Flashback in time at Bonneville. Stumbling onto the film set for “World’s Fastest Indian”

It’s was 14 years ago, in 2004 and I was the “official” photographer, ( thanks Pete Charpouris)!, at the Bonneville Salt Flats as part of the join effort between So-Cal Speed Shop and General Motors to set some records with their then new “Eco-Tech” series of 4 cylinder engines. A very successful trip it was for the guys too, with many records set. But that’s a story for another time.


We’d been there the previous year as well with the Eco-Tech program and at some random point there was a call over the PA system announcing that if anyone was interested, there were some folks at the event who “wanted to make a movie at Bonneville” and if anyone was interested they could contact the guys through the tower to speak with them. The announcement seemed to be universally dismissed by the guys in the pits. Just another hokey effort to make another hokey movie, and they were trying to get some free cars to show up. Good luck Charlie. So it faded away…..

The following year we’re back, ( 2004 ) for Bonneville Speed Week in the middle of a toasty hot series of days in August. Off in the distance, (and there’s plenty of distance at Bonneville ), far from the pits and the race courses we could see a bunch of cars and trucks. And a couple of times we saw groups of school buses come on the salt and caravan to that group. Hmmm, curious. About mid day, we saw the buses leaving the salt, again in a caravan. Hmmm, curious-er. Things in the So-Cal pits were at a slow point, so myself and another guy decided to drive over to that area in the distance and see just what the hell was going on. When we arrived, it felt as though we had stepped through a time warp, and it was about 1962.




The cars, the bicycles, the pits, the tools, the banners and advertising, every detail right down to the thermoses, folding chairs and tables, everything was from another time. Including an announcers stand near a huge chalk board with names, cars, classes, and times written on it. There were what turned out to be “extras” guys with slicked back hair and jeans with cuffs, and girls walking around with cat-eye shades, bright red lipstick and Marlyn hairdos. As we just casually started walking around, acting like we belonged there, a guy comes over from the production crew. Busted! Nope he asks what we’re doing here, and tell him about the So-Cal / GM gig.



He says, “You ever do anything with HOT ROD Magazine?" “Ahhh, yeah, in fact I starting shooting for them in about ’80-’81”. “You know so and so, and the guys in the archives”? “Ahhhh, yeah”. I tell him. So he’s got this folder and clip board and he asks me if that chalk board looks right to me, and does it make sense? I tell him it looks awesome, but I was never at Bonneville back in those days. In the folder he has some 8x10 black and white photos he show us that they had gotten printed by the Petersen Archives crew. The chalk board was a perfect recreation, as were the food stands, outhouses, everything. All of it faithfully reproduced from the black and white photos. “What’s with the buses”? “They’re taking the actors and crew to lunch back in Wendover, the rest of us have catering here on site.” “Can we hang out and take a few pictures”? “Sure, just don’t shoot any of the actors, and if you see those buses coming back in about 10-15 minutes, get out of here, otherwise, knock yourself out”.

And that’s how we learned it wasn’t some hokey movie, just trying to scare up a few free cars. We were on set for “The World’s Fastest Indian”!




Words: Randy Lorentzen    Photos: Randy Lorentzen

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