Dave Allen of Warren, Ohio, is looking for a 1956 Pontiac 860 two-door sedan with the Strato-Streak 285-hp V-8. Finding such a car isn’t easy, especially in Allen’s case. He is looking for THE car that his great uncle owned — and his great uncle was famous racing car driver Ab Jenkins!
The Pontiac that Allen is looking for is famous, too. In June of 1956, Ab and his son Marvin drove the car over the Bonneville Salt Flats for 24 hours, setting 54 performance and endurance records in the process. Ab Jenkins was an amazing 73 years old at the time.
If the car is located, Allen plans to try to buy it for a new museum being established in Salt Lake City. In an article he wrote for the Sept. 1956 issue of Motor Trend, Ab Jenkins stated, “The car I drove was an 860 two-door stock Pontiac, 285 hp engine. It was fully equipped including radio, heater and defroster.
The Pontiac averaged 126.02 mph for the first 100 miles and 118.375 mph for 24 hours. The one-day run broke all American unlimited and Class C records existing at that time including records that Jenkins himself had set in a special Duesenberg racing car 24 years earlier. During the 1956 run, temperatures up to 123 degrees were recorded.
Lou Moore, of Pontiac, was a friend of Jenkins, who the driver had visited during the 1956 NASCAR Speed Trials, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Jenkins told his friend that he thought he could use a new dual-carb Pontiac to break records at Bonneville. Moore set things up with Pontiac chief engineer George Delaney, but passed away of a heart attack before Ab’s run took place. His death delayed the start of the marathon run until June 25.
NASCAR, Continental Oil Co., Firestone Tire Co. and Pontiac Motor Div. teamed up to carry off the promotion. NASCAR president Bill France visited Pontiac to check over two stock cars and seal them. They were shipped to Salt Lake city and were securely stored in a garage there. A 10-mile circular course was created for the endurance trial.
One newspaper reporting on the event quoted Ab Jenkins’ wife as saying at the finish,” Now the trouble begins . . . now he’ll insist on driving home!” Ab Jenkins drove for 18 of the 24 hours and 36-year-old Marvin was behind the wheel for six hours. “I think it was a remarkable event for Pontiac,” Dave Allen says. “And that Ab was 73 when he did it is equally remarkable.”
Gunner’s Garage with John Gunnell
"Gunner" is one of of the most prolific authors and most visible characters in the old car hobby. He has written dozens of books about old cars for Krause Publications and is the former editor and publisher of Old Cars Weekly. His collecting pursuits range from old Pontiacs, to MGs, to retired police cruisers, to Indian motorcycles. He remains a frequent contributor to Old Cars Weekly and owns and operates Gunner’s Great Garage, a classic car restoration and gift shop in Manawa, Wis.
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