After more than 50 years of peaceful rest, Chet Herbert's Beast III is once again seeing the light of day. This streamliner came from the hands of roller cam master Chet Herbert who successfully built a string of motorcycles and cars of his own design and set record after record at Bonneville, the dry lakes and the drag strips. What is so special about the Chet Herbert story is that he was afflicted with Polio at age 20 and built his weapons of speed from a wheel chair.
Dave Crouse of Custom Auto in Loveland, Colorado and collector Mark Brinker of Houston, Texas unearthed this streamliner in June of 2009. The car has not been raced since the mid 1950s and remains extremely well preserved which is highly unusual for an early liner.
Photo by Bill Kelly, Don Montgomery Collection
The ultra slick streamliner shape was the result of a series of sophisticated wind tunnel tests on various body configurations. Herbert motivated the car with a rear mounted 331 Chrysler Hemi breathing through Hilborn-Travers fuel injection. The combination worked to perfection. At the Bonneville event in 1952, Beast III posted a two-way average of 235.991 MPH and a one-way best run of 238.095 MPH with Art Chrisman at the controls. In fact, this is the car that put Chrisman into the coveted 200 MPH club, making him the 10th ever inductee. The Bonneville runs also made Beast III the fastest single engine car in American in '52.
Herbert sold the streamliner to Dana Fuller the following year. Fuller ran the car with a 425 cubic inch 6-71 GMC engine with an experimental head and twin superchargers. In this configuration Fuller drove the streamliner to two world records for diesel powered cars in 1953.
When Jim Miller, President of the Society of Land Speed Racing Historians, learned of this find he was all smiles. Miller said, "Beast III in my mind was the greatest of the early streamliners that ran on the salt. Chet and Rod Shapel really got the shape right on that one and it influenced many of the liners that followed. To me this is the all-time quintessential streamliner."
Chet Herbert's Beast III is currently at Custom Auto in Loveland, Colorado where Dave Crouse is heading the restoration project. According to Crouse, "Mark and I are restoring Beast III to honor Chet Herbert and his wonderful machine."