Following the ’52 Bonneville event, Herbert partnered with Dana Fuller, who ran the reconfigured Streamliner with a 425 cubic inch 6-71 GMC diesel engine equipped with an experimental cylinder head and two superchargers. Fuller drove the car (# 671) to two diesel FIA world records at Bonneville in ‘53.
Fuller retired the car sometime in the mid 50s and from there it sat idle for nearly fifty years. Land speed racer Ed Hegarty ultimately bought it from Fuller’s family in 2002 with the plan of getting it running. But the Beast remained idle.
In early 2009 the car quietly came to the attention of hot rod expert Dave Crouse of Custom Auto in Loveland, Colorado. According to Crouse, “When I first saw the car I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was incredibly well preserved which is extremely unusual for an early 50’s Streamliner. This car changed everything in Streamliners and in my mind is one of the most important land speed cars of all time.”
Dr. Mark Brinker of Houston, Texas, a patron of Crouse’s restoration shop and himself a Bonneville record holder, couldn’t resist the chance to restore Beast III and instantly bought the project. Brinker has long been captivated by the legend of Beast III and considers this project a wonderful opportunity to honor Chet Herbert and his magnificent machine.
The car has been undergoing a world class restoration at Custom Auto and will make its first public appearance in 55 years at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance where it will compete in the Hot Rod Class. Chrisman and Schapel have been heavily consulting on the project and will be at Pebble to see the car on the 18th fairway.
Following Pebble Beach, the car has been invited to be on display at The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 2011. After that, Brinker plans on racing the car at the Texas Mile speed event in Goliad, Texas.
But like many car stories there is yet one more piece in this already stunning journey. Brinker grew up with a sister afflicted with Cerebral Palsy. Wheelchairs and the strength of those within them have been very familiar to him. His sister’s courage had such a profound impact on Brinker that he dedicated his life to the practice of orthopedic surgery specializing in complex fractures and their late stage complications. More than mending broken bones, Brinker rebuilds the lives of his patients who have been stricken with severe mobility challenges; patients like Chet Herbert.
When Brinker heard about the Streamliner, undisturbed since the mid-50s, he knew this was the right project for him. Shortly after restoration began, Brinker commented frankly about his emotional connection to the project. “Chet Herbert refused to allow his disability to encumber his life much like my sister and so many others like her, in their daily lives. The December 1952 Hot Rod Magazine cover showing Chet working on Beast III from his wheelchair must have inspired an entire generation to do things beyond self-imposed limits, to see ahead of frustration, and build something beautiful. I felt compelled to see that vision restored.”
The legendary efforts of this speed pioneer, the painstaking restoration and the passion of a driven collector eager to tell this heartfelt story are celebrated in this revelation of speed and beauty. The spirit and determination of a man who refused to accept boundaries, delivered not only in the record books, but revealed a stunning beauty within that same object. Few mechanical creations have succeeded at both levels; few men are brave enough to blend their soul into their machines. In this regard, history treats us to a journey beyond the victory on the salt, it is a triumph of the human spirit.
Raffi Minasian is an Automobile Designer and Historian, and Pebble Beach Class Winner in 1994.