Land Speed Racer Memorial

                  1950-1959

Ken Bigelow

Born:  October 25, 1924

Died:  October 21, 1951

Buried: 

Age:  26

Full Name:  Kenneth Grant Bigelow

Nickname: 

Location:  El Mirage Dry Lake, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  October 21, 1951

Vehicle:  1937 Chevy coupe

Biographical:  He suffered a broken neck and skull fracture when his coupe overturned.  He was dead on arrival at Victorville Hospital.  He lived in Los Angeles.

Sources

"Local hot-rod racer killed in Victorville," Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1951 [3143 W. 59th St.]

California Death Index  (Kenneth Grant Bigelow, born October 25, 1924 in Calif., died October 21, 1951 in San Bernardino Co., mother’s maiden name was Holmcomb)

California Birth Index  (Kenneth G. Bigelow, born October 25, 1924 in LA Co., mother’s maiden name was Holcomb)

Wayne Owen, email communication to site administrator, Dec. 7, 2013

Photos

John Donaldson

Born:  October 9, 1931

Died:  September 3, 1955

Buried: 

Age:  23

Full Name:  John Bruce Donaldson

Nickname: 

Location:  Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Event:  Bonneville National Speed Trials

Accident Date:  September 3, 1955

Vehicle:  lakester

Biographical:  He had received first degree burns the previous day, but was treated at a Salt Lake hospital.  He returned to Bonneville the following day to continue racing.  He was killed when his vehicle overturned and sped upside down on the salt while going about 190 MPH.  He was crushed inside the cockpit.  He was from Long Beach, California.

Sources

"Long Beach hot rodder killed in speed test," Los Angeles Times, September 3, 1955

"Speed crash victim 'just couldn't wait'," Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 3, 1955

"Racing death first since '55," Deseret News, August 1, 1960

California Birth Index  (John Bruce Donaldson, born October 9, 1931 in LA Co., mother’s maiden name was Kennedy)

Utah Certificate of Death  (John Bruce Donaldson, died September 2, 1955, at Bonneville Salt Flats, resided in Long Beach, Calif., son of Alexander and Doris Kennedy Donaldson, born October 9, 1931 in Long Beach, never married, crushed skull and mutilated face, buried in Westminster Memorial Park, Long Beach, piece maker for Ohio Rubber in Long Beach)

Photos

Harvey Haller

Born:  April 13, 1924

Died:  October 5, 1953

Buried: Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California

Age:  29

Full Name:  Harvey William Haller

Nickname: 

Location:  El Mirage Dry Lake, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  circa Oct. 3-4, 1953

Vehicle:  Desoto-powered 1929 Model A roadster

Biographical:  His car was equipped with shoulder belts, but no roll bar.  He was a member of the Road Runners car club in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  He gained membership in the Bonneville 200 MPH Club in 1953, running 209.480 MPH.  After his death, the Road Runners sponsored a Harvey Haller Memorial trophy given periodically to worthy club members.  His death caused the SCTA to consider suspending races at El Mirage because they thought the dry lake was possibly not safe for the high speeds being attained.

Sources

The H.A.M.B.  (http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-441058.html)

Hot Rod Magazine, October 1950, 14.

Hot Rod Magazine,  January 1948, 14.

Life Magazine, September 28, 1953 

Dean Moon, "Last Lakes Meet," in Deete Crow, Rod & Custom in the 1950s, 42.

California Death Index

Photos

The H.A.M.B.  (http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=441058)

 

Robert Johnson

Born:  

Died:  May 6, 1950

Buried: 

Age:  24

Full Name:  Robert J. Johnson

Nickname: 

Location:  El Mirage Dry Lake, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  May 6, 1950

Vehicle:  

Biographical:  He had been clocked at 151 MPH prior to hitting a sand dune.  He flipped end over end for over 700 feet before coming to a stop.

Sources

"Hot-rod driver killed in race," Pasco Tri-City Herald, May 8, 1950

Photos

Charles Sproul

Born:  October 3, 1935

Died:  April 23, 1955

Buried:   Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper, Alabama

Age:  19

Full Name:  Charles Edmon Sproul

Nickname: 

Location:  Lake Wichita, nine miles southwest of Wichita Falls, Texas

Event:  

Accident Date:   April 23, 1955

Vehicle:  1949 Ford sedan

Biographical:   Sproul was speeding south at about 60 MPH on the "drag strip" on the dry lake with four fellow servicemen in his car. He turned sharply left which caused the car to overturn. Sproul was thrown from the overturning car, which bounced on top of him before landing upright. He suffered multiple head and chest injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at the 375th Sheppard USAF Hospital. None of the other occupants were injured.

