As we get closer to the streamliner's first test runs, we've had to devote some time to the logistical challenges of transporting such an unusual vehicle. The salt flats are a unique environment that requires a fair amount of esoteric planning, especially when it comes to the best way to move the car around the speedway.
The unexpected softness of the salt, especially at the north end where vehicle recovery takes place, has been causing problems for people since at least the 1800s, when the Donner Party got stuck indefinitely and ended up eating each other. We're more likely to encounter a string of tow trucks than a gaggle of cannibals, but we're professionals, so we decided to take the problem seriously anyway.
The Challenger II has grown a little bit lately, and is now just over 32 feet long. The ground clearance is a meager two inches, so the most immediate problem was getting the car off of the trailer without scraping the bottom or damaging the strake. We also wanted to minimize weight if possible, as the streamliner itself is already relatively heavy at 5500 pounds. That particular concern led us to abandon the idea of an enclosed trailer (which was my preference), and sent us on a hunt for the best already existing uncovered trailer we could find.
That eventually led us to Seth Hammon, who in my opinion has the nicest rig on the salt. Using his trailer as a baseline, the very talented John Pollorena has been building us a modified version specifically for the Challenger II. The first thing he did was narrow it by 10 inches. This will allow us to comfortably work on the car without having to remove it from its transporter, and mimics the height of the frame fixture we use at the shop.
Another unusual feature is the axles, which are on arms welded to the side of the main rails instead of under the framework. This allows a system of air bags (similar to what you'd find in a semi) to slowly lower the bed of the trailer flat to the salt. From this position, the ramps can deploy at a 2-degree angle over a span of thirty feet, giving us a comfortable half-inch clearance impediment for loading. There are a few other modifications as well, including a toolbox mounted at the nose and an integrated 100-gallon water tank over the fifth wheel for washing off excess salt.
Things are coming along! I hope you're enjoying the updates. You can always find more information at thompsonlsr.com <http://thompsonlsr.com> . See you next week.