Marvin Jenkins, son of multiple land-speed record holder Ab Jenkins and a respected land-speed car driver and airplane pilot in his own right, died Sept. 14 in the Salt Lake City area. He was 88.
As a child, Jenkins yearned for speed, and was present during his father’s many record runs on this country’s salt flats. Jenkins nearly set his own speed record in his father’s Studebaker in 1931 at the age of 11, then spent much of his time helping his father’s speed endeavors on the salt and in the Studebaker and Pierce-Arrow factories when his father was working on attaining speed records in these companies’ automobiles.
“The first car he raced successfully was the Ab Jenkins Special, which John H. recreated, and we took to Bonneville in 2003,” recalled Bob DeKorne, a friend of Jenkins. “The Ab Jenkins Special was a modified 1926 Pierce-Arrow that ran 126 mph, the record at that time. Then the Brits came — Campbell and Eyston — and took it back. Ab and Marvin responded with the ‘Duesenberg Special’ (a.k.a. Mormon Meteor), one of the most famous Duesenbergs of all time.”
In 1936, Jenkins formally began test driving for his father and later helped build the 12-cylinder Curtis Conqueror-powered Mormon Meteor III with Augie Duesenberg and Ab Jenkins. At the time of his death, Jenkins still owned the Mormon Meteor III, which he retrieved from the Utah state capitol in 1988 and restored.
“The Mormon Meteor III is the orange-and-blue race car, which started life with a hopped-up Duesenberg engine, which was replaced with the Curtis Conqueror airplane engine and held speed records for over 50 years,” DeKorne said on noting the importance of the last Mormon Meteor. “It is credited with bridging the gap between piston-powered speed cars and the eventual jet-engined cars.
Said DeKorne of Jenkins, “He was a real gentleman, an innovator and a historian of note.”