- Written by webmin
Bob Summers, left, and Bill Summers, right. Image courtesy Greg Sharp, Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
As recently as a few years ago, Bill Summers still harbored ambitions to go land-speed racing, a testament to his devotion to a sport that he and his younger brother Bob had conquered more than 40 years prior. Bill Summers even had a new car built, but will never have the chance to fulfill those ambitions, after he died last Thursday at the age of 74.
Both born in Nebraska, the Summers brothers didn’t become acquainted with land-speed racing until the early 1950s, after their family had moved to Southern California. Though their first visit to Bonneville, in a homebuilt hot rod, resulted in a 130 MPH run, Bill called it a fiasco and the brothers thus began to experiment and build ever faster cars. Their efforts ultimately resulted in the 32-foot-long, wind tunnel-tested, quad-Hemi-powered Goldenrod, which (piloted by Bob) set the wheel-driven land-speed record of 409.277 MPH on November 13, 1965. That record would remain untouched until 1991 when Al Teague averaged 409.978 MPH in a supercharged car. The specific non-supercharged wheel-driven record held by the Summers brothers would stand until last year, when Charles Nearburg drove the Spirit of Rett streamliner to an average of 414.316 MPH.
Bob died in 1992, but the Goldenrod benefited from an $87,000 restoration over the last decade and today is displayed at The Henry Ford. Summers Brothers Racing, the company that Bob and Bill founded to produce heavy-duty race parts, remains in business today.
Bill Summers, left, and Bob Summers, right. Image courtesy Greg Sharp, Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
UPDATE (18.May 2011): Greg Sharp of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum sent along the new lead image as well as the image above for this post. Thanks, Greg!