Thunderbowl Comet aka The Golden Eagle aka Falcon


The car that never did. Whilst it's important to document those cars that did set land speed records, it equally important to recognise those cars that never did. In this case a car that used for film making.
Thunderbowl Comet at Speedway Carburetors Glendale
From the movie SPEED
Used Car Lot Promo
Alex Tremulis
From the movie SPEED
From the movie SPEED
From the movie SPEED
From the movie SPEED
From the movie SPEED
From the movie SPEED
This article appeared in September 1941
This article appeared in September 1941

Lost and Found Redux – Thunderbowl Comet

What we’ve been calling the Thunderbowl Comet has appeared a number of times in Hemmings Classic Car‘s Lost and Found department (#66, #85, and #87), and through those appearances, we’ve learned quite a bit.

According to Ohioan Ron Carbaugh, it was built by Harlan Fengler in the 1930s for the Metro film studio, specifically for use in the 1936 Jimmy Stewart film Speed. In the film, the car – known as the Falcon – is taken to Muroc Dry Lake for a land-speed record attempt, but Fengler apparently believed that the car was actually competitive and devised a plan to switch out several different engines for different land-speed record classes. The only drivetrain we know that powered it was one from a front-wheel-drive Cord L-29. To the best of anybody’s knowledge, Fengler never proved the car’s competitiveness, and it instead spent the next couple of decades promoting different venues around Southern California. At one point, it promoted the Carpinteria Thunderbowl, a quarter-mile dirt track, and later it promoted The Village Inn outside Palmdale, California.

Thanks to our friend Charles Beesley over at motor, we see that the Thunderbowl Comet had one other guise, promoting Speedway Carburetors of Glendale. This apparently took place before the Carpinteria Thunderbowl pressed it into service, though we don’t know really anything about Speedway Carburetors in Glendale. Beesley also located a couple of photos of Alex Tremulis with the Thunderbowl Comet sometime during its tenure in Palmdale, a natural pairing given Tremulis’s interest in streamlining.

Coincidentally, at about the same time Beesley found the lead photo, reader Robert Frumkin of Los Angeles sent us this photo that reportedly shows Fengler (on the right) along with Lucien Hubbard (producer of Speed), Stewart, Wendy Barrie (Stewart’s co-star), Edwin Marin (director of Speed), and the Golden Eagle Special, as Fengler apparently called it.

And yes, as Beesley noted, we have spoken with the owner of the Falcon/Golden Eagle Special/Thunderbowl Comet, and it’s in good hands. Will we keep finding photos of the car in previously unknown guises, or do we have its history largely sorted out now?

Source : Hemmings Daily

Lost Landspeeder
There's a story behind these photos sent in to us by Gary Ericson of Tehachapi, California, but we only know snippets of it. Gary said these photos date from 1972, when he stopped by what he described as an old movie ranch on Old Highway 6 south of Palmdale, to inspect the Thunderbowl Comet, a 25-foot aluminum-sheathed bullet. We discovered rather quickly in our research that the Comet got its moniker from the owner of the Carpinteria Thunderbowl, a quarter-mile dirt oval track in the town of Carpinteria, near Santa Barbara, where races ran from 1947 to 1956. He apparently ran the Comet around the track as a form of pre-race entertainment. Before that, according to a September 1941 Popular Mechanics article, the Comet went by the name Golden Eagle when driver Ted Ellis aimed to break the absolute land-speed record (then at 357 MPH), using a 1,200hp 24-cylinder air-cooled engine. That latter claim seems dubious, for a few reasons: We've seen no record of results; a straight-eight engine resided in the car; and in 1932, the car was apparently built as a prop for a 1936 Jimmy Stewart movie titled Speed. So what we want to know is how all these snippets of history are connected and, most of all, where the Comet is today.

This article originally appeared in the March, 2010 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.

