JOHN COBB’S NITRO (STUFF WAS STILL GOOD)

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“1965 at Bonneville, I made friends with the Mobil Oil guy, and mentioned we needed some nitro. He said, ‘I have some.’ There was a corrugated tin shed in back of the Texaco station that he had a key to, he gave me the key and said ‘help yourself to what you want.’ I had Bob Knapp’s Chevy pickup and when I opened the door, there was about 60 drums of fuel in the shed left over from John Cobb’s land speed run. I thought about all of the racers that parked next to the shed over the years and never knew what was in it. Seeing as how he said to help ourselves and I was by myself, I found a stack of pallets, I put one down and rolled a barrel onto it, then up onto two and so on up to the bed of the truck. I got two drums of nitro and one alcohol, before I could no longer move… Stuff was still good from 1948.”Chassis builder, drag racer and land speed racer, Kent Fuller.

D-Day becomes V-Day, and more attempts at cracking 400 mph transpire. John Cobb resurrects his unique 4-wheel Railton ‘liner (now coined the Railton Mobil Special), a sleek manta ray of a streamliner with independent suspension and a Napier-Lion 12-cylinder aero-engine mounted in each curve of the S-shaped chassis. At Bonneville on September 16, 1947, John Cobb lays down a scoriating two-run average of 394 mph. Asked to describe the runs, one of which tripped the timers at 403 mph, Cobb exercises the British gift for understatement when he says, “Everything happens quite quickly.” Yes, things do happen very quickly at those speeds. Empirical proof? Cobb is killed attempting the water speed record at Loch Ness in 1952. He never cracks the 400 mph barrier; his record remained unplucked like a grape on a vine until…

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