I first learned of Breedlove in 1963 when I was just becoming a "car guy" with the Beach Boys song "Spirit of America" on the first album I ever purchased, "Little Deuce Coupe". Craig Breedlove an epic, 407 per hour. I followed his exploits ever since.
When S2D was just finished (2000?), the GoodGuys sponsored an open house at Breedlove's shop in Rio Vista. I drove S2D. It was in the spring. The east bay hills were green. Craig was signing posters. He signed mine "Think fast. Studies rule"
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the “Bash at Breedlove’s”. It could have been anti-climatic , like the Ford Racing Exhibit at the Roadster Show where a few mocked up race cars were on display, but it wasn’t.
I left the house about 8 am and cruised up 680 to 580 to Vasco Road…through Brentwood and Oakley…took a right at Antioch on to 160 and crossed the San Joaquin, then left on 12 into Rio Vista. The whole area between Brentwood and Antioch has really grown up. It’s been a few years since I’ve been back there and it isn’t “sleepy hollow” anymore. Rio Vista still is. It’s a little too far to commute into either the Bay or Sacramento so it still has that little agriculture/river town feel to it.
S2D ran good (as usual). It likes to cruise best at 3,000 which is somewhere between 60 and 65 depending upon how bad the speedometer error really is. The car is either getting easier to drive, or I’m getting used to it…probably the later.
The seat re-do by Howdy makes it much more comfortable for my old butt during a long (two hour) trip like this and I’m happier with the weather a little on the cool side like it was on Saturday (black on black…no air you know). I stopped a few times on Vasco Road for “photo opportunities” of S2D and the still green hills. I didn’t find a good spot on the way out to catch part of the “wind farm” as a background, but did on the way back. I hope the pictures turn out.
The direction to Craig’s weren’t too good, but Rio Vista is small enough that I didn’t have to stumble around for too long (Of course I didn’t ask directions…that’s Deb’s job and she didn’t come along). Craig’s shop is a collection of 3-4 older buildings and a fenced gravel area along the river. He calls it “the compound” (sounds a little Jim Jones like). Plenty of space to park the transporter and other assorted vehicles. I parked in a big gravel parking lot next door belonging to a neighbor business and starting to fill up with attendees in their daily drivers. The 50 or so rods that showed were mostly “power parked” in front of the shop or along the street in the downtown area. The place is really un-assuming. No signs or anything like that, but the big transport with a full size painting of the Spirit of America on the side sticks up higher than the fence and lets you know what’s going on here. There was a crowd around the front roll up door of the shop and I asked one of the guys waiting what the story was. He said that the shop comfortably holds about 75 people, and the first group was in there now. My guess was that there was about that many people still waiting to get in, and sure enough, we all fit a few minutes later when they let the second group in.
Inside the Shop
Craig had given the first tour, and was busy signing autographs when he finished talking, so our group got Dave Schmidt as the guide who is the team’s chief mechanic. Dave looks like the lead guitar player from ZZ Top but was a real down to earth, all round smart guy, who obviously loved what he was doing. He’s actually a Lodi farmer who got into this just by hanging around. His first job was putting the decals on the original car in 1996. The whole effort is kind of like Dave’s story. No wind tunnel testing. No big bucks support. A lot of trial and error along with Craig’s past experience and his “gut feels” combined with a dedicated, intelligent, hard working, team. We crowded around the car which was sitting in the build jig with the skin off and the engine out. They were still rebuilding it from the 1997 accident and making a few modifications to the original design. (Craig put it on its side at 675 MPH at Black Rock. He was making a run during a 15 MPH cross wind which is way out of spec. A course official had called the winds over the radio at “one five” and Craig took this to be 1.5 MPH…probably won’t make that mistake again). Dave started by saying he was a mechanic not a speech maker, so we would have to ask him questions to get him to talk. No problem. That format worked great. We learned the basics...9,000 lbs ready to race, 48,000 horsepower J79 F4 engine running Shell 92 octane pump gas, burns 100 gallons per run, , 4 G’s accelerating, 12 G’s decelerating, power steering turns front tires 1 degree lock to lock, made out of some kind of steel tubing stronger than chrome moly, the car is square within .001”, tires and wheels spun to 1,000 mph, etc.
The Q and A session was about 45 minutes. Dave was very interesting and actually a much better speaker than he gave himself credit for. He was patient and gracious even with the semi-stupid questions. In fact, all the team members (maybe 5) were generous with their time and personable. There was one woman. Cheri Danson. Thirty something, a lot of energy, great marketing skills and probably can wrench with the best of them. I thanked the team for putting on the “bash” through their web site on Sunday, and I got a nice personal reply from her. I spent the next half hour or so wandering around the rest of the shop buildings (super clean, all kinds of metal working tools, back-up J79) talking to other team members and attendees, and waiting in line to have Craig sign a poster for me.
The line moved slowly, because Craig took the time to talk to everyone when it was their turn about anything they wanted to talk about. Pretty cool. Not phony at all. I think over half of his job is raising money, and it looked like he might enjoy that part as much as the car part. Craig is 63, runs 5 miles every day, is always smiling and laughing. He talks and moves deliberately, sometimes almost in slow motion, not like an old man but more like every thing is planned. When I was almost at the front of the line, Craig announced that he needed to take a short break to help dedicate the new flag pole. 76’ high with a huge American flag. There was a little ceremony with a well sung National Anthem and the flag was run up the pole.
My turn for the poster of Craig next to the car at Black Rock. I told him my name and asked him if he could include something about Studebakers when he signed it.