Bombshell Betty: World’s Fastest 1952 Buick

A 1952 Buick Super Riviera is not exactly a car you would imagine being a Bonneville Land Speed Record holder, especially one that is powered by Buick’s famous but heavy straight eight engine. Bombshell Betty, perhaps named for and even modeled after a burlesque star of the same name, is not just a pretty face. This car goes fast.

This extraordinary, stunning Buick was built by New Mexico sculptor Jeff Brock in 2009. And quite a build it was. Brock made the front fascia, rockers and fender skirts to keep the looks of the Buick but also improve the aerodynamics for land speed runs he was aiming for. He chopped eight inches out of the top, and raised the rear shelf to meet the deck. The front windshield is also custom made, and to improve airflow, uses no glass (which seems actually counter intuitive to me, but who am I to question the results?) The engine was built up by Automotive Machine Service in Albuquerque.

Those incredibly cool headlamp covers are buckets from a 1930s Chevrolet, inverted to improve airflow and they also let everyone know we’re looking at a very special car. The rocket style air intake feeds a dual carburetor set up and adds to the almost cartoon style look of this incredible car.

There is a complete article about this special Buick, its build and builders at Hemmings.com, posted just before the car was sold at the Barrett Jackson auction in October 2016. It sold then for $36,300 (presumably plus the buyer’s premium) and is now being offered for sale by Moto-Exotica here on eBay, where bidding has been active, but the offering price still not close to its reserve as I write this.

I recommend reading the Hemmings article if you want to know the story of the build and more details about the car. Brock built it in a hurry to get to 2009 Speed Week. He entered Bombshell Betty in engine class XO (pre-1960 overhead-valve inline engines, as well as non-Ford flatheads) and body class GCC (Gas-powered Competition Coupe). At the car’s first outing, Brock himself drove the Buick and set a new class record of 130.838 mph. He went on to break his own record later in 2009 at the Bonneville World Finals, where he was able to reach 134.054 mph.

I think it will take a very special buyer to purchase this one-off piece of rolling sculpture. This is not a car you can drive on the street, nor would you want to modify it very much from its current form, so if you’re not prepared to race-prep it and take it back to Bonneville, what would you do with it?

This is my favorite view of Bombshell Betty – it’s a beautiful shot of the car against the powerful Bonneville landscape. I hope this car does find a buyer who will care for it, put it on display, and let people enjoy seeing it in person. And maybe even race it against the clock some more as well.

No doubt this car is a polarizing piece of art – some will hate it, others will love it, but it’s impossible not to admire the vision and skill that went into the building of this Buick. What a beautiful beast! And thanks to reader Peter R for bringing this incredible story to our attention.

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Comments

  1. Coventrycat

    Looks like Hannibal Lecter.

  2. grant

    So many questions. The windshield uses “no glass” to improve aerodynamics, but there’s something there, plexiglass I’m assuming. But how does different materials in the same shape improve airflow? And while I like the steam punk look, if they were so concerned about aerodynamics why the exposed rivets all over it? I love this, it is a piece of modern art. It would look way better with paint, however.

    • Nova

      Mad Max comes to mind way before steam punk…this is fully functional.
      …just my 2 bits

      Nova

    • waynard

      You may be misreading the glass vs. no glass statement. Yes, there is a windshield, but no other glass. Flow through of air, sides and rear, plus raised deck probably reduces drag. I’m no aerodynamicist, just my guess.

      Jeff built this to his own taste, because he could, and, I’m guessing, for the thrill of a Bonneville accomplishment, which he most definitely succeeded at. It is a piece of kinetic art and should be viewed and appreciated as such. We all should be so lucky to live out our fantasies. I wish Jeff the best and I too hope he’s doing well.

      Hi from Placitas, Jeff,
      Wayne

      • grant

        “The front windshield is also custom made, and to improve airflow, uses no glass (which seems actually counter intuitive to me, but who am I to question the results?)”
        It may be awkwardly written, but I’m not misreading anything. It says the windshield is custom made and uses no glass.

      • Bobsmyuncle

        Regardless you can clearly see a windshield. Stickers and all.

  3. Bobsmyuncle

    I’ve always lusted after this. I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to put this back on the street, that is where it will get the recognition it deserves.

    Just needs careful attention to the aesthetics while meeting the legal requirements.

  4. Joe Haska

    They say art is in the eye of the beholder, in my eye this is for sure automotive art, and on top of that its a real deal race car. I wish I could own it, but you don’t buy art and re-do it. You buy art because you love it and it speaks to you. If it was my art it would be in Utah in the summer, and in my garage the rest of the time on display for anyone , who gets it, and doesn’t want to destroy it……

    • Mike Burnett

      Joe, as it stands this is potential or uncompleted art, so I would feel OK with improving it. I would remove the rivets and flush weld the seams, re-make the front skirt with curves on an English Wheel, as the transition between the beautiful curves of the original bodywork to the folded sheet steel of the skirt jarr on the eye. I would do the same to the sheet steel steering wheel/shaft support and give it a candy apple red paint job of deep colour at the back, fading to light tone at the front, with the headlight cones painted hot orange. To make the car road legal would remove much of the creativity of the builder’s work, so I would have no use for it, which is why I would pass on this one. It does, though, give great ideas for anyone contemplating the constructin of a street legal hot rod.

      • Jim L

        And, while I was at it, I might buy a Picasso or a Rembrandt and re-paint some of the features because they seem “unfinished”.

        on the flip side, Beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder…

        No profanity, politics, or personal attacks intended.

