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Boys of Bonneville: Racing on a Ribbon of Salt (2011)

Boys of Bonneville: Racing on a Ribbon of Salt is about an America that has all but disappeared, when lucrative business deals were cemented by a handshake and state of the art automobiles ... See full summary »




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Larry H. Miller ...


Boys of Bonneville: Racing on a Ribbon of Salt is about an America that has all but disappeared, when lucrative business deals were cemented by a handshake and state of the art automobiles were designed on the backs of envelopes. It tells the story of an unsung hero and self-made man, David Abbott Jenkins, who, with almost superhuman stamina and boyish charm, set out to single-handedly break every existing land speed record on his beloved Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah. More than a century later, many of "Ab's" records remain unbroken and the legacy lives on in his custom car. Looking like something Batman would have owned, the story comes full circle when Ab's son Marv, restores the 12-cyclinder, 4800-pound "Mormon Meteor" to its glory days for a ceremonial lap on the salt. The film features pristine archival footage of Ab, Marv, and their races, as well as recently shot HD interviews with a stellar list of car and racing aficionados (including Jay Leno and Col. Andy Green, the ... Written by Jennifer Jordan

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Release Date:

13 April 2011 (USA)  »

Box Office


$300,000 (estimated)

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A truthful, evocative recall of two men driven to exquisite speed deeds
14 May 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This wonderfully crafted documentary has absorbing historic footage combined with a fine cross-section of folks who speak with authority (Hugh Coltharp, Gordon E. White) and sometimes only awe (Jay Leno) about David Abbot (Ab) Jenkins (1883-1956) whom many steadfastly believe is the "Father of salt racing and his son, Marv Jenkins.

It was Ab's dogged determination that put the Bonneville Salt Flats on the international racing map, not to mention the hundreds of speed marks he set there proving the salt's worth.

Considering his limited resources, Jenkins racked up remarkable achievements. What distinguished him from his contemporaries was his precise use of local, "tribal" salt knowledge and unlimited guts. He was a deeply religious man who put his faith in God, and by God, he went far.

Jenkins was often oxymoronically called "The World's Safest Speedster" because he set more world records than any other driver, past or present, yet he was prouder of his million-mile "no accident" street driving record than all his speed and endurance records combined. His watchwords were simple: Safety First.

Moreover, the vintage film footage shows first-hand what a relaxed champion he was -- exiting his Bonneville Salt Flats racing machines after a grueling 24-hour endurance run as though he were climbing out of a limousine on Broadway.

It took several decades later to topple Jenkins exhausting, 48-hour endurance record. As for the marks that have fallen, it required the efforts of several drivers compared to Jenkins single-man driving shows. However, many still remain intact today.

One-time considered Utah's "one-man public relations machine," Jenkins racing fame got him elected Mayor of Salt Lake in 1940 without ever giving a speech, or spending a nickel on a campaign. He served until 1944.

Ab Jenkins was the certainly the first person catch "salt fever" and luckily he passed it on to succeeding generations with a need for speed. When Jenkins died at age 76, on August 9, 1956, the world was a little slower for him having done so.

If the film has one flaw, it failed to clearly document that it was Jenkins and his son Marv's super human driving efforts on behalf of General Motors Pontiac Motor Division that caused the executives to change the car's boring "Series 860" name to "Bonneville" when the pair set dozens of speed marks out on the salt. It is the only car in the world that "earned" its name and not simply "given" its name.

If it was a matter of total run time at stake, the comments from Donald Davidson would never be missed giving viewers another sumptuous morsel of achievement from two ordinary men who did extraordinary things.

Land speed racing continues today on the flats, it is an iconic slice of what remains of American frontier life, great daring-do with all the ponies now under the hood.

When writing my book, Bonneville Salt Flats, I was privileged to be given unrestricted access by the Jenkins family to their personal files and photo collection. I spent several days in Noma and Marv's in St. George, Utah home researching the the early days of the sport going through Ab's entire career. It was a phenomenal collection of documentation, photos, letters and personal commentary of the era.

I came away thinking, "there ought to be a film made about these two" and now there is. Although the Jenkins name has faded away in motor sports, Director Curt Wallin has done a masterful job in resetting the consciousness level together with great editing and well-paced, informative writing that even a Hampton Socialite would be happy miss a nail appointment to see the film.

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