Bonneville Salt Flats: Speed limit 1000 mph by George D. Lepp

Bonneville Salt Flats: Speed limit 1000 mph by George D. Lepp
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Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz

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Sometimes the easiest books are the hardest to review. With George D. Lepp’s Bonneville Salt Flats, Speed Limit 1000 mph, the task is easy. It’s a pictorial book and the photographs are spectacular. The text is very light to non-existent and there are no historical footnotes to explain what the book is all about. You either know what the Bonneville Salt Flats are all about or the beautiful color photos will do that for you. Lepp does provide a Table of Contents and that lists seven chapters, but there is no index and the idea of having chapters at all is rather strange. Instead of adequate text and story, Lepp uses captions to tell his story. The author did not explain his motives for writing this book or the year that he took the photographs and researched the material. Digging through the book, there were references to the years 1986, ’87 and ’88, so all that we can be sure of is that Lepp was on the salt at Bonneville for at least one of those years and maybe all three. It is likely that the author went to Bonneville and was enthralled by the scene and the action and afterwards sent in his photographs and story outline to Motorbooks International, a huge publisher of automotive and speed books in the United States.

Regardless of the intentions of the author, this book, while weak on dialogue and history, has some of the best photographs of Bonneville Land Speed Racing that has ever been put in a book format. Strangely, it appears on the shelves of die hard land speed racing fans, even though there is little history in it. One saving grace is that it has a great dust cover jacket. The dust cover is readily recognized by land speed fans and racers and the book has a small cult following for appearance and its color photos.

Bonneville Salt Flats, Speed Limit 1000 mph is a hard-bound book that measures 9 ½ by 10 3/4 inches and is approximately 5/8 inch thick. There are 128 high-gloss quality pages with a superior binding. The dust cover jacket, as previously mentioned, should not be lost as it enhances the look and quality of the book. There are 82 color prints and many of them are full page and breathtaking. There are no black and white photos. There is no index. There are two pages where the rulebook is abbreviated and is the editor’s attempt to look like he is covering the subject matter. There are no graphs, no maps, no charts or anything else to tell the story. The captions with the photographs are adequate and explains to the reader who owns or drives the car and perhaps a bit about the engine or car. Bonneville Salt Flats, Speed Limit 1000 mph is just a pictorial, plain and simple. Nothing fancy even when it tries to add some captions and limited text to appear to the reader that it has a story to tell. But what a beautiful pictorial it is. There is no need to go on about the deficiencies in the book, which are many. The photographs rescue this effort at literature and even though it is only a year or two out of half a century of racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats, it is worth adding this book to your library. If you are a land speed racing fanatic, then this book needs to be in your collection. It isn’t anywhere as good as “Landspeed” Louise Ann Noeth’s epic on Bonneville, but buy it for its color photographs, which are excellent. In fact, Bonneville Salt Flats, Speed Limit 1000 mph, has the best photographs of Bonneville yet, although the variety is limited.

Bonneville Salt Flats, Speed Limit 1000 mph was published in 1988 by Motorbooks International Publishers and Wholesalers, P.O. Box 2, 729 Prospect Avenue, Osceola, Wisconsin 54020. Borders, Barnes & Noble or any other bookstore should be able to punch up the author, title or ISBN #0-87938-306-2 and tell you if there is a copy. I found my copy in a used bookstore. Motorbooks is a large publisher and so there should be a lot of books on the market. Check with Doug Stokes at Autobooks in Burbank, California at [email protected] if you need extra help. The full two page photos are really special and Lepp has aerial photographs of the course, which are rarely added to a book. You can read other books on the Bonneville Salt Flats for a historical background, but add Bonneville Salt Flats, Speed Limit 1000 mph to your library simply for the photos.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]