Bonneville Salt Flats by Louise Ann Noeth

Bonneville Salt Flats by Louise Ann Noeth
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Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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From The Publisher

Bonneville Salt Flats 
by Louise Ann Noeth

Located in the Great Salt Lake Desert, the Bonneville Salt Flats are both a geographic and land-speed marvel. The crusty yet perfectly flat strip measuring nine miles long by just 80 feet wide, was formed 50,000 years ago when a 45,000-square-mile sea receded in what is now western Utah. Since 1909, Bonneville has hosted hundreds of races and speed trials featuring scores of remarkable cars, motorcycles, and drivers.

This photo history features all of the marques, both automotive and motorcycle, that have campaigned the Bonneville Salt Flats over the past nine decades. Represented are the four general racing categories associated with the venue -- special construction, vintage, modified, and production -- with special emphasis on the postwar years from 1950 through the 1970s, and such legendary drivers as Craig "Land Speed" Breedlove and Gary Gabelich, the latter of whom gained fame by driving the rocker-shaped, hydrogen-powered Blue Flame to a land-speed record of 622 miles per hour...

Review By Richard Parks

Louise Ann Noeth has written an outstanding book on land speed racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah. Everyone refers to the author as “Landspeed” Louise, and she has the remarkable talent for getting close to speed-focused men and women, in order to get at the heart of a much-misunderstood sport. No one has written about Bonneville with the fervor, stamina and attention to detail that “Landspeed” Louise has in her book, “Bonneville Salt Flats.” This is not the first book to be called by this name, only the best one to date. The author has found photos that are unique and not previously published. Most of the photographs are in color, though about a third of them are in black and white, from the very earliest days on the Salt Flats. These photographs are stunning and historic, and only the author could have coaxed these priceless relics from the private albums where they have resided for all these years. A major complaint is that racing books are heavy on photographs and short on text. For the first time, I actually preferred the preponderance of well-documented photos over text. The author also displays diagrams and charts, in order to show the original road course and race tracks. The very progression of the pictures is in itself, worthy of the name “pictorial.”

Louise Ann Noeth has written an outstanding book on land speed racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah. Everyone refers to the author as “Landspeed” Louise, and she has the remarkable talent for getting close to speed-focused men and women, in order to get at the heart of a much-misunderstood sport. No one has written about Bonneville with the fervor, stamina and attention to detail that “Landspeed” Louise has in her book, “Bonneville Salt Flats.” This is not the first book to be called by this name, only the best one to date. The author has found photos that are unique and not previously published. Most of the photographs are in color, though about a third of them are in black and white, from the very earliest days on the Salt Flats. These photographs are stunning and historic, and only the author could have coaxed these priceless relics from the private albums where they have resided for all these years. A major complaint is that racing books are heavy on photographs and short on text. For the first time, I actually preferred the preponderance of well-documented photos over text. The author also displays diagrams and charts, in order to show the original road course and race tracks. The very progression of the pictures is in itself, worthy of the name “pictorial.”

“Bonneville Salt Flats,” however, is not simply a pictorial coffee book meant for easy display. Its historical text is as well thought out and written as any work of history that you will find on auto racing. The chapters cover the various decades of the 20th century, with a substantial review of the discovery and early history of the Salt Flats. Most “Hot Rod” books put in text around the photos as mere filling, but in “Bonneville Salt Flats,” you are in for a true education. A good many authors skip over the early history of an event due to a paucity of information and photographs, or because they do not feel that it is very important. In fact, the earliest days of the Salt Flats represents the author’s best work. Here the writing flows from her pen with a zeal and love that is unmistakable. The text matches the original and never before seen photos to simply entrance the reader.

This particular book on Bonneville should be the centerpiece on which you build your library on Land Speed racing. I would have liked to have seen this book extended out to a firmer 200 pages. Try as I might, this book comes as near to perfection as any work can. The author of “Bonneville Salt Flats” has dug deep into the psyche of the racers for the motivations which drive men and women to spend mind numbing hours and thousands of dollars in an attempt to push the speed limit higher and higher. World wide, there cannot be much more than 10,000 drivers, mechanics, fans and spectators who appreciate this sport, though their zeal cannot be doubted. “Landspeed” Louise is their chronicler and chief historian, who believes in the crusade, no matter how large or small the audience might be.  

This is a sport that exacts a price from all concerned. It is methodical and deliberate, and the goal is to increase the speed, not “win the race.” It lacks the great acceleration and power of a top fueler or funny car in drag racing. It does not have the crowds and dangerous passing of a NASCAR race. There is no traditional “Pagoda” and heritage rich “brickyard” track, as there is at the INDY 500. There are no fancy twists and turns as there are on the fabulous European roadcourses. What Bonneville has is pure speed, guts and sweat, mixed in with ingenuity and a hot rodders desire to improve things. Get this book and read it. Share it with your friends. There are only a few books on Bonneville, and I’m hoping that if we encourage “Landspeed” Louise, she’ll get to work and bring us “Bonneville Salt Flats II.”

From the Book

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