“This is the story about two men, father and son, their racing cars, their lives and the salt flats where they ran their most famous trials. Ab Jenkins was the son of Welsh immigrants, first a carpenter by trade and then a prominent building contractor, who grew up with the automobile and found a new career in driving cars fast but safely.”
“Ab was sponsored by the Studebaker Automobile Company, Auburn, Cord and Dusenberg, Goodrich and Firestone tires, the Mobil Oil Company, General Petroleum, the DX Oil Company, Pennzoil, Kendall Oil and several accessory and insurance companies over his 33 year career. He spent nine years demonstrating Studebaker’s superiority over the highways from coast to coast and on timed climbs up scores of notable hills, as well as racing competitively on the board tracks on the 1920s.”
The Mormon Meteor III was built in Augie Duesenberg’s shop in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jenkins wanted the car to be able to accommodate both of his Curtiss Conqueror engines, one powering each axle. However, the initial build would be with just one engine powering the rear axle. The Mormon Meteor III was a large vehicle and designed specifically for endurance record runs. The chassis was offset 6 in (152 mm) to the left on the running gear to aid in the constant turn encountered on the 10 and 12 mi (16 and 19 km) circular record courses.
The Mormon Meteor III was an evolution of the Mormon Meteor II. The car was nearly 21 ft (6.4 m) long and had a streamlined, narrow body with an enclosed cockpit. A tall fin was incorporated behind the cockpit, and two fuel tanks were positioned above the rear axle. Power was delivered from the Conqueror engine to the rear wheels via a three-speed transmission. At speed, the 112 gal (424 L) of fuel the Mormon Meteor III carried would be nearly exhausted in around two hours after traveling 400 miles (644 km). Four headlights to provide ample illumination of the track during the night hours were faired into the sloped radiators. The Mormon Meteor III had independent front suspension and specially made Firestone tires mounted on 22 in (.56 m) wheels. The car weighed 4,800 lb (2,177 kg). Marvin Jenkins, Ab’s son, assisted with the build.
1939, David Abbott Jenkins (left), with his son Marv, standing in front of the monstrous Mormon Meteor III at his beloved Bonneville Salt Flats. Marvin Jenkins was too young to race the car, but he was able to extensively test the Mormon Meteor III to make sure all was in order. Ab Jenkins, despite him being 57 years old, drove the 12 cylinder, 4-ton beast into auto history– setting numerous land speed records, with many still standing to this day.
Ab Jenkins was a devout Mormon, and in the very same year he set the 24-hour endurance record that would stand for more than 50 years (driving 3,868.14 miles, averaging 161.18 mph), his friends and supporters rallied and got him placed on the ballot for Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. Jenkins won the election “without spending a dime, or giving a single speech.” He continued racing and setting speed records out on the Salt Flats while in office from 1940 to 1944. Now there’s a guy who’d get my vote every day of the week!
“PLACED IN THE CAPITOL IN THE INTEREST OF BOYS AND GIRLS BY AB JENKINS, HOLDER OF MORE WORLD’S UNLIMITED RECORDS THAN ANY OTHER MAN IN THE HISTORY OF MOTOR SPORTS. THE ONLY MAN WHO HAS EVER DRIVEN AN AUTOMOBILE CONTINUOUSLY WITHOUT RELIEF FOR 24 HOURS, UNDER SUPERVISION OF THE CONTEST BOARD. HE ATTRIBUTES HIS ENDURANCE TO HIS TOTAL ABSTINENCE FROM THE USE OF LIQUOR AND TOBACCO.”
WATCH THE TRAILER BELOW: BOYS OF BONNEVILLE / RACING ON A RIBBON OF SALT!