Roamin Angels Corner: ‘Too Fast’ Bob’s Bonneville Firebird
Special to The Union
When you think of the Bonneville Salt Flats, you think of speed. But can you go too fast?
Nowadays, you can’t just drive out on the flats and take off like you could have in 1912. Your car must undergo a tech inspection, and you, as a driver, must qualify.
A rookie has to make a 125 mph run first to get used to the salt, then make a 150 mph run to qualify for going to higher speeds. However, if you exceed 160 mph in that qualifying run, you are disqualified and can make no more passes.
There are also rules for the 175 mph class, the 200 mph class, the 250 mph class, etc. And then there’s “Too Fast” Bob Anderson, the rule breaker.
Bob had experience at Bonneville, having worked as a crew member for a racer from 2005 until the owner sold his car in 2007. By that time, Bob had obtained his 125 mph license.
Bitten with the speed bug, Bob purchased an ’86 Firebird T/A Bonneville car in 2009 that consisted of only a frame, body and junk tires. Then the work began. In spite of his crewing experience, he says, “I had no idea how much it took to build a car.”
He found a engine-building company back in New York that built drag car engines. He liked what he heard about them and convinced them to build his Bonneville engine.
Using a Dart cast-iron block, they built a 421 CID small-block Chevy stroker. With aluminum roller-rocker heads and a monster-lift roller cam it’s a NASCAR-type mill that pumps out 806 HP. Bob says, it was “a lot more than I wanted to spend, but a lot less than other (engine-building) companies wanted.” For a trans, he got a beefed-up Turbo 400 auto with direct drive. That means there’s no torque converter that allows you to sit still while the engine runs.
When the Firebird’s started, it’s moving. For a rear-end, he used a Borg-Warner with 2.77:1 gears. A Hickman racing suspension gives great handling.
Bob did get some help from fellow Roamin Angel Bonneville racers. Jack Eskelson did welding on the roll cage, pedal mounting and such.
Joe Streng helped with the wiring. The car was finished in time for Bob to accompany a group of Roamin Angel Bonneville fanatics known as Buzzards Racing (see them on YouTube) in August this year for Speed Week.
Although it had been five years since he qualified at 125 mph, the officials let him go for the 150 mph class. Unfortunately, Bob had a lead foot and hit 173 mph on his first run. After a quick huddle, the officials decided not to disqualify him but to let him try again. After setting the rev limiter to 4200 RPM’s, he hit 140 mph on his next run. To qualify in the 175 mph class, he kicked the revs up to 7000 RPMs. Since Bob did not put in the computer equipment that runs thousands of dollars to tell him what revs would be best, he did it “old school,” by the seat of his pants. His next run was 178 mph, too fast but the officials allowed it. His final qualification run for the day, for the 200 mph class A license, he did at 207 mph. Again, it was over the speed but allowed. By then, he had acquired the moniker of “Too Fast” Bob and it stuck.
With the number 245 painted on the side of the car, Bob decided to try for that speed. It would get him into the prized 200 mph Club by breaking the current record for his b/gc (less than 439 CID/ gas coupe) class by almost eight miles per hour. However, his fastest run was 217 mph. Then he blew his trans. It was only after his trans was shot that he remembered he’d left the limiter at 7000 RPM instead of raising it to 7800 RPM.
Since he’s bought a new trans, Bob plans to return to Bonneville and hit 245 mph. Then he plans to hit 252 mph, giving him a class AA license.
“After all,” “Too Fast” says, “you can never have too many goals.”
For more about Ron Cherry go to http://www.rlcherry.com. For more information about the Roamin Angels Car Club, go to http://www.roaminangels.com, call 530-432-8449, write to Roamin Angels, P.O .Box 1616, Grass Valley, CA 95945, or stop by IHOP on Taylorville Road some Friday at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User