To be exact, he’s building a car in his garage to attempt to break the world land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah next August. It’s what he’ll do with the car after the trial that makes it something like a bookmobile. “All my cars are built with a purpose,” Armstrong said. “This would be a great teaching tool to talk with kids about math and chemistry. You could talk about tire rotation, cubic feet, horsepower, all those different things.”
It’s been a 2 ½ year project that is still a year away from completion. Army spends all his free time in his garage tinkering on the car and trying new ideas. “Cooling the engine is one of the things you have to figure out. At that speed, it can overheat, so I’m trying to cool it using CO2.” He’s come up with a system that has a timer on it that shoots a puff of CO2 every six seconds. If his plan works, that little innovation just might be the thing that gets him enough extra horsepower to break the record.
Another issue to figure out is keeping the car straight. Once they get past 200mph the cars have a tendency to spin out. Armstrong thinks he has an idea for that too. Basically, this car is a culmination of a lifetime of experience in the racing industry. For as long as he can remember, Armstrong has always loved racing, and fast cars are all he’s ever thought about. His first job was at a drag strip when he was 10 years old. “This is my passion. Everybody has theirs and this is mine,” he explained. His career in motorsports includes 5 national championships across different classes of drag racing and designing cars. Then he got into announcing at monster truck events and tractor pulls, eventually being inducted into the monster truck hall of fame.
Every little trick and tip he’s learned along the way he is now putting into building this car. He has named the car “Original Kentucky Colonel” in memory of a friend who passed away from cancer.
Racing at Bonneville is a bucket list thing for Armstrong, but with all his experience in racing, he’s never done anything quite like this. Drag racing cars are typically very light, with wide back wheels and small, narrow front wheels. Bonneville cars are built heavy to keep them on the ground. Unlike a drag strip, the salt flat course is several miles long, which means the cars have a mile to get up to speed, a mile to reach top speed, and at least a mile to slow down after the parachute deploys. Therefore, the back wheels and front wheels are the same size.
Bonneville only holds races once a year, and this year it got rained out, so Armstrong now has another year to tweak his car and get it ready. If all goes according to plan, Army will have a serious shot at breaking the world record, especially if his innovations work.