Livermore residents Matt Fenwrick and his father Dan Fenwrick are setting out to break the Bonneville Salt Flats land speed record in Utah for their class this year.
The salt flats of the Bonneville Speedway are well known to the racing community as it has been the site for numerous land speed records. Southern California Timing Association started the Speedweek event on the speedway in 1949 and it has grown in popularity ever since, according to Dan Fenwrick.
“It’s 40 square miles of flat salt … it’s just flat. Anybody that wants to go fast from back in the 40s, that’s where you would go because you had enough space,” he said. “We’ve got people that come out there from all over the world.”
Dan Fenwrick said the salt flats are one of the fastest places in the world because the size and flatness of it makes it ideal for land speed racing.
Matt Fenwrick raced on the flats for the first time in August 2019 after deciding he could likely break a land speed record, having worked on cars with his father since he was very young.
“Since I could hold a wrench, you know, 3 or 4 years old, I was helping him in the garage, getting tools for him,” Matt Fenwrick said. “It’s pretty much what we’ve always done. My dad raced when I was growing up and we’ve always been involved in racing, so it’s just the next thing.”
Matt Fenwrick raced the car and managed to get up to 120 miles per hour even with the poor conditions of the flats due to heavy rain.
He and his father spent 10 months building a Ford Pinto station wagon from scratch, making custom parts and putting everything together.
“He did all the work. We stripped it down to bare metal,” Dan Fenwrick said. “Everything on the car, he built … it’s from scratch … Pretty much every day he was out in the shop working on it.”
Matt Fenwrick said he decided on building a Pinto wagon to use because it was different from what anyone else was using and he has always liked the look of them. He said the process was long and expensive, especially with working 60 or more hours a week. The most difficult part of it, he said, was getting parts made that they couldn’t build themselves.
“You have to wait for other people to make parts … and you couldn’t finish another part until you got one part,” Dan Fenwrick said.
They said they finally finished the car the night before they had to leave for Utah, putting the motor in and starting it up for the first time as well as putting some finishing touches on the paint.
“I’ve built quite a few cars over the years, so this wasn’t much different than that, other than we don’t usually have time restrictions … so making sure we got everything done when we needed to was probably the stressful part,” Matt Fenwrick said.
The Pinto has been housed in the Bluegrass Motorsports Hall of Fame in Central City for several months. Matt Fenwrick said they will pick the car up in the next month or so to start getting it ready for this year’s Speedweek event in August. He said he hopes to break the current record for his class, reaching at least 160 miles per hour.