(Photo credit: DPL Digital Collection) – While the Bonneville Salt Flats rose to prominence quickly after 1914 as the premier place to go really fast in America, it was by no means the first place that people dropped the hammer and ran their machines to their outer limits. Ormond Beach in Florida was one of the places people chose to come out and set speed records. Year after year they went faster and faster and the tradition held between the years of 1903 and 1910. While roads were bumpy, hilly, and curvaceous, the packed sand of the beach provided a smooth surface for some of the bravest men on the planet to stand on the gas in their rudimentary cars with power plants sometimes sourced from airplanes, sometimes motivated by steam, and sometimes built as factory one-off specials.
The photos you will see below all date from the period of 1906 through 1909. Consider this the first installment of the “Before Bonneville” series because we have a LARGE number of these photos to share with you. We’re going to provide captions so you know who is in them and what they are driving. It is amazing that more guys were not killed out there on the sand running these insanely basic cars at speeds up over 100mph. We’re talking chain drives, hand brakes, and steering systems that make 50 year old farm tractors look advanced. But they came back every year and went faster every year. More power, more aero, more speed.
Take a look at these photos, all taken years before Bonneville even thought about becoming the speed capitol of North America.