Fred Dannenfelzer has been racing one speed demon or another for the greater part of his 74 years. He built his first street racer — a 1939 Pontiac Coupe — at 16 while a student at Santa Barbara High. A year later, he built a 1932 Ford Coupe to race on a Santa Maria drag strip where the finish lines were just hoses with bell wires.
In 1961, he went to the famed Bonneville Salt Flats of northwestern Utah for the first time and hit 188 mph in a Hi-Boy Roadster that he built with a blown Chrysler engine. Dannenfelzer never really left — except for a few years racing motorcycles, he spent the next 40 building and racing cars at Bonneville. At the age of 48 in 1985, he set his first record by reaching 235 mph in a Blown Fuel Modified Roadster with a Class A motor. A decade later, he sold that roadster and built a specialized Blown Fuel Lakester. Three years ago, at 72 years of age, he hit 366 mph. Today, he’s ready to race a Blown Fuel Streamliner.
Despite being the fastest and oldest competing racer at Bonneville, Dannenfelzer has never won any prize money, only trophies. For him, the satisfaction comes from “building your own car from the ground up and setting new speed records.” Does he have any fear of racing at such speeds? “It doesn’t scare me,” he said, “but it sure keeps the adrenaline flowing. It truly does.”