"We called to try and get reservations at Wendover. They told us we were going to stay in the same Auto Court that John Cobb stayed in; they didn't call them motels then. When we got to the room, the bed had a little thin mattress sitting on bare springs and the floor was linoleum. A lot of the guys overhauled their engines in the motel rooms, or they took a makeshift A-frame to lift engines out of the race cars.

"We were there in the sun with no sun protection of any kind all week. All they told us to do was to wear sunglasses. We had no kind of canopies or shelters put up for shade.

"We weren't sure we, or anyone, could go any faster than El Mirage! Otto Crocker (known as "The Clocker") sat down and made a new timing chart for Bonneville that went up to 175 mph. His clocks recorded the time you were in the traps. So when we went 193, Otto had to figure the speed out by hand because we went faster than his chart.

"We were used to running one or two days at El Mirage, here we had a week. We were so elated going home. It was incredible!"

The 49ers

When Alex learned that the SCTA had no specific plans for the 50th anniversary of the event in 1949, he went to work to change that: "My wife, Helen, and I put together a program to honor the guys that ran in 1949. We called them The 49ers."

Alex was no stranger to the staff at Petersen Publishing and approached John Dianna (Petersen Automotive Group President, at the time) with the idea of having a banquet for the guys. Hot Rod sponsored the banquet honoring the 49ers. Alex: "SCTA allowed all of us who participated in 1949 to drive our cars down the course at Bonneville and everyone in the pits, the spectators, and course workers were waving at us. It was quite a thrill."

Our Loss

Sadly we're losing our World War II veterans at an alarming rate, as too the first competitors at Bonneville, many having served during the war.

For those of us who compete at Bonneville, rubbing shoulders with land speed racers from around the world, for the spectators who travel from the four corners of the globe to view the salt with the same wonderment as was experienced in 1949, we can thank those hot rodders who dropped everything to go those 65 years past and make it possible for us to follow. It's been a privilege to write about their experiences.