Here’s a priceless moment in hot rodding history: national newsreel coverage of the third annual National Speed Trials on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
(Revised and updated.) By 1951, the hot rodding fraternity was making its third annual pilgrimage to the Bonneville Salt Flats, and the enterprise was gaining some momentum. The straight-line speedfest in Utah, officially billed as the Bonneville National Speed Trials, even managed to draw a newsreel crew from Universal International, one of America’s leading news agencies, which produced the awesome segment we are able to share here.
The clip features a number of noteworthy pioneer hot rods among the 33 entries (how many you can identify?) but the featured attraction is the Kenz and Leslie 777 streamliner from Denver, Colorado. Powered by a pair of full-race flathead Ford V8s, the 777, first broke 200 mph in 1950, set a whole series of speed marks in the 1950s, and it was eventually fitted with a third Ford V8 and topped 270 mph on the salt before it was finally retired in 1957.
The 777 set top speed of the meet in 1951 at 227 mph, and established a new class record of 221.479 mph. Unfortunately, the U-I news crew got driver Willie Young’s name wrong in this segment, referring to him as Willie Jones. That glitch aside, the clip captures a priceless moment in hot rodding history. Video below.