The Mormon Meteor: A Deep Dive into the Legendary Racing Car and its Legacy
For automotive enthusiasts, the Mormon Meteor is a name that conjures up images of blistering speed, endurance, and an era when automotive pioneers relentlessly pushed the limits of what their vehicles could achieve. The story of the Mormon Meteor is not only a fascinating chapter in racing history, but it also serves as a testament to the passion and determination of its creator, Ab Jenkins. This blog post will take you on a journey through the incredible legacy of the Mormon Meteor, from its birth to its lasting impact on the automotive world.
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The Early Days: Ab Jenkins and the Birth of the Mormon Meteor
Ab Jenkins: The Man Behind the Legend
David Abbott “Ab” Jenkins was born in 1883 in Spanish Fork, Utah, and became a prominent figure in American racing history. A man of many talents, Jenkins was not only a skilled driver but also a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and politician, serving as the mayor of Salt Lake City from 1940 to 1944.
Jenkins developed an obsession with speed and endurance early in life, and he channeled his passion into a career in racing. His ultimate goal was to create a vehicle that could break records and withstand the rigors of long-distance racing.
The Beginning of the Mormon Meteor Series
To realize his dream, Jenkins enlisted the help of legendary automotive engineer August “Augie” Duesenberg. Together, they set out to create a racing car that would set new records and capture the imagination of racing fans worldwide. The first of their creations, the Mormon Meteor I, was completed in 1935.
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Mormon Meteor I (1935)
The Mormon Meteor I was a revolutionary racing car that combined speed, power, and reliability. It was built on a Duesenberg chassis, with a sleek, streamlined body designed to minimize air resistance. Under the hood, the car featured a supercharged 420-cubic-inch Duesenberg inline-eight engine that produced an impressive 400 horsepower.
Records and Achievements
The Mormon Meteor I made an immediate impact on the racing scene, setting numerous records for speed and endurance. In October 1935, Jenkins piloted the car to a new 24-hour record, averaging 135.47 miles per hour over the course of the race. This record stood for nearly two decades until it was finally broken in 1954.
The Evolution: Mormon Meteor II and III
Mormon Meteor II (1936)
Not content to rest on their laurels, Jenkins and Duesenberg continued to refine and improve the design of the Mormon Meteor. The Mormon Meteor II, completed in 1936, featured several key upgrades that allowed it to outperform its predecessor.
Design Upgrades and Innovations
The most significant change to the Mormon Meteor II was the introduction of a new, more powerful engine. The car was now equipped with a supercharged, 1,570-cubic-inch Curtiss Conqueror V-12 aircraft engine, which produced an incredible 750 horsepower. This powerful engine, combined with the car’s lightweight construction and aerodynamic design, allowed the Mormon Meteor II to reach even greater speeds.
The Partnership with David Abbott “Ab” Jenkins and Augie Duesenberg
The collaboration between Jenkins and Duesenberg was essential to the success of the Mormon Meteor II. Both men were visionaries in their respective fields, and their combined expertise allowed them to create a vehicle that was truly ahead of its time.
Records and Achievements
The Mormon Meteor II continued the legacy of its predecessor, setting new records for speed and endurance. In 1936, Jenkins drove the car to a new 12-hour record, averaging an astounding 153.82 miles per hour.
The following year, in 1937, Jenkins broke his own 24-hour record with the Mormon Meteor II, covering an incredible 3,868 miles at an average speed of 161.18 miles per hour. This new record further solidified the reputation of the Mormon Meteor as one of the fastest and most durable racing cars of its time.
Mormon Meteor III (1938)
Despite the success of the Mormon Meteor II, Jenkins and Duesenberg were not finished pushing the boundaries of what their cars could achieve. In 1938, they completed the third and final iteration of the series: the Mormon Meteor III.
The Shift to a Curtiss Conqueror Aircraft Engine
One of the most significant changes in the Mormon Meteor III was the adoption of a larger, more powerful Curtiss Conqueror V-12 aircraft engine. This 1,710-cubic-inch engine produced a staggering 900 horsepower, allowing the car to reach even greater speeds than its predecessors.
The Final Collaboration between Jenkins and Duesenberg
The Mormon Meteor III marked the end of the partnership between Jenkins and Duesenberg. The death of Augie Duesenberg in 1937 meant that the Mormon Meteor III would be their last joint project. However, their collaboration had already made a lasting impact on the world of racing and automotive design.
