This year at Summit Racing Equipment Atlanta Motorama alongside vintage vehicles and cool customs you’ll also find an extreme machine that has just one purpose: go fast. Very fast.
During Motorama weekend the Million-Dollar Salon will be the temporary home of this Bonneville Streamliner, but as its name suggests the car is most at home on the salt flats.
“Bonneville is obviously the land speed record location in Utah, recognized worldwide as the mecca of speed for those who want to go really fast,” said Mike Welch, who’s been making the pilgrimage to Bonneville for nearly two decades. Over the years he’s brought several different cars as he’s chased higher and higher speeds, and recently put together a Streamliner to take his top speed potential to a whole new level.
“231 m.p.h. is the fastest I’ve been,” said Welch. “While the Streamliner has 400 m.p.h. plus in it by design, my personal goal at 66 years of age is 300 to 350 m.p.h. If we get to 350 m.p.h. and everything goes well, everything seems to work and feel pretty good, we’ll consider more than that.”
Welch says he was always intrigued by the speed runs across Bonneville’s salt flats that he read about in hot rod magazines as a child, but initially scratched his itch for high-velocity driving by drag racing.
“Most drag racing around here is for 1/8 of a mile, not even a 1/4 of a mile; it doesn’t last very long. The experience of speed and just being able to go fast is short lived.”
Over time Welch’s desire to reach higher speeds started to outgrow the dragstrips. This was noticed by his wife Libby, who encouraged him to make a trip to Bonneville and see if the speed runs he saw in those magazines, offering miles of flat salt land to rocket across, could be the next step.
“This does not happen without my wife,” said Welch. “It’s a very special relationship — it has always been, and not just because of the cars. It’s a team effort.”
With that suggestion Welch made his first trip to Bonneville in 1998 as a spectator. A couple of years later he went back, this time with an oval-racing car he’d modified for the salt flats and instantly was hooked.
“While drag racing is purely acceleration, Bonneville is momentum,” Welch explained. “You’re pushed out to a speed of 40 to 50 m.p.h. just to get the car rolling and you take it from there. Within a minute, whatever your speed capabilities are, you’re there. You have five miles to work with and that gives you the opportunity to drive the car significantly.
“You have to drive the car a lot; these things never hook up. Most people can’t imagine that these things dance, twist, and turn for the entire run. They’re just moving all the time and that’s a unique experience.”
Welch says the original plan was to eclipse 200 m.p.h., declare victory and move on, but two decades after that first trip to Utah, Welch is still trying to go faster.
“You’re there because you’re looking for a creative way to go fast,” said Welch. “It’s simply a tug of the heart, a tug of the soul, to get you there.”
That tug of the soul led Welch to build the Streamliner; a purpose-built machine, born as a concept in Welch’s mind and made a reality thanks to hard work, determination, and some good advice along the way.
When he brings the Streamliner to Summit Racing Equipment Atlanta Motorama, Welch will be sharing the result of a life-long passion.
“I would love for them to have experienced something new and that they could actually appreciate the time, the effort, the energy that goes into it; the commitment not only to just drive the car, to the build the car, but to see it through.”
Welch’s Streamliner will be one of more than 1,000 vehicles on display during Summit Racing Equipment Atlanta Motorama, which returns with a weekend chock-full of cars and events on April 27-28, 2019.