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January 17th, 2019

Born in 1918, Bill Bruke was a pioneer in his own right. Famously known for repurposing the tear drop shaped tanks from fighter aircrafts into bodywork for streamline race cars, Bruke’s first “belly tanker” project was a streamliner he made from the tank from a P-51 Mustang in 1946 that ran 131.96mph (212.36kmph) at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bruke continued to build belly tankers in pursuit of higher speeds, following up his previous project with a tanker made from a much larger Grumman P-38 Lightning in 1946. Over the next three years Burke’s tanker called “Sweet 16” set many record runs with the most significant one clocked at 151.085mph (243.14kmph) in July 1949, earning the title of “World’s Fastest Hotrod” by Hot Rod Magazine. Sweet 16 eventually ran the best time of 164mph (263.93kmph).

For 1951, Bill Bruke had something different in mind. Instead of his signature belly tanks, this time Bruke arrived at the Bonneville Salt Flats in an all new streamliner with the body made of fibreglass, one of the first ever in the development of fibreglass. His new streamliner featured a Harley-Davidson V-twin engine that was capable of pushing the car to 136mph (219kmph). This was a surprise to many, who had never thought that a motorcycle-powered streamliner could touch such speeds, let alone set a new class record that would last for another 10 years. Bruke continued his experiments with fibreglass, trying to perfect its moulding process.

After selling his holding to Allied in 1955, Bruke continued innovating and creating streamliners to content as record-breakers. In 1959, Bruke and his creation was one again in the limelight with hot rodding magazines with a follow-up to his belly tanker design. His new creation was the “Super Shaker” that used the fibreglass body that was cast from a Cooper race car. Built on a sturdy tube frame, the Super Shaker borrowed a Harley-Davidson knucklehead V-Twin engine. The Super Shaker was a combination of the best parts from various machines; Ford Anglia suspensions, leaf springs and steering, Harley-Davidson Servicar rear axle assembly, Harley-Davidson transmission and a 74 Cubic Inch (1212cc) Knucklehead V-twin specially tuned by C.B. Clausen, a renowned Harley-Davidson tuner/racer, founding member of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club and one of the first ever to run a Harley-Davidson motorcycle at Bonneville.

The Super Shaker rode on an 84-inch wheelbase and weighed in at just over 600 pounds (272kg) dry. Featherweight, even with the lanky Bruke at the wheel, the Super Shaker went on to hit 151.38mph (243.62kmph) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1959, going on to be covered in the January 1960 issue of “Hot Rod” and “Rod & Custom” in August 1960, in “Car Craft” December 1959 and the February 1960 issue of “Sportscar Graphic.” This unique piece of American racing history, and the legacy of one of the most incredible people of speed is heading up for sale at the Mecum Phoenix 2019 auction. More details here. Photos courtesy Mecum.

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