Lost Landspeeder, Part 2
Since running the photos that Gary Ericson sent us of the Thunderbowl Comet back in HCC #66, we've heard from a number of people who also recall seeing the 25-foot-long Comet by the side of the road outside Palmdale, California. While we still don't have any definite story on the vehicle's origins (was it built as a movie car? Land-speed car? Something else?), we do have another photo of the Comet, courtesy of Charles Beesley. Charles, who has built a collection of vintage automotive photographs and is in the process of posting them to, said he has no clue where or when this shot of the Comet was taken. On the back, it only reads "Eyre," and though the surrounding automobiles in the photograph appear to date from the mid- to late 1930s, the time period when the Comet was supposedly built, it appears just as roughed up as it did in Gary's latter-day photographs. Is this a movie set? An in-progress shot of the Comet's construction? And does Eyre mean anything?
This article originally appeared in the October, 2011 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.

RE: Lost Landspeeder, Part 2 We've received plenty of responses regarding the Thunderbowl Comet since we ran Charles Beesley's photo of it in the October issue. As many of you have pointed out, it was indeed in the 1936 Jimmy Stewart movie Speed, and several film buffs have also mentioned that it was in the early chapters of the 1947 serial Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. By far the most intriguing response we received, however, came from Ron Carbaugh of New Lebanon, Ohio, who told us about Harlan Fengler, one of the many personalities associated with early Indy racing. According to Ron, the Metro film studio retained Fengler in the 1930s to build cars for movies, which led Fengler to construct the long, sleek streamliner for the producers of Speed (in which it went by the name Falcon). At the same time, Fengler believed he could capture the world land speed record with the car (which he called America). "To the best of my knowledge, Harlan Fengler never actually attempted to run the sand at Daytona with his America," Ron wrote. Fengler later went on to become a test driver and consultant for Packard, working out of a propulsion lab at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, and spent his latter years in New Lebanon, where Ron made his acquaintance.

This article originally appeared in the December, 2011 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.

Thunderbowl Comet Again

Subject of my very first post, this formidable machine was identified by Dan Strohl of Hemmings Daily as the Golden Eagle aka Thunderbowl Comet. Although the car's story varies from one teller to the next, it did at least portray a Muroc Dry Lake LSR contender in a 1936 Jimmy Stewart B-movie called 'Speed', turning up years later as opening act at the Carpenteria Thunderbowl, a quarter-mile dirt track near Santa Barbara, California. As Auto Puzzles editor Ray B. posted, "The Carpinteria Thunderbowl was operational between 1947 and 1956. Anton Krivanek reminisced about the circuit: I used to go there when I was about 14. The guy who owned it had a great big streamliner called the Thunderbowl Comet. It had the name painted on the side and it had a big fin on the back end with a stylized comet with a tail of sparks and stars painted on it. He'd trundle it around the track before the races to impress the rubes (me). In my memory it was so long it could hardly make it around the corners... Years later I saw it parked alongside Highway 14 out near Acton as a draw for a sad little western roadside attraction. I told Strother MacMinn about it and he drove out there and checked it out... He had seen it parked on the street in Hollyweird in the late '30s or '40s. It was on a stretched L29 Cord chassis and eventually was bought and dismantled for its Cord parts." I recently acquired the photo above, the script on the side plugging (indecipherable something like Egge) Speedway Carburetors of Glendale. Below is the photo previously posted, followed by movie frame captures from IMCDB. Check out the original shotgun/centerline fin aiming setup. Used car / rental lot snapshot was found at H.A.M.B. Jalopy Journal and the last four were pilfered from Auto Puzzles, where further information and photos can be found. I thought 'Our Famous Salad Bar' might lure Antelope Valley tourists to the Village Inn of Palmdale, California, mentioned in a Frank Zappa song, but another Auto Puzzles photo brings Noel, Missouri out from behind the cage post. Salad bar, honey! We really must give it a try the next time we're 1600 miles east of here!  The distinguished gentleman smiling from the cockpit is designer Alex Tremulis, another luminary who made the Acton pilgrimage to pay respects. According to Strohl, the beast still exists.

Source: motor life.blog11/16/12