This week in SPEED: The Ferguson Family Streamliner

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is bringing “Speed” to San Diego throughout 2018 with its SPEED: Science in Motion special exhibition. Each month features a new theme, with “Land-Speed Record-Holders” kicking things off in February. March is set for “Drag Racers. “We’re featuring a new vehicle in this blog each week. Today it’s the Ferguson Family Streamliner.

Speed is in the blood of the Ferguson family of Palos Verdes Estates. Just ask anyone who’s ever tooled out to the storied Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah to see how fast their specially built hot rods can fly across the smooth, flat plain. They’ve seen record after record set by Ferguson drivers and Ferguson-made cars.

Blame it on the late family patriarch, Don Ferguson Sr., who built and drove racing cars in the 1940s and 50s, and set records in then-state-of-the-art hot rods that now look strikingly antique.

Don Sr., who passed away in 1999, imparted to his son Don Jr. a love of building and racing hot rods. Don Jr. in turn injected gears, grease and gliding speed into the genes of his sons, Don III and Randy.

Don Jr., 50, and his boys all enjoy the rare distinction of membership to the “200 Club,” having broken the 200 mph speed mark in hot rods, which, in their cases, were Ferguson-built.

The 200 Club can only be appreciated with a little perspective. The speed of 200 mph could be reached fairly easily by souping up a fast late-model street car, and of course it falls way short of the land speed record of 763 mph, set by a man piloting a jet-powered car. But the people who build and race hot rods aim to coax 200 mph and more from vintage engines of decades past. They pride themselves on using the technology of today to make the engines of yesteryear go as fast as they possibly can.

This sleek, low, futuristic-looking Streamliner has skimmed the Earth’s surface at 291 mph, powered by a 1952, six-cylinder GMC engine. The families next goal, 300 mph.

Building a record-setting hot rod takes knowledge, creativity, and lots of trial and error. Driving them that fast makes their parts break and their engines blow up.

This 24-foot long, red-and-white Streamliner, sits so low to the ground that the driver has to lie nearly prone on their back. The tiny steering wheel must detach to allow the driver to squeeze into the little cockpit. On the steering wheel is a little button that sends a blast of air that strikes a lever to make the car shift gears.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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