Car: Goldenrod, 1965

Goldenrod—still the world’s fastest conventional “car”— was built by Californian brothers Bill and Bob Summers who dreamed of an assault on the World land speed record.

1965 Goldenrod
Bob Summers stands by Goldenrod at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1965.

Bob built a scale model and mapped out its layout to demonstrate how his car could become the fastest vehicle on earth. Chrysler was so impressed it agreed to provide the engines, and Goldenrod was born.

Goldenrod was essentially a four-wheel drive, 32ft- (10m-) long javelin. The four fuel-injected Chrysler V8 engines were set in pairs in the chassis, mounted back-to-back. The front pair drove the front wheels and rear pair the rear ones, with a mechanical coupling to synchronize the 2,400bhp power output.

1965 model of the car Goldenrod
1965 car Goldenrod

Bob Summers calculated that Goldenrod’s weight would keep its aluminum wheels and Firestone tires glued to the white surface of Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Goldenrod took the record for a wheel-driven car from Britain’s Donald Campbell, returning it to the US for the first time since 1928. In 1991, Al Teague’s “Spirit of 76” slightly bettered the speed for a piston-engined car, but that was supercharged.

“It means so much to the world of hot-rodding. For nearly 40 years, the Goldenrod has held one of the most significant records on anyone’s books.”

Hot Rod Magazine, 2008

Video: Model of the car Goldenrod

Specification: Model of the car Goldenrod

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Ontario, California
HISTORICAL STATUS: speed record car
ENGINE: four x V8-cylinder, 421ci (6,900cc)
LAYOUT: four engines mounted in a row, driving all four wheels
BODYWORK: single-canopy, single-seater racer
TOP SPEED: 409mph (658kph)