By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archive
Before he became the first man to set land-speed records above 500 and 600 mph in the mid ’60s, Craig Breedlove was a hot rodder, like many other young Southern Californians in the ’50s and early ’60s. He raced at dragstrips, on the dry lakes and at the Bonneville Salt Flats, where he would later make history in the Spirit of America and Sonic I jet cars. Photos of him with various cars showed up in Hot Rod magazines of the era, including a three-page feature on this “triple-threat” ’34 Ford coupe that was photographed by Petersen lensman Eric Rickman for the magazine’s September 1960 issue.
The 23-year-old Breedlove (at left) and a couple of buddies are demonstrating how the steel and aluminum body comes completely off the car “for direct access to all components,” said the story. (Look closely and you’ll see that Breedlove is wearing a T-shirt from his car club, the Screwdrivers of Culver City, which had several other famous members over the years, including Lou Baney, Fred Larsen and Nick Arias Jr.)
The coupe, which was “wrecked and rusty” before Breedlove salvaged it, had its aerodynamics improved thanks to a 6-in. roof chop. An aluminum deck lid was punched with 259 louvers “to exhaust cockpit heat and relieve pressure and lift that build in the car at high speeds.” The side windows were plastic, and the center of the windshield was open “for cockpit cooling.”
Breedlove powered the coupe with a ’48 Mercury Flathead V8 fitted with Edelbrock heads, a S.Co.T. supercharger and four Stromberg 48 carburetors. “Inside the mill are an Engle cam, JE pistons, Grant rings and special steel lifters,” the magazine reported. Backing the engine was a ’39 Ford transmission and a Halibrand quick-change rearend.
Speaking of “special steel” components, note the rack for the barbell weight plates at the back of the chassis—what the story described as a “direct method of concentrating weight at the rear for improved traction.” The setup must have worked, as the coupe ran more than 143 mph in only its third outing at the lakes. “More is expected,” said Hot Rod.