  5. michael streuly

    This is one BAD ASS race car. If someone wanted to get into land speed racing with out having to build there own car this would be a great car to buy. With a little bit of tuning this car could go 200 MPH. There are more places run the car other then the GREAT WHITE DYNO. You could run the car at an ECTA event or the Mojave mile or even at EL MIRAGE in southern california with the SCTA.

  6. doug

    I saw it run at Bonneville in 2012. The car is completely insane! I hope Jeff is doing well.

  7. Bob Hess

    Can you imagine how much fun you could have cruising this thing around town…?

    • grant

      Literally exactly none. No fun at all. There isn’t a universe where this could be safely driven on the street.

      • Mark S Member

        Why not with a few mods to the cooling system and some venting up front.it would of course need some lights front and back it sure could hit the streets. This car as with any performance car only goes as fast as you throttle it to, don’t drive like a dick head and you’ll be fine,besides I’m sure there are plenty of cars with more power then this one. Remember those records were top speeds. Most salt flat car are not out of the hole fast I fact some even need a little help to get moving. “There isn’t a universe where this could be safely driven on the street” What a redicules statement…!

      • grant

        Ok, sure. You could street it after you modify most of the systems and then you’ve made it into something else. And if you need help to leave the stoplight that’s not exactly streetable or safe, and if it’s a top end only car where’s the streetable fun? Don’t get me wrong, I love this thing. But my statement was in response to another commenter asking how much fun you could have with this on the street. And my answer is none. You say don’t drive like a dick head and you are right but then you state that this is a top end machine. So again, not streetable, and what’s the fun of driving this like a commuter car? So, it isn’t my statement that is ridiculous.

      • Mark S Member

        When I said that some of the salt flats cars needed help I was referring in general terms. If you look at the rear axle ratio on this car then you’d know that this isn’t one of them. Let’s be practical for a moment what good is owning this car if your not going to use it not all of us want to race at Bonnieville. So what’s wrong with a few mods on an already heavily modified car I think it could be done without braking the bank and I also think it could be done where it still honours the spirit of the original builders vision. I’d rather see it back on the road made safe and drivable than see it sit in some storage unit unit the next owner is sick of the monthly fee and parts it out. I’m sorry we don’t agree Grant but I still think that you are the one with the redicules statement.

  8. ccrvtt

    Joe Haska – you definitely get this car. I agree completely. It’s a functional piece of art and deserves respect. Great find.

  9. michael streuly

    The only problem i have with the car is that it has no brake system at all after running thru the timing lights you coast to a stop. I am surprised that the car pass’s tech inspection.

    • mtshootist1

      well, it sure looks like it has brakes, got a brake pedal right next to the clutch pedal

  10. Brad

    That is one BAMF!!!

  11. Bruce

    I really don’t know why…., but I WANT this thing !!!!!!There is something about the “cool factor” that is screaming at me. I don’t “NEED ” it, I don’t know what I would “do” with it, but I still WANT it….This is one of the overall coolest cars I’ve seen on this site, and I’ve seen hundreds….

  12. Bruce

    Maybe it’s the drop top, the built in trunk wing, the huge snorkel with dual carbs, the low stance, the hand hammered front piece riveted on, wheels closed in , maybe the interior…., maybe just the thought of running it wide open on the salt….I’m 62 years old, owned a LOT of cars in my day, this one does something for me…..

  13. Brad

    The photography of the car is top notch, sure it look just as good in person

  14. michael streuly

    The windshield is made from LEXAN.

  15. Jay E.

    Great video at the Hemmings URL. 165mph!!! Amazing sound. Was offered at no reserve auction for $195,000.00, went for $36,300. What a bargain.

  16. Righteous Bob

    The Video, WOW.. Looks like he is just out for a drive on the freeway, Smooth, Like a Buick Should Be… Makes my 68 year old heart go Boom Boom..

  17. Locutus of Bjorn

    I have ogled this car at the Santa Fe Concorso, and at the Annual July 4th Car Show off the Santa Fe Plaza. It is gorgeous in the steel flesh. The owner fired it up at the Plaza show. Many fears were felt that day, I tell you. Loved it.

    Safe NYE to all.

  18. mike streuly

    if you are willing to spend a whole lot of money then it could be possible to make this car street legal. bottom line is this is a LAND SPEED RACE CAR nothing more nothing less.

  19. Motoexotica Classic Cars

    Thank you Barnfinds.com for featuring our one of kind 1952 Buick, we re excited to have purchased this one of the kind, there is nothing like it in the world, by a famous sculpture artist. Who ever chooses to buy this we do not care what you do to the car! Make it street legal or race it its all good. For more information feel free to call us at 636-600-4600

    See the full write up and photos at Motoexotica.com:
    http://www.motoexotica.com/inventory/listing/1952-buick-super-riviera-bombshell-betty/

    See the full video here:
    https://youtu.be/QzMrkM3QMGo

  20. JCW Jr. Member

    The ad says the windshield is custom made and uses no rear glass or tail lights

  21. rich voss

    Well, the bidding ended with no where near what they expected to get for it…
    I happen to love the execution of this vehicle, with all it’s foibles. It’s made with a nod to the dry-lakers of old….belly tank cars/motorcycles that whole deal. Rolling sculpture, it certainly is. Side windows, and in this case rear window, add weight and don’t help aero that much. Check out NASCAR and Trans-Am cars. They don’t have side glass either. “Safety net”, mandated by rules…old Superspeedway cars had no such thing, and 200 + mph. I saw no parachute on this car, but believe that’s because it doesn’t hit a high enough top speed. Oh, for gobs of disposable income….

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