Records and Achievements
The Mormon Meteor III continued the record-breaking tradition of its predecessors. In 1939, Jenkins set a new 24-hour record with the car, averaging 171.02 miles per hour and covering 4,104 miles. This record would stand for an incredible 42 years, only being surpassed in 1981.
The End of an Era: The Last of the Mormon Meteors
The Impact of World War II on Racing and the Automotive Industry
The outbreak of World War II brought an abrupt halt to the world of racing, as resources and attention were diverted to the war effort. This, combined with the death of Augie Duesenberg and the advancing age of Ab Jenkins, signaled the end of the Mormon Meteor series.
The Retirement of Ab Jenkins and the End of the Series
In the early 1940s, Ab Jenkins retired from racing and focused his attention on his political career and philanthropic efforts. The Mormon Meteor series had come to an end, but the impact of these incredible cars would continue to be felt for years to come.
The Fate of the Mormon Meteor Cars
Over time, the Mormon Meteor I and II were dismantled and their parts repurposed for other projects. However, the Mormon Meteor III was preserved, eventually finding a permanent home at the Price Museum of Speed in Salt Lake City, Utah.
How the Mormon Meteor Changed Racing and Automotive History
Influence on Automotive Design and Engineering
The Mormon Meteor series had a lasting impact on the world of automotive design and engineering. The cars’ innovative use of aircraft technology and their focus on aerodynamics would influence the design of future racing cars and high-performance vehicles.
The sleek, streamlined design of the Mormon Meteor cars demonstrated the importance of aerodynamics in achieving high speeds and maintaining stability at those speeds. This understanding would go on to shape the design of future racing cars and even influence the development of production vehicles.
Use of Aircraft Technology in Automotive Design
The Mormon Meteor series pioneered the use of aircraft engines in racing cars, taking advantage of their incredible power and reliability. This approach would later be adopted by other racing teams and manufacturers, leading to significant advancements in automotive technology.
Setting the Stage for Future Endurance Racing
The 24 Hours of Le Mans and Other Endurance Races
The records set by the Mormon Meteor in long-distance racing helped to popularize the concept of endurance racing, eventually leading to the establishment of iconic events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. These races would test not only the speed but also the durability and reliability of competing vehicles, pushing automotive technology to new heights.
The Bonneville Salt Flats as a Racing Venue
The achievements of the Mormon Meteor helped to cement the reputation of the Bonneville Salt Flats as a premier racing venue. The unique characteristics of the salt flats provided an ideal environment for setting land speed records and attracted racing enthusiasts from around the world.
Inspiration for Future Automotive Innovators
The success of the Mormon Meteor series and the groundbreaking work of Ab Jenkins and Augie Duesenberg inspired a new generation of automotive innovators. These trailblazers would go on to develop new technologies and push the boundaries of what was possible in the world of racing and automotive design.
The Mormon Meteor Today: Preservation and Tributes
The Restoration and Preservation of the Mormon Meteor III
Recognizing the historical significance of the Mormon Meteor III, the Price Museum of Speed took on the responsibility of restoring and preserving the car. Through careful restoration work, the museum has ensured that this iconic vehicle can be enjoyed by future generations of racing fans and automotive enthusiasts.
Public Exhibitions and Events
The Mormon Meteor III is now on display at the Price Museum of Speed, where it continues to captivate visitors with its sleek design and storied history. The car is also showcased at various automotive events and exhibitions, serving as a reminder of the golden age of racing and the ingenuity of its creators.
Tributes and Recognition
Awards and Honors
The Mormon Meteor series has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors in recognition of its impact on the racing world and automotive history. These accolades serve as a testament to the vision and determination of Ab Jenkins and Augie Duesenberg, who defied the odds to create a truly remarkable series of racing cars.
The Lasting Impact on the Automotive Community
The legacy of the Mormon Meteor lives on in the automotive community, with enthusiasts continuing to admire the cars’ groundbreaking design and engineering achievements. The story of the Mormon Meteor also serves as a reminder of the importance of innovation and perseverance in the pursuit of excellence.
The Mormon Meteor stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when passion, innovation, and determination come together. The collaboration between Ab Jenkins and Augie Duesenberg produced a series of legendary racing cars that set new records, inspired future generations of automotive designers, and left an indelible mark on the history of racing and automotive engineering. As we look back on the incredible journey of the Mormon Meteor, we are reminded that the pursuit of greatness often requires breaking boundaries, defying convention, and pushing the limits of what is possible.