Sources

"Drag strip auto crash fatal to base airman," Sheppard Air Force Base Senator, Apr. 27, 1955

Texas Death Certificate

Photos

Bob Robinson

Born:  September 27, 1925

Died:  May 6, 1950

Buried: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California

Age:  24

Full Name:  Robert Jarvis Robinson

Nickname: 

Location:  El Mirage Dry Lake, California

Event:  SCTA meet

Accident Date:  May 6, 1950

Vehicle:  Ansen Automotive Class C Roadster

Biographical:  At the end of his 151 MPH run, he was turning around in a wide sweep when he hit a sand dune.  The car bounced 165 feet, hit the ground and then bounced end over end for another 720 feet before coming to a stop.  He was thrown from the car on its last flip when the safety belt split.  He was from North Hollywood, California, driving a car owned by Bob Morton and George Rubio.  He was survived by his wife, Coleveta, who witnessed the fatal crash.  It was the first SCTA event of 1950.

Sources

"'Hot rod' driver killed at finish of 151 MPH run," Long Beach Independent, May 8, 1950

"Hot-rod driver killed in crash," Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1950

Bob Morton, e-mail to site administrator, June 13, 2010

American Hot Rod Foundation (http://www.ahrf.com/image_detail.php?type=search&position=5&keyword=robinson)

California Death Index  (Robert Jarvis Robinson, born September 27, 1925 in Calif., died May 6, 1950 in San Bernardino Co., mother’s maiden name was Jarvis)

California Birth Index  (Robert Jarvis Robinson, born September 27, 1925 in LA Co., mother’s maiden name was Jarvis)

Photos

See photo at: American Hot Rod Foundation (http://www.ahrf.com/image_detail.php?type=search&position=5&keyword=robinson) 

Cornelius Wynja

Born:  December 23, 1927

Died:  May 13, 1951

Buried: 

Age:  23

Full Name:  Cornelius W. Wynja

Nickname: 

Location:  El Mirage Dry Lake, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  May 13, 1951

Vehicle:  

Biographical:  While speeding at an estimated 135 MPH, his car hit a small rut in the course.  It skidded 206 feet, then rolled over, and bounced 236 feet more and exploded.  The engine was found over 140 feet from the point of explosion and the rear end was 300 feet away.  He had previously made two runs of around 136 MPH.  He was a freight handler from Paramount, California.

Sources

"Hot-rod racer killed in crash," Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1951

"Pilot Wynja killed in hot-rod trials," San Mateo Times, May 16, 1951

California Birth Index  (Cornelius Wynja, born December 23, 1927, in LA Co., mother’s maiden name was Pool)

1930 U.S. Census  (Cornelius Wynja, age 2, in Downey, Cal., son of Henry and Zellie, his brother was Jan, age 1)

California Death Index  (Cornellis W. Wynja, born December 23, 1927, in Calif., died May 13, 1951, in San Bernardino Co., mother’s maiden name was Pool)

Photos

Name/Year of Accident

  • Arnett (1995)

  • Beckett (2005)

  • Bennett (1964)

  • Bible (1929)

  • Bigelow (1951)
  • Black (1970)
  • Blair (1940s)
  • Bryant (2009)

  • Buckmaster (1972)

  • Cass (1948

  • Dean (1984)

  • Donaldson (1955)

  • Emick (1969)

  • Fadave (1949)

  • Fancher (1949)

  • Fernihough (1938

  • Funk (1962)

  • Glover (1948

  • Graham (1960)

  • Gullett (2008

  • Haller (1953?)

  • Herda (1969)

  • Jacobs (2006)

  • Johnson (1950)

  • Johnston (1998

  • Lambert (1913)

  • Leasher (1962)

  • Lockhart (1928)

  • Lubinsky (1969)

  • McGregor (1949)

  • Parry-Thomas (1927)

  • Pendleton (1949)

  • Resta (1924)

  • Robinson (1950)

  • Rosemeyer (1938

  • Schlegel (1947)

  • Sproul (1955)

  • Stewart (1968

  • Warner (2013)

  • Werder (1949)

  • Wheeler (2016)

  • White (2002)

  • Windman (1934)

  • Wynja (1951)

Names Added Recently

  • Jim Buckmaster
  • Floyd Fancher
  • Eric Fernihough
  • Johan Jacobs
  • Charles Sproul
  • Jack Stewart
  • Bill Warner
  • Sam Wheeler