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.