A half century ago, Ab Jenkins rode the Mormon Meteor III into auto racing history books with a 24-hour endurance run that averaged 161 mph.
Now, Ab's son, Marv Jenkins, is taking the Mormon Meteor III back to where it all began - the Bonneville Salt Flats. "We've got some work to do to restore it and get it ready," Jenkins said.Jenkins and crews from the state Capitol removed the Mormon Meteor III from its first-floor display case Wednesday. The car, one of the most popular tourist attractions at the Capitol, will be taken to St. George where Jenkins plans to fix leaking brakes, install some missing instruments and work on the clutch.
Jenkins plans to have the repairs done in time for a July 24 car show and land racing event on the Salt Flats that will commemorate the state's centennial. Also at the event will be the Mormon Meteor I - an Ab Jenkins car now in the Kershaw Collection in Alabama.
The Mormon Meteor III, built in 1938, last drove on the Salt Flats in 1950. The last time Mormon Meteor I drove there was in 1935.
"Mormon Meteor II doesn't exist," said Mike Steed, who is organizing the Hot Salt event on July 24. Mormon Meteor II was built in 1935 but was cannibalized to build Mormon Meteor III.
Marv Jenkins said the Mormon Meteor III is not going back to the Salt Flats to race or even to take a victory lap - it seems the transmission is shot. Rather, the legendary car will be one of many cars on exhibit that were important to U.S. auto racing history.
In addition to the Mormon Meteors, racing icon A.J. Foyt will drive a Pierce Arrow named the Ab Jenkins Special. Ab Jenkins' first attempt at a land speed record was in 1932 in a Pierce Arrow.
Goldenrod, the car that set the land speed record of 409 mph in the early 1960s, will also be present.
After the Hot Salt event, Marv Jenkins says Mormon Meteor III has been invited to a prestigious car show called the Pebble Beach Concourse. And then it is on to an auto racing museum in Danville, Calif., for a couple of weeks.
Eventually, "it should come back to the Capitol," he said. That is if Capitol officials will just build the permanent display case they promised.