde was the first man to break 200mph on an electric motorcycle, and is a tech inspector for the SCTA. [David Martinez]
Team Lowbrow Customs prepping for a run with their lowdown Triumph. [David Martinez]
Tyler Malinky had salt-related issues with the handling of his Lowbrow Customs Triumph, and crashed out, breaking a few bones. He’ll be back. [David Martinez]
An Aermacchi single and Triumph twin in the glorious sunshine of the Bonneville Salt Flats. [David Martinez]
Cyrillic messages carved into the engine case of this DKW RT125 or derivative – H-D Hummer or BSA Bantam. Neither of those was ever supercharged, though! [David Martinez]
The pilot of the Cyrillic DKW, likely come from abroad to run the legendary salt flats. [David Martinez]
A supercharged Velocette KSS readies for a run. Not many records were set this year, the salt was nobody’s friend. [David Martinez]
Lower and lower: a 3-wheeler kneeler almost invisible on the surface. [David Martinez]
Experiments in chassis design are common at Bonneville, including this ultra-stable and ultra-low hub-center device. [David Martinez]
Alp Sungertekin, a young legend on the salt who’s gained wisdom and guidance from the old timers on the use of nitro, but has brought his own ingenious designs to the table, and won. He currently holds the world record for fastest unfaired Triumph pushrod twin – 175mph.  See his ‘Asymmetric Aero’ build from our Custom Revolution exhibit here. [David Martinez]
This year, Alp built a Triumph for Bryan Thompson, and the team used Bonneville to sort out carburation and ignition issues. [David Martinez]
The Thompson Cycles Triumph built by Alp Sungertekin. The bike will head to the Mooneyes show in Yokohama this year. [David Martinez]
A Confederate Hellcat on a high speed run. [David Martinez]
Cars too! Like this cool early 1950 Mercury coupe hot rod. [David Martinez]
More hotrod action, plus accomodation! [David Martinez]
An Indian Chief modified for speed. [David Martinez]
Jalika Gaskin, Alp Sungurtekin’s crew chief, and wife, gleaming in the sun. [David Martinez]
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