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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


The Inland Northwest’s claim to automotive glory


There are several, and they are impressive. One involves Craig T. Nelson. If that doesn’t spark your interest, for a glorious while Richland, Washington was the birthplace of the world’s fastest production car. Read on kind Washingtonian. 


Few would have thought the car to knock the Bugatti Veyron from its throne as the world’s fastest production automobile would be conceived in Richland, Washington. Shelby Super Cars, not to be confused with Carol Shelby, calls the Tri-Cities home.

In 2007 their Ultimate Aero recorded an official top speed of 257mph on a closed stretch of highway outside of Richland, Washington, besting the previous record held by the Veyron.

View clips of the record-setting run here:

In keeping with its thoroughbred American ethos, the Ultimate Aero maximizes power from a twin turbocharged 6.35 liter V8 producing 1287hp, not a pony of which is filtered through the safety net of traction control or anti-lock brakes.

The Europeans became so jealous of the SSC Ultimate Aero’s title of world’s fastest car they cocked their berets to an even snootier camber and churned out the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport to reclaim the top honor. Top Gear Magazine noted:

“Most of all, here’s the single fact that gives SSC credibility: that the vast Volkswagen group built the Veyron Super Sport for the explicit purpose of winning the record back. Goliath was not only admitting that David existed, but felt it necessary to take up his almighty cudgel against David’s catapult.” (1) 


The world’s first official Jeep club was formed shortly after the conclusion of World War II in Yakima, Washington.(2) If that sounds like a wild claim, watch this video of the Ridge Runners bouncing around the Snoqualmie National Forest in a pack of CJ2a’s - the first civilian Jeep to be sold to the public after the war:

Although the exact year of the footage is unknown, you’ll notice the attire of the folk in the video combined with their near constant chain smoking implies it was shot sometime in the late forties to early fifties.

In 1965 the Runners’ club drew the attention of legendary Northwest newscaster Don McCune. He rode along with the gang on a voyage over Naches Pass – an Indian trail that’s regarded as the oldest route across the cascades:

Several decades later the Yakima Ridge Runners had grown into a venerable pack of Jeep enthusiasts recognized as pioneers of the genre itself. In 1977 they hosted the Yakima Mud Bowl. A crowd of 8,000 came to see competitors slog it out for a $4,000 purse:

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Part 2 -


That’s right; Craig T. Nelson is a Spokane native and loves to race cars. His first official foray into the word of auto racing came in 1991 when he entered the Toyota Celebrity Long Beach Grand Prix and finished third. 

Riding high on the success of the hit show “Coach”, he founded Screaming Eagles Racing in 1994. Motor Trend caught up with the Craigster on the set of Coach in 1997 to talk about cars:

Q: What did you drive as a teenager?

A: I had a '56 Ford, and my first car was a '49 Chevy. I converted it to a stick and used to race with the other high school kids down along the river.(3)

Chances are that river was the Spokane River. Several roads snake along its twisty shores which undoubtedly provided an exciting raceway for a teenage Craig T Nelson to frequent with his gearhead buddies and their American Graffiti-esque hotrods. 


It’s hard to believe anyone would look at their 1994 Chrysler Le Baron convertible and hope for more. Spokane resident Tim Lorentz did just that, but he wasn’t thinking of upgrading to a Lincoln. His idea was to slice the bottom off the hull of a fiberglass boat and attach it to the top his Le Baron to create a boat car.

"I just have always been an idea person," he said. "I think I'm a little bit off kilter."(4)

There’s no way to know if the boat car would be able to keep up with Craig T Nelson’s high school hotrod, but it’s safe to say both rides would be in trouble if they ventured into the Spokane River. 

"People want to know if it will float," Lorentz said. "I tell them, ‘Yeah, it'll float, for a second."

Despite its Ironic lack of buoyancy, Lorentz’s creation can’t help but garner appreciation on ventures around the streets of Spokane.

"People will thumbs up, clap, wave or smile," he said, "and people who don't notice the boat shouldn't be driving - they're not aware of their surroundings."

Not one to quit after his first boat car, Lorentz recently purchased a 1987 stretch limousine.

Could there be a Cruise Liner floating around the streets of Spokane in the near future?

The Inland Northwest automotive saga continues.

(3) (4) 



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