The AE-1 project is aborted shortly after the “Live with Regis and Kathy Lee” comedy of errors. Some of the team members started another project with a pre-owned F-104 Starfighter (an airplane nicknamed “the Missile with a Man in it” by its designers in 1957).
AE-1 alumni Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi shod the fighter plane of its wings, install aluminum wheels and the J79 turbojet off of the AE-1 and re-invent their entry into the LSR as the North American Eagle, now optimistically billed as an “800 mph world land speed record challenger.”
Before being christened as the NAE, and after some research missions out of Edwards AFB in Mojave, CA, this particular plane had spent nearly 30 years in surplus in South Central LA, rusting, decomposing and exposed to elements while graffiti artists had their way with it. Ed Shadle tells it this way:
“It was in very sad shape with holes punched into it, a lot of missing panels, the wrong tail cone and was basically gutted. He asked $25,000.00 for it. I sat down with the team and we had to make a decision. He was the only show in town we could afford so we passed the hat and we came up with a plan. We offered $15,000 up front in September 1998, with a $5000 payment in January of 99 and the final payment in July of 99. Keith Zanghi paid the freight bill of $3000 to have it transported to Spanaway, Washington.
“Upon arrival, we were pretty disappointed in the condition of the aircraft but we were certainly proud owners of this beast. We knew there would be much hard work ahead of us but when you are as tenacious as we are, it didn’t seem all that bad.
“We weren’t sure which aircraft we had because there was so much paint and graffiti all over the aircraft you couldn’t tell what its number was.”
When asked about the metamorphosis of monikers, Shadle explained thusly:
“Yes, we originally had it named American Eagle One but when (driver) Gary Swenson dropped out in 1996 and we had picked up some sponsorship from Canada we decided to rename it North American Eagle in order to give some recognition to the Canadians. After Rick Kikes decided to quit the project completely in 1998 and give back our investments, we moved on into my current project which of course is the F-104. My extraction from the old project gave me the right to the name, the website and the aluminum wheels. The sponsors also went with me. Keith Zanghi and I teamed up together to form the new project in 1999. Last I heard, the old car was sitting out behind a drag racer’s shop near Portland Oregon, rusting away with grass growing up through it. Swenson bought out the remaining ownership from Kikes so Swenson is the owner but last I heard of him he was in Peru growing potatoes…….”