Louise Ann Noeth is a journalist's journalist, a well-versed professional writer and photographer, whose passion for land speed racing has earned her the nickname 'Landspeed.' She was born in Chicago and has the pugnacity and energy of the Windy City itself. "I’m a kid from the south side of Chicago whose parents were first generation born in the USA and whose grandparents came from the ‘old country,’ looking for a better life. One was a master machinist who invented, among other things, the key once used to open cans of ham. Another was heavily involved in government administration. Dad owned and operated a construction company. Mom raised four wild maniac kids and managed to keep her sanity in the process," Noeth told me. "I attended Henderson elementary school and Gage Park High School," she said. "There is no such thing as a junior high school in Chi town, and I wasn't into shop classes. None of my friends in high school were involved with motorsports – most were too damn busy fighting during the race riots and I wanted nothing to do with that unsavory nonsense. All my pals were mainly college kids when I was in high school,” Landspeed said. That’s how she met Professor Paul Torda who was the scientist behind the Blue Flame propulsion system. Toward the end of her senior year she was hanging out with Gary Dyer’s daughter, Kim, and Pat Minick’s (Chit-Town Hustler) daughter Karen.
Her focus at the time was graphic art on street cars and race cars: lettering, pin striping, gold leaf. “In fact, it is how I learned to drive and built-up my painting kit. I traded art for time behind the wheel, including gas money, brushes and specialty paints," Louise added. "As for work, if it paid well, I tried it for awhile, but settled into working for the State of Illinois before I became the general manager of Universal Recording Corporation’s Tono Tapes division. I stayed there until I ran away and joined a jet car team. My parents wanted me to have a psychiatric evaluation after I brought home three, 40-foot rigs and we parked them down the middle of the street while I ate dinner at my mom and dad’s house. Boy, were the neighbors hot about that one – well at least until we opened up the trailers and let everyone gawk at the mighty weenie roasters,” Louise said. Her hobbies and interests were centered around art, “always art. My hobbies were roller skating and bicycling. Science and mechanics have always fascinated me from a technical and artistic perspective. For example, some people look at the Eiffel tower as a major engineering achievement, but I consider it a grand exercise in artistic metal expression. I dabbled in criminal psychology for years, but the violence eventually wore me down and I focused on mechanics. Weird tastes for a 16 year-old kid, eh,” she continued.
“I learned to fly vintage and modern aircraft, earning my private pilot’s license at age 22," she continued. Louise is a driven, energetic woman who rarely suffers fools. She never saw things in the perspective of male and female jobs. Competition wasn't divided by the sexes and she chafed at being told that she couldn't compete on her own merits. Today her reputation is secure and no one disputes her right to compete on her own terms. The kind of racing she loves is land speed racing. "I spent years working with many different jets, mainly Doug Rose’s Green Mamba. Geez, I wonder if I can recall them all, it has been 30 years since I campaigned the cars on the ¼ mile tracks. The jet and rocket crowd were the Studnicka brothers, the Kisha boys, Wayne Knuth, Les Shockley, Craig Arfons, Roger Gustin, Russell Mendez, Al Eierdam, Fred Goeske, Scott Hammack, George Hedeback, Bob Motz, Fred Sibley, Lee Austin, Scotty Collins, Hayden and Brad Proffitt, Richard Schroeder, Doug Brown and others I am so sorry to have forgotten. The piston folks were another crowd altogether. Don Garlits and I used to get into discussions that had nothing to do with racing. I vividly recall one such chat that lasted several weeks and debating the merits of plutonium 236B -- the old man was always learning something new. There were many others, names you recognize from the late 1970’s. We were all part of a traveling roadshow called drag racing," she said.
Louise married Michael Lanigan after she quit racing professionally. “Michael is an armchair motorcycle fanatic – world and superbike racing," she concluded. Landspeed Louise told me she would never really retire from auto racing. It's in her blood. Nor would the people she knows let her forget her roots. Today she is a photojournalist for periodicals, books and magazines. Her ground-breaking work, The Bonneville Salt Flats, is an exceptional work on what it means to be a land speed fan. The book can be reviewed at www.hotrodhotline.com, Guest Columnist. I remember Landspeed at Black Rock Desert in the summer of 1997, when a climactic duel between Craig Breedlove's Spirit of America and the Richard Noble/Andy Green Thrust/SSC, failed to materialize. It was a hard, tough seven weeks on the deserts playa, with frustration and constant problems, but you wouldn't notice all that in Louise. To her there was no adversity that couldn't be overcome and the trials and tribulations were what made life worth living. Long and hard days on the playa sapped the strength and will of those volunteers who were there to help make history. In the evenings Louise would drop by and talk shop and bring us some hamburger to fry up for dinner. You could always count on Louise to point out the positive. We didn't have much in the way of necessities, but we did have one thing and that was the zeal for the sport of speed that we all love. We watched the Brits set the land speed record at over 763mph on a mandatory two-way course, and then we packed up and left.
Gone Racin' is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.