• Nov 8, 2009

The Proud American and Bonneville Boss - Click above for high-res image gallery

Before our favorite weekly Southern California car gathering this Saturday, we had been told by a friend that he'd be bringing his new rocket truck. Rocket truck? What the heck's a rocket truck? Visions of rocket-powered pickups and semis running the quarter mile immediately came to mind. Did some drag racer sell Tom his race truck? Is that what he was bringing to the show?

As soon as we came around the corner we knew he hadn't. We knew this with absolute certainty because we saw a giant nosecone towering above the treeline. There was, in fact, a rocket-powered land speed record (LSR) car positioned at a launch-worthy angle atop a most amazing truck. Rocket, truck... Rocket truck. Makes sense now. But what was this thing and where did it come from? You can read the whole wacky story after the jump.



Photos copyright ©2009 Frank Filipponio/Weblogs, Inc.



Dubbed the "Proud American," the LSR car is actually a mock-up built in the early '70s by inventor, businessman and speed freak, Tony Fox, and rocket specialist, Ky Michaelson. The finished car was intended to challenge the land speed record in our bicentennial year of 1976. The goal was to break the speed of sound.

Hauled by the Dean Moon-designed "Bonneville Boss" transporter, the display vehicle was put on tour to raise funds for the effort. Sadly, the project never came to fruition, but the transporter and rocket car mock-up survived. After sitting in storage for some 30 years, they were recently sold off and ended up right here in SoCal in the hands of our friend, Tom Shaughnessy. Lucky us.

Up close, the "Proud American" is a giant bicentennial tribute on wheels. You half expect Evel Knievel to pop out of it. Actually, with it lifted into the raised position like it was, it reminded us of a circus canon, ready to fire some daredevil into an airbag or safety net across the parking lot. It'adorned with an American flag motif as well as the names of each of the 50 states and the autographs of Tony and The Rocketman, a.k.a. Ky. As cool as the LSR car is though, the transporter is even more amazing.

The 5-axle truck looks like a lunar RV from a '60s sci-i movie. It seefms to be 1,000 feet long, but the cab is surprisingly low. It seats three with the driver taking the rearmost central position in the denim-and-vinyl-lined cockpit. The gauges are the same Stewart Warners you might find in a Lamborghini Countach. There's also a (cracked) sunroof, and it has sidepipes. What else can we say?

Power comes from an Olds Toronado drivetrain routed through the front four wheels. The double front axles also do the steering. Yep, this puppy is fwd, 4WD, 4WS and OMFG. The six rear wheels support the weight of the rocket car while the front four wheels do all the work. Take a look at the profile and you'll see that this Bonneville Boss brings new meaning to the term "cab forward" as well. We're told you get used to it fairly quickly, but there's an odd lag between the time you see a bump coming and the actual impact.

Tom and co-owner Terry Healy picked it up recently for a price we expect was a lot lower than the initial build cost of $225,000. At the time, that made it the most expensive truck ever built, according to aMay 1976 Popular Science article. We're not sure what this duo plans to do with it, but based on the crowd it drew at Cars & Coffee, we'd say the Bonneville Boss could still be an effective publicity vehicle even now.

We hope to bring you more about this novel bit of motoring nostalgia in the future, but for right now, we just have some more pics in the gallery for you to enjoy.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 16 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I always wondered what that thing was. It sat on a small used car lot in Long Lake MN for a number of years back in the 80's. I think the owner just bought it to have a "draw" for the lot. I didn't know anything about it but I always thought it was a mock-up or something as the nozzles didn't look functional.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Awesome truck... But the fact that it's front wheel drive is disappointing. :(
      • 5 Years Ago
      *hums the Thunderbirds theme*
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm pretty sure I had this as a Hot Wheels or Matchbox toy back in the late 80s... It looks so familiar for some reason. Very cool!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Matchbox - I had the same one, so I had exactly the same thought. It was one of those large-size Matchboxes, too, and it came with a plane that sat on the cradle at the back. You took the plane off the cradle, snapped the wings on, and off you went.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The 6 year old in me says "GIMME!".
      This is 10 ways of awesome.
      HotRodzNKustoms
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow!!! I'm sad I did not go!!! Sadly I had to catch a flight later in the morning!!! Truly a once in a lifetime set up! Hopefully they will be Cars and Coffee regulars with that amazing rolling art!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is there any way of spiking kjsdkjfsdkj's computer. I bet there isn't a hacker alive that could fry his/her computer and transfer all their money into my account. I hope this reverse psychology stuff works.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      • 5 Years Ago
      So many lines come to mind....

      "Ground Control to Major Tom... Take your protein pills and put your helmet on."

      "Here I am sitting in a tin can, high above the world..."

      "Strung out in Heaven's high, hitting an all-time low."

      "Though Im past one hundred thousand miles, Im feeling very still, And I think my spaceship knows which way to go..." It had better, there is no steering. :D

      "They got a message from the action man, 'Im happy, hope youre happy too...'"

      "My mother said to get things done, Youd better not mess with Major Tom" ...somebody messed with Major Tom on this one...

      "4, 3, 2, 1
      Earth Below Us
      Drifting, Falling
      Floating Weightless
      Calling, Calling Home"

      Lyrics used without permission, not for profit, of course.

      This thing looks like a scud launcher dressed for a parade. You'd almost have to be strung out like Major Tom to get in that thing, the truck, or the record car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        And I think it's gonna be a long long time
        Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
        I'm not the truck they think I am at home
        Oh no, no, no, I'm a rocket truck
        Rocket truck burning out it's fuse up here alone
      • 5 Years Ago
      That transporter is so cool it's off the charts on my cool-o-meter!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Thats so cool, the truck looks like a toy from the 70's, I want it.
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