American Jet Cars
Stories & Comments
Jim Young


Your site brought back memories of your Dad's runs at the old San Antonio Drag Strip. When we were talking afterwards, he told me about some of the adventures at Bonneville, particularly, about the quick look I think he said he got of Art's car rolled over as it shot by him. If I remember correctly, he said no one rushed after the car since they had seen what happened to the Flying Caduseus(?). I've always wondered if Art could have set a record for the fastest crash ever survived (up to that time, at the very least). I think your dad told me it might have been as high as the mid 500's, but I don't trust my memory as much as I used to. Do you know by chance?

Anyway, your dad seemed very comfortable in the car and got a good laugh about my three attempts to watch a pass. For the first pass, I was off to the side of the start line and had been thinking about a jet engine that had blown up in the test cell. I had never seen or even heard about a jet car with an afterburner and back then they didn't do multiple (or even single) blasts on the burner before the run. When your dad kicked it in at the start of the run, my immediate thought was the engine that had blown up, so I hit the ground in an instant. Looking around for survivors, I noticed that everyone else was standing and watching the end of the run. Luckily they were so busy watching the excitment that nobody noticed me getting up from the ground just off the start line.

I was ready for the second pass, I got behind the car just far enough to the side to avoid the main exhaust. As the light came on I covered my ears and watched the car go about twenty feet, before getting a faceful of rocks, debris, and dust from the second (undusted) lane. I got my eyes just cleared enough to see the afterburner go out at the other end.

I was more determined than ever to get a good view of the third and final run. I sneaked in as close as I could get to the finish line in his lane, perhaps 50 feet from where he'd be blasting by. I even got to see about the first third of the run this time. Then someone near the end distracted me, saying I was too close. I turned for a second to see if they were going to make me move but quickly turned back to watch the run. All I got to see was what seemed like a stop action still of the car going by so fast there was no way to turn my head (or even my eyes) fast enough to follow it. As I recall, the other car in the demo was a small block chevy fueler that ran an amazing (for the mid 60's) 6 second, 195 mph quarter. I was amazed at how a small block could run within a few hundredths of the best fuelers of the day yet look so totally inadequate against the jet.

Your dad took the time to share some of the stories and get a kind hearted laugh out of a kid covered in dust and dirt from his exhaust. He assured me there would be many more jet car exhibitions to come (where I could get a better view). As it happened though, I went off to Vietnam and didn't get to see another until Tommy Ivo was running up in Denver. I wanted another shot at watching from as close as I could get to the finish line. I positioned myself out in that lonely territory, just far enough away to keep them from chasing me off, and finally did get to see an entire run. Doing so, gave me a vantage point that did help their team. Tommy thought I was just another over-excited fan describing the flame in the back of the car, until I showed him where it was well forward, under the bodywork. It seems they had just positioned the fuel lines for the afterburner and had only turned them a thread or two to start them. As he made the pass, they were leaking fuel around the outside of the engine and creating quite a fire inside the bodywork.

Thanks for relighting some memories
Jim Young

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