To most of us, salt is just something we sprinkle onto bland food or stick to the rim of our margarita glass. But to some, it’s a key component of a racing surface where man and machine battle the forces of physics to see how fast “fast” really is. And when you have the itch to speed on the salt the only place to do it right is Bonneville. The Bonneville Salt Flat is a packed salt pan in northwestern Utah that formed eons ago when most of Utah and a chunk of Nevada were under a thousand feet of water called Lake Bonneville. Over time the water went elsewhere leaving behind the salt as a parting gift. Back in 1907 people started getting the idea of driving on the stuff, and the first land speed record was set in 1914, but it was the 1930s when the sport really got going. Since then, gearheads have been going faster each year, with Andy Green hitting over 760 mph in 1997.
Aside from the guys going for the fastest of the fast, there’s also a huge group of racers vying to be the top dog in their particular class. Sure, a guy with millions of bucks and a jet engine can go 400-plus mph, but what about a team on a small budget with a V-6 or small-displacement V-8? This is where racers like Jack Rogers live. At 69 years old, he’s been running the salt for quite a while and his current ride of choice is this ’85 Camaro. Back in 1991 the 757 Camaro was owned by GM engineer Tom Doll and crewed by Jim Fox and Steve Christophersen. It set a ton of records, some of which still stand today. In 2008 the Camaro was put up for sale where Jack saw it on eBay. He sent crew chief Steve Strupp to check it out. Steve found it to be a solid buy and convinced Jack to make the deal happen.
Now, the Camaro hadn’t been run since 2004 and the four years in dry dock made prepping the third-gen for its return to the salt quite a chore. But the team worked overtime and eventually it was ready for a return trip to Utah. As Jack told us, “We made it to the salt, got registered, and took our rookie tests under the watchful eye of one of the original owners, Steve Christophersen. Our initial plan was to spend the event getting familiarized with the car, and also with Bonneville. After all of our rookie work was done we were running 223-plus mph, with the record being 225 mph. After three runs we were still stuck at 223 and it seemed that we couldn’t get any more out of it. At this point our plan of just ‘familiarizing’ ourselves with the car and venue had gone out the window. We were going to get a record or go home with a bucket of bolts!” Steve didn’t have the jets he needed to richen up the mixture, so he raised the float levels as high as they would go and dialed in four more degrees of timing. Their push truck had a mechanical issue so the team flagged down a truck to give them the push they needed. Fifteen minutes later the Camaro was in impound and qualified for a new record in the D/Production class at a hair over 225 mph. Steve's tinkering had done the trick. Of course for a record to count, they needed to make a second run, and that speed averaged with the first run. “On our return run, we set the new record by just a fraction at 225.366 mph and were welcomed into the 200 mph Club as a result of having broken a record over 200 mph,” recalled Jack.
In 2009, the team set four more records with the 757 Camaro: D/Fuel Altered Coupe, B/Gas Coupe, B/Fuel Altered Coupe, and B/Gas Altered Coupe. In 2010, three more records fell, in A/Production, A/Fuel Altered Coupe, and A/Gas Coupe. Rogers stated, “Currently the 757 Camaro holds 14 records at Bonneville. Five are still held by the original owners and we hold the other nine. I don’t believe that a single car has held this many active records, and I’m sure no car has ever held more active records over 200 mph. Our team only attempts to break records that were not yet held by the 757 Camaro. We don’t run on records already held by the previous owners.”
The engine powering the 757 Camaro depends on what records the team are trying to break and can range from the 448-inch, 15:1-compression mill machined by Steve, down to a nitrous-fed 300-inch version built by Jim Fox. With four engines in the powerplant stable, we imagine the crew is very good at changing them out. No matter the engine being fielded, the transmission backing it stays the same; a four-speed (four forward gears) Jerico with a Tilton three-disc clutch spins the power back to the Moser 12-bolt with either 2.13 or 2.56 gears with a spool. It’s all about going straight, so the suspension is stock with the exception of the 2-inch drop front springs, 2-inch chopped rear springs, and a set of adjustable AFCO shocks. Rolling stock consists of Taylor 15-inch Land Speed wheels with Moon Discs shod in Goodyear LandSpeed rubber.
Inside, the stock seats were ditched long ago and in their place resides Kirkey racing buckets paired up with DJ Safety harnesses. To shave weight, the rear window is Lexan, and to collect data, there’s a DataMaxx acquisition system. Greg May fabricated the rollcage and there’s the requisite gear needed for going over 200 mph, such as a parachute and gas shutoff switch. It all gels together for a straight-line ride that is much more than the sum of its parts. A cool Camaro made off-the-hook-bitchin by guys with the stones to let it fly across the Bonneville salt.
Currently the 757 Camaro holds 14 records at Bonneville. Five are still held by the original owners and we hold the other nine. I don’t believe that a single car has held this many active records, and I’m sure no car has ever held more active records over 200 mph.