So why would anyone, sane or otherwise, want to flog a machine intended to pull heavy loads at a crawl to speeds illegal on most of the world’s highways? A reasonable question and one you might ask Jack Donohue who plans on attempting to best his own world speed record for tractors on June 18 - 19 2016. Way back in 1935 David “AB” Jenkins blasted across the Bonneville Salt Flats on his Model U Allis-Chalmers at 67 mph to set a record that would stand until Donohue’s 8NCredible blew it away in September 2015 by clocking 96.3185 mph at an East Coast Timing Association event. Next month he’s going back to Wilmington, Ohio to see if he can do better. Ya gotta admit, “ First tractor to break the 100mph Barrier”, just sounds better.
Harry Merritt, Allis-Chalmers’ tractor salesman extraordinaire and sometimes ringmaster is generally credited with being the father of tractor racing. Always on the cutting edge A-C offered pneumatic tires as an option on the Model U in 1929. Farmers were not impressed. They knew steel wheels would hold up but rubber tires! Undaunted, Merritt hired racing legend Barney Oldfield and Ab Jenkins to barnstorm the country racing specially modified Model Us at every county fair they could attend. It worked. How many new tractors with steel wheels have you seen on dealership lots lately? These antics eventually led to world speed records for tractors, first by Oldfield in 1933 followed by Jenkins in 1935. Visit blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2009/09/15/land-speed-tractors-oldfield-v-jenkins/ to see some really cool photos of these events. There may have been some earlier impromptu races but it’s not likely. Would you want to race a tractor with steel wheels?
Today the United States seem to be somewhat of a backwater when it comes to tractor racing, but that may soon change. Certainly it would be a natural for small dirt tracks in rural areas. After that, would NASCAR be far behind? Judging by the videos posted on Youtube, It’s big in Russia. If any of our Rooskie Comrades out there want to add a comment, please do.
Why did Jenkin’s record go unchallenged for eighty years? That’s an easy one; MONEY! Record setting doesn’t come cheap and without backing from deep corporate pockets, there’s little incentive to try. If not for Donohue’s background, Jenkin’s record would probably still stand. Jack worked for thirty years as a NASCAR mechanic and car builder so he knows a thing or two about making a machine go fast. Add to that a lifelong passion for the Ford 8N that dates to the day his family bought a new one for their farm and the picture comes into focus.
After he retired from life on the NASCAR Circuit Jack started a second career specializing in 8N restorations and conversions from the standard four cylinder to the flathead Ford V-8. At this point all the pieces for the 8NCredible project came together. He originally intended to make his bid for the record books at Bonneville but bad weather intervened. Following the June event at Wilmington Ohio’s Airborne Park he would still like to give the salt flats a try but sponsors to help defray expenses are needed.
You can follow the 8NCredible story as it develops and learn more about Jack Donohue Motorsports by visiting http://jackdonohue.com and be sure to look for the world’s fastest tractor at a show near you.