Bill Summers chokes back tears as a missile-shaped, record-setting race car he and his late brother Bob built more than 40 years ago becomes a restored museum piece in Dearborn, MI.
“I'm just so overwhelmed,” Summers tells an Automotive Press Assn. audience at The Henry Ford museum for the unveiling of Goldenrod, a 32-ft.-long racer that broke a world speed record for vehicles with engines connected to wheels, by hitting 409.2 miles per hour in 1965.
The car now will be displayed among the museum's other famous vehicles, including the car John F. Kennedy was assassinated in and the bus in which Rosa Parks rode when she refused to give up her seat.
Bill Summers says he and Bob were just two high school graduates who as hot-rod enthusiasts and self-taught mechanics “knew what we wanted.” It was to build the world's fastest car.
Goldenrod was built in a former vegetable stand in their hometown of Ontario, CA. It wasn't the first car they crafted, but it became the most famous.
Their first was built in 1954 when they created a hot rod from a 1936 Chrysler. At the time, Bill worked at Citrus Motors Ford in Ontario as a delivery boy earning $1.50 an hour.
“Every pay day I'd go to Ontario Chrysler-Plymouth to buy another part,” he tells Ward's. “If it was an expensive part, I'd save up for it.”
That first hot rod wasn't an indication of things to come. “It was a disaster,” Bill Summers recalls.
The brothers learned from their mistakes, and went on to make history at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, with Bob driving the Goldenrod at speeds like those of a jet airplane.