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Butler man has sights on all-time land speed record, upward of 500 mph

About Rick Wills

By Rick Wills

Published: Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 6:14 p.m.

With no practice or trial run, Rob Freyvogel of Butler hopes to reach a speed of more than 500 mph in a streamliner car he has spent four years building.

“We are going for the all-time land speed record, which is 472 mph. You have to do it twice. Computer models are telling us this car can go 550 mph,” said Freyvogel, a mechanical engineer who runs Carbinite Metal Coatings, a Renfrew company.

Freyvogel, 47, plans to compete in September at the World of Speed Races at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The amateur event features hot rods, roadsters, belly tankers, lakesters, motorcycles, streamliners and even diesel trucks.

He's hauling the car, which he hasn't driven, from Butler to Utah on a 30-foot trailer.

“It would be hard to test it around here. There is a place in Ohio where we could have tested the car, but we've been too busy with the car's finishing touches,” Freyvogel said.

He and about eight other men built the car, which weighs about 3,000 pounds — similar to the weight of a Honda Accord.

Work on the car has become more demanding in recent weeks, said Freyvogel, who built it at his business.

“We used to have eight guys working here on Thursday nights. Then we added Tuesday night. Now we've been here on weekends,” he said.

Freyvogel, along with his engineer friends Brandon Barnhart and Eric Ahlstrom, spent two years designing the car and considering everything from tires to aerodynamics.

He has spent about $100,000 on parts. The vehicle's cost would be much higher without donated parts and labor.

“We'd like to have a sponsor. We have not been able to get one so far,” said Andy Hixon, Freyvogel's co-worker.

Known as a streamliner, the car is long, slender and has enclosed wheels.

In order to break a record, Freyvogel will have to get the car to reach a record-breaking speed twice.

“You have to build something that is not a one-shot deal,” he said.

Located near the Utah-Nevada line, the 30,000 acre Bonneville Salt Flats are administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management. It has attracted car racers since the 1920s and is where many of them set land-speed records.

Races at the flats are among the last amateur events in racing, said Ellen Wilkinson, secretary of the Utah Salt Flat Racing Association, which sponsors the World of Speed races.

“These races attract people who have a dream or a concept they want to test,” she said.

Parts of the area's salt surface are flattened for the races by pulling a large drag across it.

The flats are more likely to be dry in the summer, but the salt surface is an unusual place to drive, Wilkinson said.

“Even at the dry time of year, the salt always stays kind of damp. People say that makes racing feel like hydroplaning,” she said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at



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